The Twitter account @JamesDean is at the heart of a legal battle which has just begun. Launched in 2009 by an anonymous fan, it gathers the biography, quotations and photos of the actor who deceased more than 60 years ago.
The licensing agency CMG Worldwide requested Twitter to take down the account in issue. To support its request, CMG argued that the account user is infringing the mark James Dean and that it violates its “right of publicity”. The licensing company obtained a categorical refusal from the social network. Indeed, Twitter considered that the simple use of a pseudonym does not constitute an infringement of trademark rights because messages sent by some 8,000 followers did not have any commercial character.
Consequently, the company GMG Worldwide went before the courts and has sued the social network for trademark infringement. The request relies on the ground that by allowing a user to infringe the mark JAMES DEAN, Twitter is itself a counterfeiter.
However, it shall be an uphill battle for CMG. The protection granted to trademarks does not extend to all use of names. Furthermore, the general conditions of use are clear. Twitter does not prevent the creation of an account under a fake name be it the name of a celebrity. The only limits to this freedom are infringement to public order and to intellectual property rights.