In a decision that may one day be cited by Canadian courts on
the extent of an employer's rights over its social media
properties, the United States District Court for Colorado has ruled
that an employer's MySpace Profile and "Friends" list
can qualify as trade secrets.
In Christou et al. v. Beatport LLC et al., Regas Christou
sued former employee turned rival nightclub owner, Bradley Roulier,
for, amongst other things, theft of trade secrets. In particular,
Christou alleged that Roulier had misappropriated the login
information for the MySpace profiles of Christou's nightclubs
as well as their corresponding MySpace "Friends"
Following a motion brought by Roulier to dismiss Christou's
trade secrets claim, the Court ruled that Christou had alleged
sufficient facts to allow the claim to proceed. In so doing, the
Court accepted Christou's argument that the "Friends"
list was more than a list of names; rather it was closer to a
database of contact information:
"The names themselves, readily available to the public, are
not the important factor. The ancillary information connected to
those names cannot be obtained from public directories and is not
readily ascertainable from outside sources, and thus this militates
in favor of trade secret classification."
In addition, having secured the MySpace profiles of his various
nightclubs through web profile logins and passwords and expended
some amount of money, time and resources into developing the list
of "Friends", Christou further bolstered the viability of
his trade secret claim at this early stage in proceedings.
While this case dealt only with MySpace and therefore did not
address other commonly used social media websites such as LinkedIn
or Facebook, it nonetheless demonstrates the steps that employers
should take to protect the social media accounts that have been
registered on behalf of the company. In those circumstances,
employers should be careful to limit access to the company's
social media profiles to only those employees who are responsible
for establishing and advancing the company's on-line presence.
There is no reason for every employee to have access to the
company's on-line accounts. In addition, employers should also
amend their policies and contracts to clearly indicate that the
ownership of the contacts listed on these social media accounts
rests with the employer.
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