The Licensing Journal: Dealing with Character Impersonations on Twitter

Articles / August 1, 2010

Cleveland partner Deborah A. Wilcox authored an article in the August 2010 edition of The Licensing Journal, a publication focusing on issues of interest to the intellectual property and entertainment sectors.

In “Dealing with Character Impersonations on Twitter,” Wilcox described the challenges faced by rights owners when it comes to creation of accounts using character names.

“Part of this problem is attributable to how easily usernames are created when someone signs up for a Twitter account,” she explained. “A username is simply the name used to identify the person sending the tweet. It can be anything not already in use, including another person’s name. Because there is no authentication process, Twitter’s system enables users to impersonate other people and businesses. This can be a serious problem, particularly for public figures, businesses, and those owning the rights to fictional characters.”

Wilcox then went on to describe Twitter’s “Impersonation Policy” and noted the steps that must be taken by the party being impersonated or infringed upon to have the offending material removed.

She also explained Twitter’s new “Verified Accounts” program, which will allow public figures and some companies to authenticate their Twitter accounts. This will help Twitter users identify the actual Twitter account of a figure or organization, rather than imposter accounts. But as she pointed out, “The new program does not mean the end of confusion and impersonation, however.”

In conclusion, Wilcox wrote, “Twitter’s anti-impersonation measures do not solve all of the problems its service creates. Character owners need to police the network for impersonators and trademark infringers, and persist in correspondence with Twitter to suspend accounts that violate intellectual property rights.”

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