Hey… I Own That! – Ownership of Social Media Content

Laws and regulations were put in place by our founding fathers as a vague overview meant to be changed and morphed as lawmakers and citizens see fit as times changed. The development of new technologies makes this even harder for justices to declare laws as constitutional or unconstitutional, when the issues coming to court have never been discussed.

bird This is true for the debate on ownership of social media content and in particular the case discussed in our reading featuring Noah Kravitz and the company he worked for, PhoneDog.


The question becomes, who built and owns this database of customers – the company or the employee? I have to say I am siding with the company on this issue for these reasons:

  • PhoneDog gave Noah the resources to create a twitter handle of that capacity, they put him on the map if you will. No one would care about Noah Kravitz if he was just Noah Kravitz – but backed with a branded name of a company people start to take notice.
  • The United States copyright law has an exception to the protection of an employees works in which the employer is reassigned the creative efforts.

However, with these answers I pose the question, should the same copyright laws that exist for books, videos, plays, etc. apply the same for Web 2.0 and in particular social media? This area of technology is so new, is the copyright law and ownership really constitutional for lawmakers to carry out without a prior landmark case?

In an article written by Matt Chandler of Buffalo Law Journal, he calls owning a personal account and blending it with a business account is “still a gray area.” The woman in his article, Nicole Schuman suggests that the company “outline clear boundaries [of ownership] via company policies.” Therefore, this belief is different from that of the case mentioned above. In Noah Kravitz case, there was no mention of a contract outlining what he could and could not do with this employee Twitter account. Instead they took it up with lawmakers.

So which one is right for this era? To self-regulate ownership, or have lawmakers tell us?

Another issue that is brought up in this ownership debacle is what about Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites? Where do those guys play a role in this ownership? They are the ones providing the medium through which you are expressing your ideas – just as an employer is supplying his or her employee with a medium.

Well Facebook doesn’t own your content according to our reading by Kerry Gorgone, or any social media site for that matter, but they can use it in any way they want. The way I see it, it’s almost as if they “own” or “lease” your content when it is convenient for them, but during times where it is unfortunate to own content (being held liable for people’s posts, getting people to use their site in their terms and conditions, etc.)


I feel ownership of social media content is a developing area of law and there is so many questions to ask it makes my head spin. With new technology comes new regulation… so how do you want to be regulated?


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