Blog Fight!
A Tribute to Those Who Maintain the Shroud

Who Owns Your Blog

Who Owns Your Blog? This is a question that makes me laugh just a little bit. My thought at the time I quit my old firm was that putting unauthorized content on-line was pushing the limits in my firm. Everything had to be approved by Big-Boss. One of the reasons I quit was that I wanted to blog, and there is no way my firm would support the effort and time that it takes to do it right.

My blogs back when I left my old firm were Ugly Betty; they must be cuter now. And apparently, I stole their idea. Posting unmonitored, unregulated stream of consciousness information on your firm web site definitely fit the old firm model. Broadcasting free information about client rights and legal issues was part of their pro bono activity, right? I should have anticipated this. When I think back on all those typos (well there are still some but that is the nature of blogging).

Of course, the point here for you the dear reader is this.... Who owns your blog?

What if two years after you leave your company, your old firm sues you for your blog? Not just the baby blog as it existed long ago, but the content and links you have generated since then? Moreover, what if they want your profits? After all, it must have been the blog, not the business model that landed all those clients! Clients are dumb, right? They sign retainers with the first blog they land on....

So who owns your blog? Some obvious questions you might ask:

  1. Did your company provide support for your blogging?
  2. Did they pay for the software or server space?
  3. Did they allow you to blog and provide resources for you to do so?
  4. Did they have an email or blogging policy that claimed ownership rights?

The answer to all four questions in my case was 'no'. According to their complaint, at least one partner knew I was blogging and that I took my blogs with me on departure (a big yawner at the time for him I am sure. I know it was for me).

But they now know from reading this blog that I did a lot of business off my various blogs this last year. Or maybe they just want the two blogs that existed at the time I left. Let's see, there was an auto no fault blog that generated a single client, who by the way retained their firm. Or perhaps they want my domain dispute blog that was a mere seed when I left. Then again, they really could not have had that blog since they would have had to defraud clients to do the work (they did not do trademark work, let alone domain arbitration). Or maybe the last blog, a vaccine injury blog, which I deactivated long ago, is the one that they want. HMMM...

These issues touch on many of us who blog. Of course, we will post all the pleadings, depositions and other public documents on-line as they are filed. Interesting indeed.

Comments

Aaron

All your blogs are belong to us? (For those who need explanation....)

According to archive.org's site history that law firm has listed "Internet Law" among the practice areas on their site since 2001, including "Domain Disputes" and "Intellectual Property Programs". From what you write I would expect that for most of that period, had any clients been generated in that practice area, you would have handled their case.

It is curious, though, that with their professed recognition of the importance of blogging, it took them this long to notice that they don't actually have a blog (and thus to want yours).

In my opinion, the issues of URL ownership should be addressed in a law firm's partnership agreement and attorney employment contracts.

GAL

The funny thing is that Big Boss and others at the firm used tremendous firm resources for personal reasons. I was in the majority of partners who had to shut their eyes and take it. It is no surprise to anyone I am sure that the Big Bosses out there is so many firms engage in self-dealing behavior. They control the books. They control the check writing. They make sure you can't so much as put bar tab on the credit card (unless you are Big Boss' son), while they do whatever they do behind closed doors. They put firm resources on getting their cars cleaned, the storm windows up, their firewood delivered, their board positions and so many things unrelated to firm business.

They would never want to document by partnership agreement or otherwise these sorts of issues. They are the greatest usurpers of firm resources for personal and unrelated gain.

Now, don't get me wrong. This is the practical reality of so many firms. It is expected. But they don't see themselves as living in glass houses. It never occurs to them to look in the mirror. But this lawsuit will allow me into places I could never get while working there. And I can hardly wait to put my forensic accountant on task to unwind the last several years of accounting if for no other reasons than fascination.

The truth is that they could have cared less about my little typo filled blogs when I left. They would have forced me to take them down, rather than leave them up with any information related to them. The truth is that they could have done their own blogs. The truth is that they have barely updated their web site and done nothing by way of internet marketing in years. Usurping a car from someone that can't drive and would never get in one anyway hardly deprives them of the opportunity of driving. The value of a car which sits in the back 40 and never moves isn’t anything.

This isn't about blogs. It is about revenge. It is about jealousy and insecurity. It is about spite. Most of all, it is about ego.

I will give them this credit and it is well deserved. They have taken a step outside their minimum billable hours to devote some out of pocket resources to sue little old me. This will cost them big bucks and is all risk. If billable hours won't stand in the way of vengeance, then maybe there is hope for them yet!

Susan Cartier Liebel

Although the stream of consciousness in this post is about an important topic "who owns your blog" what strikes me most is the timing of this law suit. It coincides with you outing yourself tomorrow. Is it possible it has everything to do with their law firm becoming known in a less than flattering light....the clients learning of your site for whatever reason and it creating harm in your old firm's eyes? I am just blue-skying here because clearly I don't know the details but that was the first thing that hit me when I read your post...you are going to finally connect the dots for all your readership and we'll all learn who you used to work for in a very public, the "internet never forgets" kind of way. Just my two cents.

GAL

Susan: Interesting thought. I don't know what their true motive is. The ironic part is that a very small (~1%?) of my posts through the years refer to them directly. My life had moved by them as soon as I quit. They keep thrusting themselves back into my life. The format of this blog is to tell readers like you what is going on in my practice day by day. I can’t turn that off just because of them. I would lose my legitimacy and readership.

My goal has been to impact the practice of law nationally. Beyond the initial post of my quitting, the only times they come up is when they pick fights. I waited to announce my name until the issues with my old firm were behind me. For whatever reason, they chose to file a lawsuit on the eve of the contest to announce my name. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

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