A group of entrepreneurial recent college graduates starts a tutoring and test prep company focused on helping promising high school students get an edge on their college applications. Since the cost of print advertising exceeds the group's budget, they each actively promote the business on their personal social media accounts, garnering their first clients. They also create company accounts on Facebook, Linkedln, and Twitter, which clients join for easy, direct communication and quick access to information. Though all the founders contribute occasional posts and encourage their personal social media contacts to join the company accounts, one eventually becomes, in practice if not in name, the primary manager of the company's social media activity. But soon the founders begin to differ over the direction in which their burgeoning business should grow. Eventually the social media manager leaves to start a competing tutoring and test prep company. She immediately changes both the name on the social media accounts to the name of her new company and the passwords of each account to ensure that her former associates cannot access them. Who has the superior rights to the contacts that these social media sites facilitate? All of the original founders cultivated the company's social media contact list by promoting it on their personal accounts. Yet one of them in particular actually maintained the company accounts, engaged with their followers, and actively sought out new contacts. In hindsight, the company should have articulated a clear social media policy, but the founders were preoccupied with more salient concerns about their fledgling business. Though only hypothetical, this scenario is hardly inconceivable, especially given social media's increasing importance to businesses both large and small.
Courtney J. Mitchel,
Keep Your Friends Close: A Framework for Addressing Rights to Social Media Contacts,
67 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol67/iss5/5