With the rise of social media use, legal disputes have surfaced with litigants looking to the courts to determine issues of ownership and legal authority. As a matter of first impression, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Texas held that a Twitter and Facebook social media account were to be regarded as property of the estate pursuant to Section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code. The court analogized the social media accounts to subscriber lists because they provide valuable access to customers. Although the court addressed the question of whether social media applications are to be regarded as property in bankruptcy proceedings, it did not address the issue of whether additional legal protection should be afforded to social media and the data it generates. This lack of guidance is particularly problematic because courts will likely struggle with the implication of assigning legal rights to social media accounts that are now to be regarded as property interests.
This Note reviews a recent case decided by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Texas, In re CTLI, in which the court recognized a Twitter and Facebook social media account as property of a bankruptcy estate. Furthermore, this Note examines the court’s classification of social media accounts as customer lists and explores the possible application of existing legal principles involving trade secrets to social media accounts by reviewing how courts have classified customer lists as trade secrets. After considering the legal impact social media could have on trade secret law, this Note identifies three legal issues that courts now face now that social media accounts are property interests: ownership, consumer privacy, and trade secret protection.
Patricia A. Leeson,
How Many #Followers Do You Have?: Evaluating the Rise of Social Media and Issues Concerning In Re CTLI’s Determination that Social Media Accounts are Property of the Estate,
Cath. U. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.edu/lawreview/vol66/iss2/11