Twitter’s Policy on buying and selling usernames: How do companies like Idealab acquire @Tweetup?

Tweetup on TwitterBuying and selling names isn’t anything new.  Sure, it’s domain names most people want but usernames on social media sites like Twitter can also be the target of companies and individuals.  According to Twitter’s Terms of Service, attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are violations and may result in permanent account suspension. 

So how do companies like CNN acquire usernames they don’t own? 

TechCrunch covered that story a year ago. 

According to TechCrunch, “CNN has confirmed that it has taken control of the CNNbrk account, though the company isn’t viewing it as an “acquisition”. Rather, CNN has signed James Cox to a consultant contract agreement, which included the transfer of the account as part of its conditions. Any financial compensation due to Cox is being offered for his services, which happen to include his Twitter account along with teaching social media workshops, among other things (though I suspect he’s getting paid substantially more than the market rate for his consulting).”

It’s not necessarily trademarked names that fall under Twitter’s policy. It’s any exchange of a user name where payment is involved.  But like TechCrunch points out, enforcing the rules might be hard.

@Tweetup and IdeaLab
In March the news of the domain name selling to Idealab was broke on this blog after the owner confirmed the sale via email. 

But in case you didn’t notice, Idealab’s newest company, also acquired (or acquired through a consulting gig) the @tweetup username from the operators of

And can you blame them?  When you run an entire business based off Twitter, you need the brand username, too.  Although, it looks as a backup, Idealab also register @tweetupdotcom (which alot of companies have done, who missed out on the Twitter landrush — adding dotcom to the end of the username).

You may not expect the rules to necessarily be enforced when it comes to generic usernames, but buying, selling and exchanging of usernames will be long running and like the domain aftermarket, the new social media real estate will become in high demand.

Can you really blame companies for spending cash (or paying for consulting) in order to build a presence in the social media world?