William & Mary Business Law Review
Who Owns the Meme?: Establishing a Definitive Framework to Resolve Disputes in Social Media Account Ownership Between Employers and Employees
The pervasive nature of social media and its growing impact on every aspect of society has created a novel issue: who owns a social media account, an employer or an employee, following the termination of the employment relationship? Courts thus far have produced an inconsistent and confusing legal terrain that will only continue to breed uncertainty amongst parties involved in disputes over social media account ownership. This Note examines the current jurisprudence, analyzes its strengths and weaknesses, proposes a definitive framework to determine ownership between the parties, and demonstrates that framework using the facts of an ongoing case. This framework includes a five-part test that considers: (1) personal versus business usage; (2) purpose at the time of creation; (3) access to the account; (4) job function and industry custom; and (5) economic impact. In doing so, this Note offers some much-needed clarity to a body of law that both over-complicates the issue and gives the parties involved little direction on how to handle these disputes.