WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Debate over Ownership of Twitter Followers

May 13, 2014

The Shop Talk panelists discuss whether Twitter followers belong to the reporter or the news outlet.

The issue was the subject of an article by Ellyn Angelotti on the Poynter Institute website.  She pointed out, “Legal issues of ownership are still in their infancy.”

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton feels broadcast stations and newspapers need to establish clear rules when they hire a reporter. She believes Twitter followers should belong to the station if it asks a reporter to create a Twitter account. But she said the followers should belong to the reporter if he/she already has a Twitter account and is asked to re-brand it to tie into the station.

Lisa Kernek said when she worked in the newspaper industry, reporters and photojournalists did not own their work – the stories and photos belonged to the newspaper. She feels the issue has become more complicated with new media. For example, does a journalist get to take his/her blog along after leaving a station or newspaper?  She said Jim Romenesko took his blog with him after leaving the Poynter Institute.

Rich Egger sees this shaping up to be similar to intellectual property debates in the television industry. For example, when David Letterman left NBC the two parties needed to determine who owned the rights to segments such as The Top Ten List.