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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I'm Yours, Body And Soul—But Not Blog (LazyBlawg)

Phil Wolff observes that "One in 4 or 5 bloggers will start a new job this year. Maybe 750 thousand. They and their blogs are at risk." Phil is interested in developing some form language for use in employment agreements that would govern "my blog, my rights to blog, my ownership of my blog, and explicit freedom from retaliation for anything I post."

Justin Hitt offers an excellent comment in response to Phil's post, discussing employee/independent contractor distinctions and his own experiences in negotiating similar issues with employers. Justin's comment helps emphasize how a "one size fits all" approach might not be the best solution to this problem. The same thing can be said about licensing, but that doesn't make Creative Commons any less valuable, or, on the other hand, any guarantee against potential litigation. Could a Creative Commons-type system nevertheless be implemented for this situation? Of course, in theory, but Creative Commons represents a unique combination of expertise, commitment, and funding, and unfortunately I don't think it's realistic to expect such programs to spring up wherever a legal powderkeg awaits a match.

As for Phil's hope that a boilerplate "Blogging Employee's" agreement could include a provision ensuring "explicit freedom from retaliation for anything I post?" If someone manages to negotiate such an arrangement, I want that person as my lawyer. I cannot imagine any employer willingly giving any employee carte blanche to potentially defame the company or its representatives, or to disclose its competitive confidential information. That said, there may be work-related subjects an employer would be happy, even eager, to have employees blog about, and there may be employers that would make a church-and-state distinction for employee writing that is purely non-work related. More reasons why it's smart to address such concerns up front, and not to take on employment terms and conditions without some trusted legal advice.

My panel at the Weblog Business Strategies conference touched on these kinds of issues, and I have linked to all the panel coverage I could locate from B&B's About page. The panel also took a stab at answering some of Phil's further and related questions after the conference ("Drops Of Jupiter").

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