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The Internet

Who Owns Weblog Content? 354

dirvish writes "Information Week has a story discussing copyright issues and legal rights associated with employee blogs and RSS readers. Recently, some companies have come out with formal weblog policies and others have fired employees for inappropriate blogging. With an increase in official company blogs, and some large companies like Microsoft and Google offering popular blogging services, the issues become even more clouded. Some bloggers are beginning to speak out about corporate and government control, others would probably prefer to not risk their jobs."
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Who Owns Weblog Content?

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  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:41PM (#11563922) Homepage
    Mark Cuban's Blog [blogmaverick.com] - owner of the Dallas Mavericks ...
  • Common sense... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:42PM (#11563929) Homepage Journal
    You are still bound by any agreements you have with your employer when you blog, especially if you represent yourself as an employee.

    On a slightly-related note: Has anybody else noticed that Information Week has been getting awfully thin these past few issues? Trouble on the horizon?

    • Re:Common sense... (Score:3, Informative)

      by QMO ( 836285 )
      I don't think that my employer could stop me from blogging, but:
      I did agree not to reveal confidential things, so I'd have to be careful about that.
      I did agree that anything I create while employed here belongs to my employer, anything, work-related, or not, on my own time, or not, is theirs.

      This last is the main barrier that I can see to my remaining with this company for the long term.
    • Re:Common sense... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:55PM (#11564115) Homepage
      "You are still bound by any agreements you have with your employer when you blog, especially if you represent yourself as an employee."

      BINGO! This is such an important point, I hope they bring it up if this ever goes to court. This is simply a new medium for speech which would be regulated by currently existing contracts signed at hiring. There's already rules about what you can and can't say about your employer, why should the web be any different? (Unless you're whistle blowing perhaps)

      And aside from legal aspects of this, its a pretty well known fact that if you start talking shit about a company you work for, sooner or later, they'll find a way to get rid of you without you getting wrongful termination. It just never works out. If you want to say things about your company, be smart, do it anonymously, and don't let it get traced back to you in dumb ways like using special info that would make it obviously you or by telling people.

      And on the internet, remember that it takes the existing rule of "you never know who people know" where you be careful of what you say because you never know who it can get back to and magnifies it because not only do you never know who people know, but you don't even know if the people are the people they say they are.

      • Re:Common sense... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Macadamizer ( 194404 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:16PM (#11564355)
        "sooner or later, they'll find a way to get rid of you without you getting wrongful termination."

        I agree with this post, but I just thought I would point something out here. Every state, except Montana, is an at-will employment state. What that means is that unless you have an employment CONTRACT, and not just an offer letter and the like (pro athletes have contracts, most others don't), your employer can fire you at ANY time for ANY reason at all (with the exception of certain prohibited reasons, like firing you because of your race, national origin, that sort of thing). So, you could go to work today, and your employer could fire you for wearing a red shirt. Or fire you just because he couldn't get it up with the wife last night.

        Wrongful termination means being fired for whistleblowing, or for using your FMLA or other leave rights, being fired after exercising some other protected right (like making an OSHA complaint), or being fired because of your membership in a protected class (race, gender, national origin, religon, age if over 40, there's a couple of others I can't remember off of the top of my head). ANY other firing, by definition, is not "wrongful termination."

        So, they don't NEED the evidence to fire you. They may WANT the evidence because of some internal reasons, but there is no LEGAL reason to obtain the evidence. You can ALWAYS be fired for just about anything.

        Of course, you can quit whenever you want to -- that's the flip side of at-will -- they can't make you keep working if you don't want to.

