“Why Do You Want My Password?”: Assessing Ultimate Control of a Journalist’s Twitter Account Used for Work PurposesBenjamin HalperinNote - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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“Why Do You Want My Password?”: Assessing Ultimate Control of a Journalist’s Twitter Account Used for Work Purposes
Benjamin Halperin
Note

  The full text of this Note may be found here.

30 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 325 (2019).

Note by Benjamin Halperin*

 

ABSTRACT

[A]

journalist’s value to an employer can be seen differently in the age of social media. The value to the employer is not necessarily just measured by the number of words or articles produced, or even by how much their work drives increased website traffic or increased subscriptions. In addition to generally maintaining a social media presence, journalists are often encouraged or expected to use their social media accounts. However, such accounts might be in the individual journalist’s name and might pre-date the term of employment with that specific media entity. Therefore, a debate can rise over who might “own” an employee-journalist’s Twitter account, which would include access to the account’s follower list, when the employment relationship terminates. Although this scenario had been debated in the courts, albeit not necessarily with journalists, throughout this decade, courts have “punted” and avoided speaking directly on the issue. In September 2018, the trend continued when the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia ordered a settlement to one such dispute. This Note proposes that absent a clear and mutual understanding over postemployment control of the relevant social media account, the former employee should retain control over the social media account in most circumstances—especially when the account appears to be in the individual’s name.


* Associate Editor, Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, Volume XXIX; J.D., Fordham University School of Law, 2019; B.A., University of Michigan, 2012. I would like to thank Professor Olivier Sylvain for his guidance and mentorship throughout the writing and research process. I would also like to thank Volume XXIX’s Editorial Board, particularly Sean Corrado and Jeffrey Greenwood, whose invaluable feedback allowed this Note to be considered by their successors. I further would like to thank IPLJ Volume XXX—both the Editorial Board, particularly Elliot Fink and Hanna Feldman, for their vital insight and assistance, as well as Volume XXX’s Staff, for all their hard work. Finally, I would like to thank my parents, sister, and friends for their continued support and encouragement.