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Who Owns Your Twitter Handle? Why Jason Castillo Should Not Demand Too Much for @Qwikster

September 20, 2011

As you probably have already heard, Netflix is splitting into two companies. The first, Netflix, will handle just the streaming side of the existing services. The second, a new company called “Qwikster,” will handle the DVD by mail.

TechCrunch pointed out, however, that the people at Netflix forgot to get the Twitter handle for the before they announced the new company. Jason Castillo, the guy who currently holds the name @Qwikster, has caught on, and is hoping to cash out.

Via TechCrunch

It’s my opinion, though, that Castillo shouldn’t be too unreasonable during the negotiations. While the simple way for Netflix to acquire the @Qwikster name is to buy it from Castillo, there is another way.

The Twitter Terms of Service state:

We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services and to terminate users or reclaim usernames. [emphasis added]

The bottom line, is that you have no individual property interest in your Twitter account. It’s like a locker in a high school. You can put your stuff in it (or on it), but at the end of the day, the principal (or Twitter) can kick you out of it.

So instead of making an offer to Castillo, Netflix could just approach Twitter with a similar offer. In fact, they might be inclined to do just that. Negotiating with another enterprising internet-based company is probably a much more streamlined process than negotiating with a pot-smoking Elmo.

Update: Castillo has changed his avatar from pot-smoking Elmo to the Barcelona futbol club’s emblem.


Update 2: The Twitter site rules actually forbid selling a Twitter user name:

Selling user names: Unless you have been specifically permitted to do so in a separate agreement with Twitter, you agree that you will not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade or resell the Services for any purpose, where “Services” is defined as follows: Your use of Twitter’s products, services and web sites (referred to collectively as the “Services” in this document and excluding any services provided to you by Twitter under a separate written agreement) is subject to the terms of a legal agreement between you and Twitter.

By selling the account, he would obviously violate the rule. Then what? Twitter would reclaim it? Seems more and more that Netflix should just make an offer to Twitter directly. Gizmodo has a potential work-around: Netflix could hire Castillo.

Twitter, however, isn’t talking. According to Kashmir Hill at Forbes:

Spokesperson Carolyn Penner says: “Beyond [posted Twitter rules], we don’t comment on specific accounts, for privacy reasons, and it’s not productive to get into a theoretical discussion.”

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