by Timothy B. Lee - Mar 15 2013 - atstechnicaJudge found misappropriation of employee's identity but no damages.
Last year we covered the case of Linda Eagle
whose former employer, Edcomm, kept control of her LinkedIn account after firing her. In his October ruling, Judge Ronald Buckwalter of the District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania rejected the theory that taking control of a former employee's LinkedIn account violated the anti-hacking provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But in a Tuesday ruling, Judge Ronald Buckwalter found that seizing an employee's LinkedIn account can constitute unauthorized use of the employee's name and likeness under Pennsylvania law.Edcomm's takeover of Eagle's LinkedIn account was an awkward affair. Eagle had shared her password with another Edcomm employee so that the employee could help her manage it. When she was terminated, the other employee was instructed to change the password, freezing her out of the account. Edcomm then replaced the name, picture, and most of the information in her account with information about Eagle's replacement as Edcomm's CEO.
But the account still had the URL "http://www.linkedin.com/in/lindaeagle
," and it was still linked to about 4000 of Eagle's professional contacts. Eagle, a recognized figure in her field, charged that Edcomm was effectively using her name to drum up business without her consent.
Someone who Googled Eagle's name hoping to do business with her would be likely to find himself on the LinkedIn page of Eagle's successor at Edcomm.Judge Buckwalter agreed,
holding that Edcomm had violated three Pennsylvania laws: unauthorized use of Eagle's name for commercial purposes, invasion of privacy by misappropriation of identity, and misappropriation of publicity. He rejected several other charges
, including identity theft, conversion, and tortious interference with contracts.Full blog