        Just wanted to point that out...
        • Not to mention the fact that wrongful termination is a very thin claim. I don't know about the US, but here in the UK the most you can hope for is a couple of months of salary - a nice leaving bonus, but hardly worth it after the amount of effort you need to spend preparing the case etc.
        • by slashkitty ( 21637 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:44PM (#11564676) Homepage
          However, most people don't realize that your company policies may alter the at-will status. For example, does your company have an "introductory period," where, for the intro period, where after 3 months, your job is somehow safer. The courts have ruled that this creates an implied contract... so if you're suddenly terminated, check your companies policies! more here: http://www.ppspublishers.com/ez/html/030204.htm [ppspublishers.com]
        • I had never heard of the concept of "at-will" employment (I'm Canadian) before you mentioned it, and having looked it up, I'm amazed that the U.S. has such a thing:

          History of At-Will Employment Law in the USA [rbs2.com]

          From the above site:
          "... the USA is alone among the industrialized nations of the world in providing no protection against wrongful termination of employment."

      • Re:Common sense... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kainaw ( 676073 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:05PM (#11564914) Homepage Journal
        There's already rules about what you can and can't say about your employer, why should the web be any different?

        My contract with the Navy was not renewed because I made a blog entry on a website that was in no way attached to the military or government (attached below in case you actually care about it). The Navy's point is that if I had said this in a public place, it is OK. However, terrorists can read web pages, so any dissent falls under the Patriot Act.

        The blog entry:
        I am a bit worried about the project I'm now working on. The project head is supposed to be a Software Engineer. In the few weeks that I've worked with him, I have found that he is completely unable to program in any of the required languages, he knows very little about installing software on a computer, and his knowledge of database administration is limited to what the paperclip guy in MS Access can tell him to do. Further investigation has dug up that he was a telephone support person for a software company, but I don't know how he lost his job. After that, he worked in retail sales at a national men's clothing store. Then, he woke up one day and decided he was a Senior Software Engineer. He flubbed an application to a government contractor, got hired, and is now in charge of this project. Now, if I could just place my finger on what is worrying me about this project...
        • Re:Common sense... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:34PM (#11565965) Homepage Journal

          Nothing personal, but you got fired for an accute case of stupid. Technical skills are no substitute for a bit of political sense. With one blog entry you made your direct superior, and everyone involved in hiring him look like idiots in a public forum. The folks that got you run would have run you no matter where or how you made the remark (assuming that it got back to them), they simply would have used a different excuse. Too many technical folks think that their technical skills mean that they don't have to learn some people skills, and in today's market that simply isn't the case.

          The reason that you were fired is that you made people with power and authority over you look bad in public, terrorism was just the excuse that they used. Coming up with an excuse to fire someone is not nearly as hard as you would think, especially to folks that have access to all of your email, Internet sites you visit during work, and whatever else.

          The worst part is that with a little bit of political knowledge you could easily have had your direct superior run, but you could probably have received his job as a promotion as well.

    • Re:Common sense... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:17PM (#11564365)
      In the U.S., most private employees can be terminated just because the emploer wants to. Absent a union or individual contract that specifieds otherwise, employees work at the pleasure of the employer.

      So, use your head. If you use any property that belongs to your employer to do anything your employer isn't paying you to do, you are putting your job at risk.

      If you post to your blog only at home, tell the world who you work for, and then post opinion about your employer, you are putting your job at risk.

      Is this a free speech issue? No, because your employer is not thwarting your right to post to your blog, even if you are fired.

    • "if common sense were common every body would have it"

      My dad says that to me all the time when I tell him something is common sense.
  • by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) * <error@ioerr[ ]us ['or.' in gap]> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:43PM (#11563937) Homepage Journal
    This is really simple. I don't talk about my job on my blog. I don't write blog entries from work. My blog is not hosted by my employer. They have nothing to do with my blog, and if they want to try to exercise any control over my blog, they can go to hell.
    • Your argument is interesting in light of recent firings by employers because employees were smokers- even if they only smoked at home.

      Employers have recently tried every carrot they can think of, including cash incentives and IPods, to persuade employees to quit smoking. Now they are trying the stick. Pointing to rising health costs, and to the oversize proportion of insurance claims attributed to smokers, employers around the United States are refusing to hire applicants who smoke, and sometimes they're fi

      • Your argument is interesting in light of recent firings by employers because employees were smokers- even if they only smoked at home.

