Does the Employer or Employee Own Those Social Media Accounts?
This is the question currently being litigated between a bridal designer and her former employer, a bridal gown company, and the case highlights the need for employers to make sure that they address this issue clearly in any employment agreement.
In JLM Couture, Inc. v. Gutman, the company and the designer had an employment contract that governed much of their relationship, but not social media accounts. When the relationship ended, the company claimed ownership of the designer’s Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest accounts, arguing that she created them in her capacity as an employee. She, on the other hand, argued that she created them in her personal capacity, and she did not cede ownership by agreeing to use the accounts to market the company’s products. The federal district court granted an injunction awarding control of the accounts to the Company while the lawsuit was pending. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling.
Who will win the argument of ownership has yet to be resolved. But the lesson for employers here is the importance of clarifying who owns a social media account, if an employee is engaged in social media activities for the employer – particularly if there is a mixing of business and personal activity on the account.