Friday, March 25, 2011

Federal Judge Says Twitter Impersonator May Be Liable to Real Tweeter

Follow me on Twitter logoImage via WikipediaBird impressions may make you the life of some parties, but impersonating a Tweeter could expose you to liability under federal law, according to a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

As first reported by, Judge Amy J. St. Eve declined to dismiss claims of violation of right of publicity and violation of the Lanham Act [15 U.S.C. sec. 1051 et seq.] in a case brought by an employee against her boss whom she alleges sent Tweets from her account while she was incapacitated. Construing the facts most favorably for the plaintiff in weighing the defendants' motion to dismiss, Judge St. Eve said the plaintiff has alleged "a commercial injury based on defendants' deceptive use of her name and likeness."

As marketing director for Chicago-based Susan Fredman Design Group, Jill Maremont heavily relied on social media to promote the interior designer, posting updates on Twitter concerning local designers and interior decorating and writing a blog about the company. Maremont suffered a brain injury after she was hit by an automobile and was incapacitated for roughly nine months, unable to Tweet because it made her dizzy.

While hospitalized, Maremont learned that her Twitter account was still being updated. She sued her employer, alleging her name and image were being used in a misleading way. The defendant counters that because the Twitter account was being used to promote her company, at most, she did the plaintiff's job without her permission.

Besides the claims raised in the case, an Internet law specialist contacted by suggests that the defendant might face liability for privacy invasion under the federal Stored Communications Act [18 U.S.C. secs. 2701-2712].

Fake Celebrity Twitter accounts are commonplace, but this uncharted territory is on its way to being mapped by cases such as this.

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