Who owns the social media content created and maintained
in the course of employment? Work product is traditionally the proprietary
interest of the employer. But there's something different about social
A blog created by a company employee during company time
on a company computer with a focus on the company's products may be
straightforward - the blog and its content are owned by the company.
LinkedIn: Where the battle will likely
But what about LinkedIn? I've blogged about the @PhoneDog_Noah
case and the ownership
of Twitter followers in the past, but the future battle will no doubt
be focused on LinkedIn. While the LinkedIn User Agreement is between the
individual and LinkedIn, the reality is, a key purpose of LinkedIn is to either
generate business in one's current occupation (i.e. increase your employer's
business), or to generate business and connections for the next position (i.e.
for the next employer).
The question is whether the development of connections
and of one's network in general is as a result of one's individual personality,
or as a result of one's association with a company name. In other words,
do people connect with me because I'm a lawyer at XYZ LLP, or because of my
individual personality/voice? I suspect in most cases, for most people,
it's a combination of the two.
And it's this combination that makes LinkedIn different
than a traditional Rolodex. A company's customer list is the company's
property, and a departing employee cannot take that list with her.
But in the modern world of social media, do you take your
LinkedIn connections with you? I'm guessing 100% of us believe that we do
- it's our own individual account. And LinkedIn would agree. But will
You Own My Relationships?!
A Gen-Y employee would find it rather unseemly that their
relationships with their colleagues, friends, and general network is somehow owned
by one's employer. None of us expect to stay with the employer for 30
years anymore. Compiling, developing and working hard to nurture our
network of relationships is a critical tool of business that we need to take
Conversely, employers have a good reason to assert a
proprietary interest over its customer list.
Let the battle begin.
Stay tuned to my next post where I will debrief about the
Eagle v Morgan case, one of the few cases out there that has gone to
trial on the issue of LinkedIn content ownership.
For additional updates, please visit Lisa
Stam's blog, Employment
and Human Rights Law in Canada
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