An individual who had been a company’s “video and social media producer,” and was responsible for maintaining social media pages used to market the company’s products, refused to deliver the usernames and passwords for those social media accounts to her employer after her employment was terminated. As a result, the former employer was unable to access a number of its online accounts and websites to update them as needed for its marketing purposes. A federal court in New York City granted a preliminary injunction requiring the terminated employee to provide the usernames and passwords to the former employer. Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivel, 1:11-cv-05013-NRB (S.D. N.Y. Oct. 19, 2011).
Among other things, the court observed that it was “uncontested that plaintiffs own the rights to the access information.” For this reason, the court held that the “defendant’s unauthorized retention of the information may therefore form the basis of a claim of conversion.” The court also rejected the terminated employee’s contention that the former employer could not demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm–a prerequisite to preliminary injunctive relief. The court found a sufficient likelihood of irreparable harm in the employer’s inability to take advantage of new commercial opportunities presented by the expansion of social media–
New opportunities may arise that plaintiffs are unable to take advantage of as a result of defendant’s withholding the Access Information. For instance, plaintiffs have recently begun participating in “daily deal” promotions, the success of which depends heavily on tie-ins with social media.