Today in macabre Twitter handle fights - The Indianapolis Star has news about a feud between an anonymous fan and the actor's estate over who the @JamesDean Twitter handle should belong to.
The fan currently has control of the account because he or she registered it back in 2009. It's run as an apparently not-for-profit appreciation page. The estate says that it ought to own it.
Twitter, for their part, is fighting on the side of @JamesDean's current owner. While Twitter sometimes reassigns ownership of accounts from individuals to big companies, they say that the owner of @JamesDean hasn't done anything untoward with the account that would merit that. The estate's lawsuit is meant to compel Twitter to hand @JamesDean over.
The law professor who The Star spoke to says that legally, the heart of the issue might be intention - whether the fan was trying to profit from the account. A look at @JamesDean's existing tweets suggest that that's not the case. It's heavy on appreciation for the dead actor, but there aren't entreaties to buy CafePress t-shirts or support sponsors.
Truthfully, this seems like a bit of a silly fight for the estate to pick. It's also gone after four other James Dean fan accounts, insisting that internet users won't be able to distinguish between a fan account and an official account.
In a kind of bizarre twist, since the Star's account was published, the @JamesDean handle has been tweeting excerpts of an email conversation they allege took place between @JamesDean and CMG, the celebrity-licensing company that represents Dean's heirs. @JamesDean claims that CMG initially emailed to ask if they could share the Twitter account:
"6/16/10: "CMG would like for you to continue updating and managing the account. But, as the representatives of the rights holders, we ask that you allow CMG to be a co-adminstrator on the account. This can be done by simply giving us the sign in information. Occasionally we would like to use the account to promote new officially licensed products or James Dean related events. Let us know as soon as you can if this arrangement is amenable to you. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, David Piechocki, Esq"
@JamesDean says they agreed, gave CMG the password, and then heard nothing between 2010 and this lawsuit. Weird.