        Yeah, I heard about that. I'd be shocked if the workers don't win that lawsuit, but we'll see. I know the parallel isn't perfect, but replace "smoker" with "pregnant woman" and see how far, legally, that goes.

        • I know the parallel isn't perfect, but replace "smoker" with "pregnant woman" and see how far, legally, that goes.

          I don't think the analogy is even close. Smoking is a vice. Pregnancy is not a vice -- it is a critical part of the perpetuation of the human species.

          Just because both happen to involve health care costs doesn't mean that they are at all equivalent.

        • Pregnancy is a natural biological condition. Smoking is a habit--one with harmful side-effects that cost lots of money to treat. I see no problem with firing employees that refuse to curtail major, avoidable, unnatural risk factors that cost the company money.
          • by orcrist ( 16312 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:17PM (#11565077)
            I see no problem with firing employees that refuse to curtail major, avoidable, unnatural risk factors that cost the company money.

            So there's no problem with firing someone who goes skiing or skydiving in their free time? How about swimming? Or most sports for that matter. All risk factors. Maybe not as high as with smoking but who determines what is major? Then there's travel. Some countries are more dangerous than others; will employers have lists of 'approved' destinations for vacation? For that matter living in or visiting certain parts of many U.S. cities can increase your risk factor: "We didn't fire him because he's black, we fired him because he was visiting the ghetto where he grew up: a major, avoidable, unnatural risk factor!"

            I know this is a slippery slope argument, but the point is that saving the company money shouldn't trump your freedom to spend your free time as you see fit. Life is dangerous and uncertain. You can't put everything on a balance sheet when it comes to human beings, and as long as companies are hiring human beings then they need to consider that to be the *company's* risk factor. After all there are still laws which prevent discrimination against handicapped people, even if it costs more money, and even if they are handicapped because they fell asleep at the wheel or broke their neck horse-back riding (both avoidable risk factors).

            -chris
        • I side with the employers on this. Smoking is disgusting, and it does harm those people who dont smoke in the office. Smokers smell, even if they take steps to mitigate the stale smoke smell - and many dont.

          I currently work in an office which had a single smoker until he gave up recently. Every time he popped out for a cigarette he came back stinking, several of us had to leave the office for a couple of minutes because we just cant physically stand it.

          You wouldnt accept poor personal hygiene, you
      • Well, it becomes a really fuzzy issue. Health care is a direct cost the employer must pay, and it's a *benefit*, not an obligation. Companies could get around the whole issue with people smoking and simply say "If you smoke, we won't pay your health insurance. We'll still offer it to you, but it will be deducted in full from your paycheck, or you can acquire your own insurance." Add to that policies like, "you can't smoke on company property" and they should be fine - just don't fire the people! (Another th
      • Slightly less? It would be more apt to say it doesn't apply in the slightest, for exactly that reason. Smoking is a health issue, plain and simple. Blogging is not. If I blog all night or play video games all night, that doesn't affect me at work. If I smoke all the time, that affects both health insurance and potentially coworkers.
    • Exactly my policy as well.

      There is nothing in my blog that relates to work... unless someone told a particularly funny joke. The extent of even mentioning work is usually something along the lines of, "sorry for no updates... I've been busy with work."

      Now slashdot is another story...

      People need to use common sense and not put something in writing that will jeopardize their employment. It really doesn't matter the medium used.
  • and federally regulated break time is given, an employer can restrict whatever non-workrelated activities they wish. Especially those carried about using company equipment.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the time-tested tradition of writers who tackle risky topics - use a pseudonym. By the way, what are some of the ways to set up a reasonably anonymous blog?
    • What about those who post pics?

      This reminds me. Is it that people have become more rebel towards their companies, or this whole business-blog has only brought to light a serious problem inside all companies?

      Like they've become dehumanizing?

