Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter left the Roanoke Times earlier this year to cover the team for The Athletic. BH Media Group, which owns the Roanoke Times filed a lawsuit against Bitter to retake control of his Twitter account @AndyBitterVT. The paper claims the account was inherited from its previous Virginia Tech beat writer Kyle Tucker, and this was its own intellectual property. Bitter countersued claiming defamation and was seeking $150,000 in damages.
Today Bitter announced on Twitter that he and his former employer were dropping their suits against one another and that he would be keeping the @AndyBitterVT Twitter account.
An announcement … pic.twitter.com/JTbksllxYU
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) November 15, 2018
While it is nice to see cooler heads prevail and a truly odd issue dropped in favor of both sides focusing on doing good work, Sean Keely of Awful Announcing points out that the lawsuit brought up a lot of questions for reporters, and the two sides agreeing to drop the respective suits in favor of an agreement to play nice leaves those questions unanswered.
Can a separate company “own” a username on a different company’s platform? And does it have the right to tell an employee to give it up when they leave the company even though they have been the one in charge of it the whole time? It also made a lot of reporters wonder if they needed to rethink the way they disseminated information on social media. Would you have to get an entirely new Twitter handle every time you change employers? What if you started the Twitter handle first, then joined a company, but later left for a rival company. Does that original employer have any rights to the account?