Two and a half years ago, we wrote about the question of Twitter squatters and other likely fights about who gets to own what Twitter names, and pointed to a suggestion from lawyer Erik Heels that there needed to be a clear Twitter user name dispute resolution policy, similar to UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) for domain names. To date, there still isn’t anything quite like that, though Twitter often seems to take matters into its own hands if someone complains. However, apparently, Spin Magazine decided to bypass contacting Twitter directly and instead sent a cease & desist letter to the guy who had the @spin user name on Twitter, relegating Spin Magazine to using the dreaded @SpinMagazine (you can see the full cease & desist letter at ChillingEffects).
Spin Magazine tried to claim that there was “confusion” with Eric Rice’s @spin account by pointing to tweets that were meant for the magazine, but were directed to Rice instead. Of course, I don’t see how Spin Magazine would have any legal claim here, since Eric Rice is an individual and is unlikely to be using the Twitter account for commercial purposes. Honestly, Spin Magazine comes off looking pretty silly here, and could have just tried a friendly approach, rather than running to the lawyers. However, Rice claims that until the C&D showed up, he’d never heard from Spin Magazine, despite his using Twitter for years with the name. We see this kind of thing all the time with lawyers and clients who think breaking out the legal nastygrams is a good way to get people to cooperate. Perhaps the scare tactics work some of the time, but they have a high likelihood of backfiring badly, as well.