In PhoneDog, an employee had a work-related Twitter account. When he left PhoneDog, he took his Twitter account and its 17,000 followers with him. Now, PhoneDog has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing him of conversion and misappropriation of trade secrets. Here, the trade secrets are the Twitter password and the follower list.
One form of jurisdiction in federal courts, diversity jurisdiction, requires that the parties be from different states and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. How does Plaintiff establish that the Twitter account was worth more than 75 Grand? "No problem" says Plaintiff:
PhoneDog alleges that the account generated approximately 17,000 followers, which according to industry standards, are each valued at $2.50 (per month). Thus, PhoneDog contends that its damages amount to $42,500 ($2.50 x17,000) for each month that Mr. Kravitz has used the account, which at the time of filing amounted to $340,000 for eight months.Cha-ching! The Court buys it, at least for purposes of surviving a motion to dismiss (a very low bar). So, Plaintiff's claims are allowed to proceed. If this case makes it to summary judgment, it could provide some good legal analysis of 1. Who owns a Twitter account when the employee running it leaves? and 2. How much is a Twitter account worth?
At this point, I'll note that my Twitter account (@PhilipMiles) has 1,800 followers. That's $4,500/month or $54,000/year (and growing!). I should just quit my job and sit on the couch drinking Franziskaner, watching Saved by the Bell re-runs, and tweeting during the commercial breaks (don't judge me). If somebody could just be so kind as to drop a comment about how exactly I collect this $2.50/follower/month . . . . Until then, I think I'll keep my day job ;-).
HT: Laura Thalacker (@Fired4Facebook) via... what else? Twitter.
Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.