I went to the presentation on Blogging and the Law that Charles Smith from Pheedo gave last night. Let me get some of the linking and background info out of the way up front:

  • Eric Rice took detailed notes and added a lot to the conversation in general.

  • Steve Tennant pulled out the two major points, I agree with what he picked.

  • Adam Kalsey was down for the event and added a lot of comments.

  • Elle Kruszewski was there and her and I worked out what I’m going to say here after digesting the talk some.

  • Bill Flitter put the event together and was there to help guide things along.

A bunch of people have told me that the reason they like reading what I write is that I pick a single thread and help make it clear. I’m going to try to do that again. Hopefully less will be more, and I can really add something here. Despite a wealth of information that was delivered last night, I think there was a central thread that we never directly stated. Here’s the problem statement in summary: Corporations need something like Creative Commons to empower their employee bloggers to participate in the blogosphere. That something should probably start out as a blogging policy so that your employees know what they can and can’t do.

The idea of the creative commons is that if all authors give up some rights to allow others to build on and reuse some of their ideas, the result is an exponential growth of the medium as a whole. This is actually a reversal of the default. The default copyright law gives up so little to the commons that it might as well not exist. The result is a very poor commons, there is very little work that can be built off of and society as a whole suffers. There is a parallel in the employer/employee relationship. The employee has very little right to talk about the company without fear of repercussions. However this results in a very poor relationship the company has with the rest of the world. The only voice heard outside the corporate veil is the whitewashed and approved PR message. By giving up just a bit of the rights it would have a company can gain from the interactions employees have online. Blogging has the potential to help a company establish and maintain a dialog with customers and the market as a whole. But in order to participate companies first need to define the playing field so that employees know they will be treated justly. Like just about any business decision, there is risk involved. By default the employee has to bear all the risk, so the default will be no action on their part. The company has to bear some of the risk if they want to reap the reward. Shift the risk by providing a policy for the bloggers you have, allow them to enter into the conversations. Make sure you don’t punish them if they act within policy. Even if the conversations you’re hearing aren’t what you wanted. Keep in mind that those conversations were probably already going on, you just weren’t hearing them before.