Who owns the hashtag?
So I had a very interesting chat on Twitter yesterday about the subject of hashtags. Tracy Viselli put forward the position that a brand could possibly sue someone over the use of a hashtag if it damages their reputation enough.
I disagreed with that comment. In my opinion, the hashtag does not exist as an entity in itself. It is part of a comment, statement, position, point of view etc. Therefore, no one can "own" a hashtag in as much as they can "own" a Tweet. It's all part and parcel of the same comment.
For example: Say I tweeted (disclaimer: I like Pepsi!) "Pepsi sucks. It tastes horrible and I hate it. #pepsisucks."
Are the brand protection people at Pepsi going to exclaim, "WTF?! Look at that hashtag. Get our lawyer on the phone now!"
I think not. I believe they will look at the statement in general, gauge and monitor reaction to it, press fallout, social mentions ... and then decide whether to act or not.
I see a lot of hashtags used all the time. One popular one is #LoveThisTeam used in relation to the Toronto Blue Jays. I could tweet, "Tottenham Hotspur. Massive fan. #lovethisteam."
Am I going to get sued? No, because no one owns that hashtag. It's just a phrase that's being used. I could use that hashtag for anything if I wanted to.
This is an interesting article on the subject too. #readit