Your LinkedIn Network Is Not… YOURS

August 1st, 2008 | by Jason Alba |

Interesting timing, considering my post on the JibberJobber blog titled LinkedIn Maintenance: Do This Right Now (or else?).  Jay Deragon, author of The Relationship Economy, writes about LinkedIn’s additions to their user agreement.
These are additions that could have a profound impact on your future use of LinkedIn:

Linkedin recently released an update to their “user agreement” which expands their authority to “control” how people and businesses can use their network. The newly revised “user agreement” basically states that Linkedin has at their discretion the authority to deem if a users behavior and/or use of “their” network is considered inappropriate then they have the right to terminate your membership.

So in other words using their network, not your network, presents a risk to users who rely on “the network” to advance personal or professional objectives. The risk is that for whatever ambiguous reason or unintended cause your membership may be terminated and subsequently you could loose future use of the network and all your contacts if you haven’t backed them up regularly.

Whose Network is It?

(read the rest here…) 

This is such an interesting issue.  We, the netizens, think that this is OUR stuff.  OUR content (your questions and answers on LinkedIn Answers), OUR connections, OUR profile, OUR recommendations… after all, we spent a lot of time and effort putting it in, cultivating relationships and contacts, etc, right?

I don’t necessarily agree with that, from my non-trained legal perspective, but it’s the way that we feel about OUR stuff.  How do companies feel?  Here’s what Yahoo says (in their TOS – see #10 (contributions to Yahoo)) about content YOU post on a Yahoo! Group:

(c) Yahoo! shall be entitled to use or disclose (or choose not to use or disclose) such Contributions for any purpose, in any way, in any media worldwide;

wow, they get to use YOUR stuff any way, anywhere they want!  Okay, let’s go one step further… here’s the clincher: 

(e) your Contributions automatically become the property of Yahoo! without any obligation of Yahoo! to you; 

Whoa, I just gave up all of my ownership simply because I posted to a Yahoo Group!  Well, that’s okay, I guess… (let’s just be ignorant here)… here’s ONE MORE:

and (f) you are not entitled to any compensation or reimbursement of any kind from Yahoo! under any circumstances.

According to common Terms and Conditions, it’s not yours.  As soon as you put it there, it is NOT yours.  It is theirs. And they can do what they want with it.  Perhaps I’m wrong, since I’m not a lawyer, and some legal eagle like LegalAndrew could correct me, but once we play in their playground, all the stuff is theirs.  Our intellectual property we submit, our networks, etc.

Here’s my take-away on the issue: 

  1. All social networks do or will have this same language and position, I think.  Maybe open social will change this, but as long as there are corporate shareholders, and lawyers, I don’t see getting away from this position.
  2. You can and should get value out of participating in LinkedIn, and other social spaces.  Understand it for what it is, what it isn’t, and know where you can get into hot water… and then just play by the rules.
  3. Figure out how to backup, and where to invest your time and effort, and when to draw the line.  Steven Covey, in his 7 Habits book, talks about having a “center” in your life.  If your center is, for example, your job, and then you lose it, you have no center… that’s not good.  Well, with social networking, I’d recommend a diversified approach rather than keeping all of your social networking eggs in one basket.  If you can backup that basket, all the better.  See my post on LinkedIn Maintenance to know how to backup two critical things there.
  4. The Internet is still the sexy, wild wild west we are used to… but there are rules, someone has to pay for salaries and servers, and companies are out to make a profit.  There is a ton provided for free, but that doesn’t mean we are entitled to free everything.
Quick caveat – JibberJobber IS NOT a social network.
There you go.  Proceed with eyes wide-open.
  1. 2 Responses to “Your LinkedIn Network Is Not… YOURS”

  2. By Thomas Clifford on Aug 1, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Jason,

    Thought-provoking post, for sure.

    I’m wondering if the tide will ever turn?

    Meaning, will we ever see new types of social networking communities whereby the members actually own their own content?

    How cool would that be?

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