Monday, June 18, 2012

Does Site Owner Own Blog Post?

Dear Rich: Are an author’s blog posts the copyrighted material of that author, regardless of whose blog he or she posts on. Example, your blog is Nolo’s IP blog but if a post is authored by you, the words you wrote would be yours and you’d be free to republish in another work you write, right? I have a friend who is part owner of a site who wrote some blog posts based on company materials. But the words and thoughts are clearly those of the author/part-owner and every post has a byline to the author/part-owner. So who's material is it? For the sake of full disclosure (and even without FTC goading) the Dear Rich Staff acknowledges that it is employed by Nolo and this blog is created within the course of our employment. That makes Nolo the copyright owner. In other words, once these words ejected from our cerebrum and fixed on this screen, we relinquished ownership (a disclosure likely to haunt us during a future deposition.)
Author/Owner issues. In your question, the blogger is not an employee. Typically, the only way that a non-employee gives up ownership to blog material is by a written transfer (typically an assignment or a work made for hire agreement). But in your question, the blogger is a part-time owner. That raises a different set of issues. What type of business form is it -- partnership, LLC or corporation? If it is a corporation or LLC and the blogger is an officer, the blogger/owner may have written or fiduciary obligations. Alternatively, the corporation's or LLC's owners may have obligations not to compete -- something that might occur if the material was used for other purposes. If it is a partnership (the default for a group of owners who don't do anything formal), is the blog-writing considered part of the blogger/partner's contribution? That may affect claims to ownership. Finally, if the blog is derived from existing company-generated material or research there may be co-authorship or co-ownership issues. That doesn't mean the blogger can't republish it ... but the blogger would have to account to the co-authors if any money was earned.

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