In the last few years, there have been a number of landmark decisions and rulings about Social Media accounts and ownership when another person (staff or otherwise) have been in control of the content.
RealtorMag states: "Employees who created, maintained, and produced content for social media accounts for their employers have won a number of cases disputing ownership rights to those accounts. In one particular case, an employee established the right to customer information gained through regular contact with them via social media on behalf of his employer. Upon leaving his company, he was free to take the contact information gathered from social media for thousands of his former employer’s customers. These risks can affect businesses that have hired or tasked employees to create and maintain accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and a host of other types of social media accounts." Yes, this is also the case for Authors hiring PA's.
In case you think this is hyperbole, check this: "Ownership rights to social media accounts used to promote a company have been contested by former employees who created, maintained, and produced content for those accounts." SmallBizDaily.com and "According to one of several court rulings, the owner is the person whose name appears as the administrator on the account. EEK!" IThinkBigger.com
Woah! Hold your horses. See, just because the Facebook page "Imogene Nix" exists and uses my name, my branding etc., doesn't mean that I own the content.
See, I have a PA. She's a good kid. Let's call her Beth. Now, I've hired Beth to control my social media (and in the interests of clarity I do have a PA called Beth, but she doesn't look after my SM accounts and she knows about this post!)
Here's my scenario:
I hired Beth to work 15 hours a month for and on my behalf. Among the tasks I set are to create & maintain my Social Media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest etc., She creates 2 new pieces of content daily, and is added as an Administrator to my account.
Our agreement reads: "You will work 15 hours a month, undertaking a range of Promotional & Administrative duties as directed by me." Sounds good, right?
I add her as an Administrator. Now, she's a really popular little chicken with 2000 friends and followers. Bonus! She starts putting up these super popular posts and interacting daily.
She starts doing other stuff and I decide I don't need her services anymore and we part ways... Then she makes a claim on my SM accounts stating that she's brought all these new followers, created this awesome content and as I've left her to it, that page now belongs to her.
This is where it starts to get tricky, because it's not a one off situation:
PHONEDOG, LLC V. NOAH KRAVITZ [CASE NO. 3:11-CV-03474-MEJ (N.D. CAL. 2011)
PhoneDog is an interactive mobile news and review web resource that reviews mobile products and services. The company uses a variety of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to market and promote its services.
Noah Kravitz began working for PhoneDog in April 2006. He was given access to the Twitter account “@PhoneDog_Noah” which eventually amassed 17,000 followers. Noah Kravitz left PhoneDog in 2010 and refused to turn over the Twitter account. Instead, he changed the Twitter handle from “@PhoneDog_Noah” to “@noahkravitz and the Twitter account to promote his new employer, a PhoneDog competitor.
And of course there are so many other places/times where this has been the case.
Is an agreement all I need? I'll do it right now...
It is suggested in literature that is being released, that Social Media Strategies, SM Ownership agreements etc be put in place.
Great! But you're still outsourcing all that lovely content to an administrator that is using their own personal profile to undertake the SM work for you.
Acorninfluence,com states, "If the contract says nothing about ownership or intellectual property rights, then the influencer has the copyright on that content and all rights associated with the copyright."
Now, in Australia, if this work is created in the day to day course of employment, the rules are different: Copyright Australia
Usually the creator of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is the first owner of the copyright in it, but there are several exceptions. One important exception is that copyrights in works made during the course of employment are owned by the employer and not the employee. All copyright ownership rules (except those that relate to moral rights) may be varied by agreement."
At the end of the day, I'm not a solicitor and cannot/will not give legal advice. What I will tell you is, check that any agreement you may have made concerning the organisation, content and maintenance of your Social Media accounts is clear.
If you choose to make an Employee (PA or otherwise) an SM Administrator, have a WRITTEN agreement concerning ownership, terms & conditions of use.
One last word from RealtorMag: "To protect your brokerage’s rights and reduce the risk of litigation, register formal social media accounts under your name and provide multiple employees with access. This will help prevent individual claims of ownership or issues with accessing accounts should a dispute arise."
(Psst! Check to ensure however that the work you undertake in this area is compliant with the SM platform and seek professional advice!)