      Companies are supposed to do a service or sell goods for the country - in exchange for money. If their employees are treated badly, doesn't this mean that we're going back regarding workers rights?

      Aside from that, companies need to make explicit rules regarding bloggi
  • by chris09876 ( 643289 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:44PM (#11563953)
    People should really treat blogs just like anything that they would say in public. Most companies have IP agreements, or nondisclosure agreements. If an employee posts something that violates that agreement, then the company can ask them to take it down. People have a right to talk about their personal lives, but when you work for someone else, you usually have to agree not to disclose private information about them. Blogs are just a natural extension of that rule.
    • by robbo ( 4388 ) <slashdot.simra@net> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:00PM (#11564172)
      People should really treat blogs just like anything that they would say in public.

      Trouble is, many people forget what 'in public' really means. It doesn't mean grousing about your job to a small group of friends. When you complain about management on your blog, you might as well have called a press conference, made your comments and had it play on CNN. Every night. Forever. Sooner or later the boss is going to catch wind. And that's when it gets tricky-- you haven't broken any NDA's, you're just advertising your dissatisfaction with your employer. That's probably enough reason for them to express their dissatisfaction with your job performance...

  • No problemo (Score:5, Funny)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:44PM (#11563955) Homepage Journal
    This is why I post all controversial postings as nizoLLC, a limited liability corporation created just for this purpose.
  • Personal Websites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SteveX ( 5640 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:44PM (#11563958) Homepage
    A blog is no different than a personal website; folks have had those since the dawn of the web.

    Read your employment agreement; if you're still not sure talk to your HR folks. Better safe than sorry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:45PM (#11563964)
    ...do not reflect the viewpoints of the company I don't work for

    -A Coward
  • Get your on domain and blog from there. That's what I do. It's then your fault if your journal disappears from the net..

    You will never see problems like what LiveJournal experienced and you don't have to worry about a the blogging company going into administration. ( I think we'll see a few of these soon )

    For employee blogs, treat like you would your e-mail except that you should expect everyone in your company can read the blog.. Security through obsecurity is no security at all.

    Simon.
    • I know this wasn't intentional, but I nominate "obsecurity" as a replacement for the phrase "security through obscurity."
      Example usage:

      "I don't know why Microsoft keeps touting Digital Rights Management--everyone knows obsecurity is no security at all."

      Anyone second the motion?

  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:46PM (#11563977) Homepage Journal
    Is greater than what you say on a weblog. It's about the ability for an organization you work for (or attend as a student) being increasingly able to dictate your behavior and lifestyle outside of the workplace.

    We've been on a fairly steady decline since they found out they can make employees go through demeaning tests for insurance purposes and are currently at the point where companies are trying to kick smokers out. Meanwhile there are people arguing free speech rights only apply when the government is attempting to restrict them, conveniently ignoring the fact that if there were any multinational corporations around when the founders set this place up maybe the Bill of Rights would have been a little tighter.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:02PM (#11564193) Homepage Journal
      Meanwhile there are people arguing free speech rights only apply when the government is attempting to restrict them, conveniently ignoring the fact that if there were any multinational corporations around when the founders set this place up maybe the Bill of Rights would have been a little tighter.

      If you don't like your employer's attitude on these issues, you're still free to walk, you don't need a pair of ruby slippers to click three times and wish you were home. Enough people have the guts to walk out on an oppressive employer they may get the message, particularly if you mention it in an exit interview.

      I've disagreed with employers and managers (who may or may not represent the employer above their own ego) and spoken my mind a number of times. It's usually best to form a plan to address grievances rather than uttering disparaging remarks in the break room or anonymously on the web or in the news. If there's nothing to be gained then have the intelligence to go. I truly despise hearing people whine about how they hate what's going on in their workplace, but don't do anything about it.

    • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether&tru7h,org> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:07PM (#11564264) Homepage
      I know it's a wildly unpopular concept with a lot of the tech crowd, but that's the sort of thing that unions were created to prevent. You think EA would be raping it's employees if it's workers were unionized?

