Recent court cases across the nation have many people wondering: if you or your company severe ties, who gets to keep your friends? In this day and age, social media is everywhere and with a majority of businesses choosing Twitter and Facebook over traditional advertisement it makes some wonder: what portion of the information and followers does the company get to keep when an employee leaves the company?
Several controversial court rulings in the last few weeks have made these questions even more confusing and difficult to answer. Many companies are arguing that they own the right to keep Twitter followers, Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. Former employees on the other hand insist that they have the right to keep social connections as well as followers because it was they who made the connection, not the company.
Lawyers who specialize in social media law say that many of the disputes stem from the fact that because these laws are so new, relatively few people know about them. They also point out that new employees routinely don’t think to have special social media clauses added into their contracts which could lead to messy employment disputes.
Recent court rulings have hinted that courts might be more inclined to vote in favor of employer’s rather than employees. Because many of the decisions are fact based, and with nothing simply disappearing into hyperspace, many experts warn employees to be careful about what they post and what friends they chose to add to a company-owned account.
Because many of these accounts have “mingled interests,” says a law professor at Santa Clara University, it may be difficult to separate the personal from the work related. Making sure that contracts clearly define social media ownership may help employees retain many social connections they could otherwise lose because of legal disputes.
Source: NBC News, “When you and employer split, who gets your friends and followers?” Bob Sullivan, Oct. 12, 2012