Does the poster or the company own the content on social media sites? That’s the question pending before the U.S. District Court in Chicago, which will take up interior designer Jill Maremont’s claim against Susan Fredman and her swanky company — an action that will go on after prevailing over motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.
According to Venkat Balasubramani at Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Law Blog, companies should have a social media policy that designates official accounts and that specify who owns the posts on them. The policy also should clarify who “owns” the followers and fans of those accounts. Balausbramani says litigation on this issue will increase as companies see the value of social media.
Maremont worked at Susan Fredman Design Group where she developed a big following on Facebook and Twitter. But she was hurt in a car accident and was out of work for some time. While she was recuperating, she alleges that Fredman and the firm impersonated her on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. While the company’s copyright and trademark arguments were not discussed in this order, it is likely they will be discussed at trial.
The first prong of Maremont’s action comes under a false endorsement claim of the Lanham Act, which covers instances in which the public is misled by an individual’s endorsement of a product or service due to the person’s connection to either. Maremont asserts she had developed a reputation among interior designers and the company wrongfully used her likeness when it posted using her accounts.
The second prong of Maremont’s claim falls under Illinois’ Right to Publicity Act, which requires consent before an individual’s identity may be sued for business purposes. Maremont alleges that the company kept posting on social media, even after she told them to stop.
The company argues that the statute of limitations applies, because Maremont knew about the social media posts in September, 2009, but failed to file her suit until December, 2010. The court ruled the statute of limitations began running with the last company Tweet in December, 2009.
Maremont’s third assertion that the company had liability under the common law tort of appropriation of likeness was dismissed without prejudice because the Right to Privacy Act replaced this claim; she will get the chance to revise her pleading.