      Not a fan of unions myself, but history suggests it'll get results.
    • I don't mind, as long as employers are upfront about it when they hire you. They should have the right to set the terms of your employment.

      Springing stuff on you suddenly after you're employed is a different matter entirely.
    • There were multinational companies around when our founding fathers wrote the bill of rights. One big thorn in the colonists sides was the British East India Company. They were a big part of why we rebelled against the crown. The trouble isn't that Franklin et al. didn't try to protect us agains corporations run amok but that the courts misinterpreted the intent of the constitution and allowed big business to run unchecked.
    • Is greater than what you say on a weblog. It's about the ability for an organization you work for (or attend as a student) being increasingly able to dictate your behavior and lifestyle outside of the workplace.

      And the courts have been pretty vigilant about restricting such things to that which actually impacts the company.

      We've been on a fairly steady decline since they found out they can make employees go through demeaning tests for insurance purposes and are currently at the point where companies are

    • While I don't disagree with your points, let's refrain from putting words in the Founding Fathers' mouths. It's bad enough when we ignore what they actually did say.
    • there are people arguing free speech rights only apply when the government is attempting to restrict them, conveniently ignoring the fact that if there were any multinational corporations around when the founders set this place up maybe the Bill of Rights would have been a little tighter.

      The colonial experience is all about "multinational" corporations. How do you think trade and settlement were organized and funded in those early days? The Hudson's Bay Company, founded in 1670, is still a going concern.

  • I guess taht's what happens when you make the 1st Amendment only opposable to the Governments and not private individuals / corporations...
    Anyone read C. Edwin Baker's Human Liberty and Freedom of Speech ? Pretty interesting on the topic of free speech regulation to protect the speech from this type of pressures...
  • What's the difference between a blog and another personal website? You should be able to say whatever you want on it ...
    • And you can. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rjstanford ( 69735 )
      Those are indeed your rights. Of course, your employer can also fire you, sue you, or promote you, either because of your blog or without knowing about it. Those are your employer's rights.
  • It depends. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueThunderArmy ( 751258 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:47PM (#11563998) Homepage
    I would think who owns the content would depend on some very simple criteria, but ones which often lead to legal battles.

    If an employee blogs for or as a representative of her company, the company owns the material.

    If an employee blogs on her own time, and on matters unrelated to the company, the author owns the material.

    If an employee blogs on her own time, but on matters related to the company and identifying herself with the company, she owns the material but will likely face consequences.

    • Agreed. That's the only logical and fair categorization of ownership and liability I can think of. As others have pointed out, though, blogs should not be singled out. One could do the same thing on a personal web site, in physical media, or anywhere else. That this is arising as a blog problem seems to stem from two main factors:

      1) easy-to-use blogging services mean that there is no longer any significant technical hurdle to making your words viewable worldwide

      2) people seem to have a false sense of se

  • I wouldn't blog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:47PM (#11564008)
    on my employer's weblog anymore than I would post my opinion on my employer's bulletin boards.

    I think that if you want to avoid being quoted as saying stuff, or avoid having someone steal your ideas, then maybe you should choose another medium.
  • Stay anonymous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ruzty ( 46204 ) <rusty.mraz@org> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:47PM (#11564009) Journal
    I know it doesn't serve to fluff the author's ego or provide as much legitimacy, but if you MUST say something controversial then BLOG it anonymously.

    My primary BLOG has no personally identifiable information in it. I can say what I want as long as it's not slanderous or libelous. Of course, I do it as an outlet for personal expression and not to gain or keep readership. I mostly write reviews of restaurants I eat at...
  • by filtur ( 724994 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:48PM (#11564023) Homepage
    Who owns my slashdot posts? Soviet Russia?
    • Look at the bottom of the page:

      All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2004 OSTG.
  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:49PM (#11564027)
    It's bad enough that you commit thoughtcrime.

