Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Linkedin Account Lawsuit

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that an employer's taking of a former employee's Linkedin account did not constitute a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

That is not surprising as this case is more of a case in state privacy law.  The blog post cited above refers to the Plaintiff's remaining state law claim as one for conversion.  However, the tort of conversion probably isn't the most applicable here.  A right to publicity claim under privacy tort law for misappropriation of her linkedin profile might be more appropriate.  The case facts assert that after the Plaintiff was fired from her job the employer changed the password on her Linkedin account and replaced her name and picture with that of her successor leaving the rest of the profile intact.  It would be a more clear-cut claim if the company had left the Plaintiff's name or photo on the account, but the screen name did not change and it appears neither did the other content on the profile.  So there is probably still enough there for a misappropriation of right of publicity tort assuming that the Plaintiff did not give the employer ownership of or continuing consent to use her right of publicity. 

Privacy tort laws vary from state to state.  Pennsylvania has both statutory and common law versions of the right to publicity tort.  She would have to prove damages as well by showing that account had commercial value and her losses from the misappropriation or she could seek an injunction.  There is also a separate invasion of privacy by misappropriation of name or likeness tort that does not require proof that the misappropriation is commercial in nature. 

s/ Kurt Koehler
308 1/2 S. State Street Suite 36
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48198
(Washtenaw County)

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