Navigating the Complex Landscape of Social Media Account Ownership in Online Marketing (CLM)

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Social Media Account Ownership in Online Marketing

  Tuesday, February 20th, 2024 Source: CLM

The evolving significance of social media handles in branding and marketing has spotlighted the complex issue of account ownership, especially as businesses and creators leverage these platforms for growth. The JLM Couture, Inc. v. Gutman case, decided by the Second Circuit on January 17, 2024, has become a pivotal reference point for understanding how courts may navigate social media account ownership disputes within the existing property law framework. JLM Couture’s lawsuit against Hayley Gutman, a former employee and influential fashion designer, over the control of social media accounts initiated a legal battle that highlighted the intertwined nature of personal and business use in social media.

Initially, the district court sided with JLM, applying a multi-factored approach to grant them control over the accounts based on various indicators of business use and branding. However, the Second Circuit’s decision shifted the focus entirely to the original ownership of the accounts, arguing that social media accounts, like other properties, should be analyzed starting with who created them. This decision underscores the necessity of clear documentation and agreements regarding social media account ownership from the outset, especially when accounts are used for both personal and business purposes.

This case illustrates the legal challenges and considerations businesses and individuals must navigate in the digital age, where the lines between personal and professional use of social media blur. It serves as a cautionary tale for entities to establish clear guidelines and ownership rights over social media accounts at the time of their creation to avoid potential disputes. The ruling also emphasizes the need for existing legal frameworks to adapt to the unique dynamics of social media, without the necessity for new laws or tests.

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