    Do you honestly expect the thought police to miss them when they are written out on a blog and available for anyone to see?

    "Room 101!"
  • Common sense? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:49PM (#11564038) Homepage
    Here's been my observation:

    1. Companies always have NDA's (non-disclosure agreements) when they have info they don't want others to have... if you sign it, respect it. It's that simple. We have all signed them before.

    2. I never mention people/places unless I *know* it's safe. I never mention identifyable people, only the info they publically reveal (and a link to their blog). It's just common respect.

    3. Never mention who I am working for, or what I'm doing, unless I am positive it doesn't violate the rules of #1, and #2. Ever, no exceptions.

    Perhaps I'm paranoid, but that's been my policy for ages.

    IMHO it's just common sense. Just because you don't sign your real name to your blog doesn't mean you don't need to abide by your NDA.
  • I think a lot of questions are being asked about blogs because of all the publicty they've been getting lately.

    I don't see how they're any different from personal websites, which have been around for a while. I would think that you would be bound by the agreement with which the website or blog is hosted. For example, if the webpage exists on Geocities [geocities.com], you are bound by their Terms of Service [yahoo.com], which among other things states:

    7. CONTENT SUBMITTED TO YAHOO GEOCITIES
    Yahoo does not claim ownership of the C

  • I don't see where it is any of there business what I write on my weblog [slamsmith.us]

    As the subject says. I keep it strictly seperate from work. I don't believe I ever mentioned my employer's name on it. As long as I'm honoring my confidentiality agreement with my employer, I think they need to mind their own business.

    I'm not too worried anyways. My regular readership is under 10 people :-). I write it as much for enjoyment as any other reason.
  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @01:56PM (#11564117) Homepage

    Then doesn't it belong to the employer?

    Seriously, why do we need something like a blogger's "bill of rights?" [blindmindseye.com] If you do something on your employer's time that isn't related to your job, then you should consider yourself lucky that either your employer doesn't know or care. You could lose your job for blogging at work, unless maybe your blog is promoting the company's products and services and some manager thinks that is just good free advertisement.

    The woman who proposed that blogger's bill of rights got fired because she posted on her blog pictures that could be offensive to some of her employer's customers and let people know where she worked. That's just about one of the things that you DONT DO online. You just don't post comments that can be connected with your employer unless your employer has given you the green light to do so.

  • People too stupid to use pseudonyms get what they deserve.

    People who let their employers violate their civil liberties get what they deserve.

    People who arrogantly deal out advice for other people get what they deserve.

    • People too stupid to use pseudonyms get what they deserve.

      People who let their employers violate their civil liberties get what they deserve.

      People who arrogantly deal out advice for other people get what they deserve.


      Actually, it's much more fundamental than that:

      People so full of themselves that they post their diaries on the Web get what they deserve.
    • Great going buddy. Use Pseudonyms? Hide behind an "alter ego"? I thought the US got into Iraq so that people there DON'T have to do things like that anymore?

      If you can't stand behind what you write with your own name, then maybe you shouldn't have written it in the first place.

      IF on the other hand, you can't say anything anymore without fear of repercussion I suggest you call out a revolution and free the people again. Put the Second Ammendment to good use.
  • Well Duh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:01PM (#11564174)
    This is all obvious, isn't it?

    1. Anything you publish will be considered by people considering hiring you. Therefore, publish only what you would be proud of.

    2. Companies expect that their employees will not disclose confidential company information. Doing so can get you disciplined or fired. Never mind whether they could get a court order stopping you -- your job will end long before anything like that happens.

    3. Companies expect that their employees will publicly support the company, or at least not publicly embarrass it. Doing so can get you disciplined or fired.

