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Mr Kravitz said his former employer had given him permission to continue using the account after he left.

 

He told the New York Times that Phonedog had allowed him to make the account personal as long as he agreed to “tweet on their behalf from time to time”.

The 17,000 followers, which have since risen to 22,000, had been built up by Mr Kravitz during his four years at the company where he worked as a blogger.

However, eight months later the company filed a lawsuit claiming that the account’s followers were a customer list, and that it had invested “substantial” resources into building it.

In a written statement, it said: “The costs and resources invested by Phonedog Media into growing its followers, fans and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of Phonedog Media.

“We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”

Strong personality

Corporate control of Twitter accounts has been a highly debated subject. Legal experts believe this latest case could set a precedent for future ownership tussles.

“Companies will now be developing careful ways of deciding if they want to tweet with a conjoined account,” said Barbara Cookson, an intellectual property lawyer in the UK.

“For ordinary businesses it’s quite difficult to gain a following without a strong personality. You have to have a very strong brand for it to work.”

Ms Cookson argued it is hard to pinpoint a financial value to Twitter followers as it is unclear why they follow a particular account.

It’s arguable as to whether a Twitter follower list is comparable to a mailing list.

“If Phonedog has been using it to run offers, it perhaps is a mailing list that has value.”

Source: BBC News