Houston, TX resident Jeremy Alcede has spent over seven weeks in jail for not agreeing to hand over social media passwords of his former gun store’s accounts to its new owner, following a bizarre lawsuit which could dictate future qualms over intellectual property.
Alcede used to own a gun store in suburban Houston, which he promoted intensely via social media sites Facebook and Twitter, using political messages which criticized President Barack Obama for his repeated attacks at Second Amendment rights. Alcede lost his business when it became bankrupt last year, being forced to hand it all over to a former business partner named Steven Coe Wilson.
However, Alcede refused to also hand him passwords to the business’s social media accounts, stating that those were his personal accounts. A legal battle between the two ensued at a bankruptcy court, where Judge Jeff Bohm ruled that he was obligated to hand over the passwords to the new owner. Alcede disobeyed the court’s ruling and was jailed for more than seven weeks, after which he reluctantly agreed to disclose the passwords.
Alcede though considers that this has more to do with his controversial social posts rather than a business dispute, and claims that he only gave the passwords due to personal issues he had to solve. He looks at it as a blatant form of censorship, and remained defiant of the government as he contested the bankruptcy immediately after being released from prison.
Even though he claims that the anti-Obama messages and tweets made the account a personal one, judge Bohm explained that because the accounts were used to gain publicity for the site and boost sales, they are an integral and valuable asset for the business. In giving the ruling, he said that a long period of inactivity on social media could mean losing contact with customers and end up making the business less valuable.
Social media assets and password ownership is quite a new dispute for bankruptcy-related cases, but they have also been disputed in the past years in other contexts. For example, a 2013 ruling favored a woman who filed a lawsuit against a former employer who also stripped her of her LinkedIn account after firing her. Another 2012 dispute was settled when an internet company from South Carolina claimed that a former employee retained a Twitter account with 17,000 followers which possibly cost them thousands of dollars.
Image Source: The Examiner