    4. Materials written on company time or hosted on company equipment may be the property of your employer.

    None of this is new. The only thing blogs add to this picture is that more of us now have the opportunity to publish.
  • zerg (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Omlette ( 124579 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:01PM (#11564180) Homepage
    I suspect that if you have to ask "Who owns my weblog content?", then the answer probably won't be what you want to hear.
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:01PM (#11564183)
    I own my content, which is not a problem since I'm self-employed, and I copyright my content, which turned out to be incredibly important.
    I learned a tough lesson in my early blogging days. I used a hosted blog, and I got into a business dispute with the asshole owner, resulting in him terminating my services but leaving my dead blog active. My old blog was highly rated, so they were deliberately leaving my old blog up to divert Google searches away from my new self-hosted blog. So I filed a DMCA complaint to force him to remove my old website, and I won. This was only possible because I had put a copyright notice on my old website.
    Now I know better than to to let anyone else have control over my content.
    • So I filed a DMCA complaint to force him to remove my old website, and I won. This was only possible because I had put a copyright notice on my old website.

      Your lawyer should have told you this, but anything you write in the US is automatically copyrighted, whether you publish the notice or not. Your DMCA notice would have worked regardless.

  • we used to have a guy who'd blog about work he was doing for the company - with links to various client websites, etc.

    he also had pictures of his wife in panties on the same site.

    he was told to remove any mention of the company / clients from his site - but refused to do so. he was eventually fired.

  • by powdered toast dude ( 800543 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:04PM (#11564227) Journal
    Anonymity on the Internet is a dubious prospect at best in most cases. Unless you're using a hijacked or unpaid public connection, I recommend you assume you are speaking your views as yourself publicly, and accept accountability for doing so.

    Remember anon.penet.fi? As soon as the heat came down, so did the veil of anonymity.

    $0.02,
    ptd

  • I see it as a few cases:

    1. Employee posting on a blog provided and maintained by their employer. Ownership depends solely on the terms the employer imposes. It's exactly like the memos you write at work: they're company property.
    2. Employee posting on a blog they've set up on their own, independently of their employer, but are posting internal, confidential or privileged information about their job. Their employer doesn't own the content, but probably has a say in it because of non-disclosure and other agreeme
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:19PM (#11564401) Homepage Journal

    The policy on The Well [well.com], an online conferencing system that's been around since 1984, established a policy to address this issue long ago:

    You own your own words.

    That is, you retain complete ownership of -- and therefore responsibility and liability for -- whatever you write. This relieves The Well of any liability for the actions/writings of their posters, and the posters can rest assured that neither The Well nor any other user will turn around and sell their writings to someone else without permission. This policy, referred to by Well members with the acronym YOYOW, has been in place and has worked fairly well for the last 20 or so years.

    YOYOW: Ask for it by name :-).

    Schwab

  • I blog daily. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dagny Taggert ( 785517 ) <hankreardenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:19PM (#11564404) Homepage
    However, I just don't talk about work. I could write several books about what goes on there, but what would it do for me in the end? If I need therapy because of work, then I should see a shrink, not blab about it to people who don't care anyway. Stick to politics: it pisses people off AND it's easy to pick sides in a fight.
  • The writer holds the copyright unless he or she agreed otherwise. The blogger doesn't have to intend to agree. The agreement could be a part of some click-through licensing screen which the blogger never bothered to read but clicked "yes" or "ok" on anyway.

  • by catdevnull ( 531283 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:31PM (#11564530)
    OK, I'm fairly liberal on the issue of Freedom of Speech. But, if you're:
    • Blogging on company time
    • Blogging bad about your company
    • Blogging about how much you hate your job
    • Blogging out information that should stay behind company doors
    I think you're asking for trouble. Your freedom of speech covers your political muscle not libel or slander. As an employee, there should be some respect for the boundaries expected of you. If you're fairly sure you have a right to say something, be sure to follow the same rules to which journalists are supposedly accountable: integrity, truth, and accuracy. No one should be able to fire you for that. But, if you're expected to maintain a sense of decorum or have signed a disclosure agreement, maybe you should respect the rights and privacy of the company or those about whom you're blogging. Otherwise, do something to obfuscate your identity--but bloggers love to be exhibitionists.

