James Dean Twitter account at center of legal battle

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James Dean died long before Twitter became the way movie stars communicate with fans, but he is now at the center of a legal battle over a social networking account using his name and picture.

The central Indiana company that owns the rights to the name and images of actor James Dean is suing Twitter for allowing accounts that use Dean's name and image.

Attorneys for James Dean, Inc. say they've repeatedly asked Twitter to stop the use of Dean's name and pictures and to provide contact information for the Twitter users with Dean-related names.

The man behind the @JamesDean handle responded to Eyewitness News Monday. Via email, he said the account "is strictly a fan account, as can be seen from the tweets… I started the account because I am a longtime James Dean fan." He adds that he has never tried to profit from the account.

JDI filed the lawsuit in Hamilton County December 31, and last week, Twitter asked to move the case to federal court. JDI names nine causes of action in the case, including trademark infringement, false endorsement, deception and conversion.

While JDI does not ask for a specific amount of damages, attorneys for Twitter estimate the amount involved in the controversy exceeds $75,000. Twitter has not yet filed its formal response to the accusations, but in the initial federal filing, the company says it "strongly contests liability and does not believe the Plaintiff is entitled to any relief whatsoever."

In its suit, JDI claims the account @JamesDean is using the trademark name and images of Dean without authorization. The suit states, that the actions in which Twitter and the @JamesDean user "are currently intentionally, knowingly , and maliciously engaging has resulted in and continues to result in immeasurable and irreparable damage to JDI."

The man who runs @JamesDean told Eyewitness news that he was asked to manage the account on behalf of CMG, the agent company that represents Dean's estate. He says that is part of an agreement made in 2010.

As of Monday, the @JamesDean profile is active with a description that reads, "The King of Cool – New York City, Hollywood". It has more than 8,000 followers and posted more than 2,000 tweets.

Twitter is a social media website with more than 200 million monthly active users who post short messages.

Dean was born in Marion, Indiana and graduated from Fairmount High School in 1949. He appeared in several movies, including "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause," and "Giant". September 30, 1955, the day after filming ended for "Giant", Dean died in a car crash. He was 24 years old.