Friday, November 13, 2009

Who Owns My Blog?

Dear Rich: Out of frustration with the nonsense taking place in our industry I asked a colleague of mine to set-up a blog site for me to blog on. So they did. All the content and photos are mine. My employer provided no support for the site other than my colleagues jumping in every so often to change fonts in my writings when things went haywire. I left my employer and want to take my blog content with me to my new employer. Who owns the content? The short answer is that we don't know ... but we have a feeling your employer owns it. 
Work for Hire? As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, if the blog is not something you would create in the course of your employment and you created it on your own time, using your own equipment, then you own it under work made for hire rules. But if you got paid for doing it (wrote it during work time), or used work equipment and it was related to work (sounds like it was since you're talking about your 'industry') then your employer owns the blog. For example, even though I'm writing this miles from Berkeley and on my own computermy employer owns these words. Some other factors that may matter are whether you signed an employment agreement discussing ownership of employee works, or whether your employee handbook at work has rules regarding employee-created works.
Trademark and Domain Name Issues. Regardless of the copyright rules expressed above, you're free to start another blog at your new job, provided you're not taking and using any trade secrets from your last job. The Dear Rich Staff believes that the bigger question is whether you can take the blog name (your trademark) and the domain name (The URL or address of your blog). If readers associate the blog with your employer -- for example, they access it at your employer's website -- then it's likely your employer will claim ownership of the name unless there is some alternative agreement between you and your boss. For example, you could work out a deal where you owned the name of the blog but licensed it to your employer during the course of your employment. If the domain is part of a free blogging service such as Blogger, then things become more confusing and there may be battle over who has rights to use the Blogger URL.