    Personally, I think blogging is a bit of a strange habit because I'm an introvert and I don't think the world wants or cares to know about my feelings, political orientation, or how much I loathe/love my job, family, pets, or celebrities.

    I do like to post occassional anecdotes, etc. but as a rule, I try to respect others and not type something I wouldn't want them to read. Or, if it's unflattering, I'll try to find some way to not assassinate their character but to find fault in the action.

    The world is full of too many myopic opinionated people who care little about the effects of their words or actions. I think, we as internet denizens, should be careful to promote change with careful and constructive criticism and express ourselves with honesty without malice--even on blogs.

    BTW: Bloggers suck. (Just kidding)
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <deviladvNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @02:56PM (#11564809) Homepage
    Mark Pilgrim [diveintomark.org] once blogged about him being a recovering alcoholic. He never blogged about work or the people he worked with. However, the people he worked for at the time found out about the blog, as he was not anonymous and did not take great pains to hide it. Well the company did a really sleazy (and in hindsight stupid) action of asking him to take this information down. They thought customer's knowing this would make the company look bad. Mark refused and was eventually fired. I was definitely on his side for this one. Something's wrong with society if you are embarrassed about alcoholism and this is not the way to handle it, IMHO. It's stupid because Mark is now working for IBM in their corporate blogging division. That former company gave up a prime employee and Mark's making far more money now.

    However, a few weeks later a fellow blogger of Mark's was then fired for making comments about a coworker in her blog. Mark took up her side, but as I talked to Mark, and reviewed the comments, it was little more than bitching about someone who was simply a pain in the ass. Okay fine, you work with someone who's a pain in the ass, but would you tell that to that person's face? This is what you are doing. She refused her companies demands to remove the information and she was sacked. Frankly this was just stupid. If you have a problem with someone, you take up with your boss. If you can't fix it, bitching about it in your blog is not going to help. Might make you feel better, but it will make you feel worse when the company has to discipline you.

    And I myself was subject to some policy, but this was a common sense situation early in the days of blogging. I blogged at lunch occasionally and I was proud of my site. My boss found out as I had emailed them from home once. So she checked it out and she saw one or two time stamps in the middle of the day. She asked me and I told her this was because I did it at lunch. She asked me if I could minimize the appearance of this (she didn't even ask me to stop!) I simply changed the timestamp on my posts to later in the day after work.

    It's ironic, because, some of my topics deal with very confrontational stances on American society and politics. Hell let me be blunt, I flame 90% of americans in most posts. But she never once mentioned anything about content, because I never talk about the company or our customers in any way.

    Sometimes, your principles are more important than your job, sometimes your principles are way skewed, and sometimes you just get lucky and work for understanding people. You have to understand what can get you in trouble and what can't, and balance that with what you absolutely have to speak out about.

    If you must insult everyone, make sure you have a steady source of income from a private business that doesn't care what you say.
  • by mdavids ( 143296 ) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:49PM (#11567463) Homepage

    I recently aquired a virtual server in the US, and under "Unacceptable Content" in the terms of service, it said the following:

    Other unacceptable content includes but is not limited to: sites promoting or discussing any domestic or international political issues...

    As a non-US citizen this strikes me as frighteningly extreme. On the other hand, this is a country where people can be abducted by the state, imprisoned without charge and tortured (legally, according to the attorney general), so if I were running an Internet service in the US, I'd probably be reluctant to argue my clients' free speech rights too strenuously.

    Let's assume (because I can't be bothered with research) that these clauses are becoming commonplace in hosting agreements. Well, you could always host your political website yourself. Except I imagine retail ISPs and other upstream bandwidth providers will also want to be seen to be doing their bit for homeland security, and adjust their TOS documents accordingly.

    So where will you go for free political debate in the US? Call in to Rush Limbaugh? Meet in the dead of night in a cellar behind a cast-iron door with a peephole and a large armed man asking for the password ("crossfire")?

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