Focal Attractions are the publishers of Mumbrella, an online magazine for media and marketing news. They revealed in the MX rag yesterday that they plan to put a clause, claiming ownership of tweets, in employees contracts. The reason why is because:
an employee’s work-identified posts fell somewhere between their little black book and the firm’s email database … they should belong to the company … so a worker could not take all the followers they had built up using the firm’s identity to a competitor.
Tim Burrowes, co-owner and editor cited this example:
“With Rove, he has got loads of followers and when he leaves Ten they’ll all go with him”
I’m not sure this is the best example that Burrowes could have used. Rove has his own production company and his content is licensed to Ten.
Any employee who feels that they are under surveillance will soon become uncomfortable. What this policy fails to acknowledge is the enormous benefit an employee can bring to his or her company through a contribution to an online community.
A company has every right to protect their client list and their intellectual property. However, there are too many implications to cut a hard and fast rule of ownership of a tweet:
- What if you created your twitter profile before joining the company?
- What if you already had a significant following before joining the company?
- What if the company hired you, in part for your network of followers?
- What if your tweets, work to increase the profile of the company?
Being protective of company IP is one thing, but owning conversation and commentary is surely another. Could a company lay claim to blog comments? Forum contributions? Facebook status updates?
Focal Attractions is in the business of running social media workshops and seminars for companies. They want to be viewed as leaders in this space, hence the motivation for this PR piece. Paranoid companies would be far better advised to not allow employees to tweet during work time, or to tweet from a company twitter account, attributed to a company email address.
Companies can always set guidelines for twitter use. I can only see a policy of ownership as a way to kill morale. Does your company want employees who just do their job; or, do they prefer ambassadors who demonstrate pride, knowledge and pleasure in their work through their online networks?
Would you want to work for a company that claims ownership of your tweets?