Posted June 7, 2009 5:09 pm by with 5 comments

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larussa-twitterIf you want to take Twitter to court don’t expect them to roll over and play dead. It has been widely reported in various outlets like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Twitter settled with Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals manager, over a Twitter impersonation account dust up. According to these sources Twitter paid legal fees to LaRussa and was even giving money to a LaRussa favorite charity, the Animal Rescue Foundation. Case closed, right?

Not so fast, says none other than Twitter co-founder Biz Stone on the Twitter blog from a June 6th post entitled “Not Playing Ball”. As you can guess from the title Stone is not going to sit back and let the rumor mill take this one. If the word is out that Twitter will settle on suits for this kind of activity (suing for the ‘damage’ caused by impersonation accounts) it could open a flood of ambulance chasing legal shenanigans that could cripple a company like Twitter. Stone writes

Reports this week that Twitter has settled a law suit (sic) and officially agreed to pay legal fees for an impersonation complaint that was taken care of by our support staff in accordance with our Terms are erroneous. Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay.

With due respect to the man and his notable work, Mr. La Russa’s lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous. Twitter’s Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr. La Russa’s lawsuit.

OK. So how do you really feel Biz? It probably was enough to say that Twitter handled the matter in a professional manner and has no intention of settling because its terms of service are solid. It’s an interesting tactic, however, to try to help the courts see these kind of cases the way Twitter does rather than letting the court come to its own decision for this area of law. Until a judge calls this kind of activity frivolous and a waste of judicial resources it actually isn’t. There is no real law around these issues as of yet (if there is please tell us) and the legal system usually likes to determine the actual merit of cases and not let business owners do it for them. I’ve watched plenty of Law & Order episodes so please don’t question my authority here ;-).

So this saga will continue for a bit apparently. The net result for now is that the account is down. Now, considering that the Sun-Times is one of the outlets that reported a settlement, you have to take the next bit of information from them with a grain of salt. If true, however, it says more about this than anything else: the fake account with Tony LaRussa’s name had collected a whopping 4 followers. Looks like even fake Twitter accounts are as active as most legitimate Twitter ‘users’.

  • It’s one thing for Biz to say these things are frivolous. But it obviously scared Twitter enough into announcing Verified Account, which was also mentioned in the post.

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  • I mentioned the verified accounts a few weeks ago and it seems like now they are finally doing something that should have been done awhile back. I don’t really think LaRussa has a case and in my opinion Twitter is making the right move. If Twitter would have settled so quickly with LaRussa then they would have had about 1000 lawsuits on their desk the next day. They are taking the right legal approach with fighting hard because it should deter many.

  • I think this is an interesting saga that could should set a precedent no matter the outcome:

    1. Either the courts side with LaRussa and upholds this case of public impersonation. This means then that everybody else who has a similar case will begin to flood the courts (which could ruin Twitter).

    2. Sides with Twitter, which means people can be impersonated and courts won’t pay attention to most cases. Twitter lives on!

    Either way should be interesting…

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