Erik Sherman at Corporate Secretary Magazine wades into the law of corporate / employee blogs, quoting yours truly:
A company cannot stop blog readers from drawing unfortunate inferences. ‘An unofficial employee blog may end up being confused with the company itself, as unfortunately happened to the ‘Patry copyright blog’, formerly run by a lawyer who had the misfortune, so to speak, of becoming Google’s chief copyright counsel,’ says Maxwell Kennerly, a litigator with the Beasley Firm and a blogger himself. ‘No matter what he did, his posts were construed as representing Google’s official position, so he gave up.’
You can read William Patry’s "End of Blog" post here. Here’s a portion:
I started the blog when I was still in private practice with the above goals in mind and one more: I felt there was no blog devoted to the geekery of copyright; meaning a blog where people who loved copyright could come and discuss copyright issues in a non-partisan way. In order to encourage open discussion I permitted not only comments but anonymous and pseudonymous comments. I did that because I wanted to encourage the largest number of people to participate, and after four years I believe that was the right decision. But it is also the right decision to end the blog. While in private practice I never had the experience of people attributing my views to my firm or to my clients. I moved from private practice to Google I put a disclaimer to the effect that the views in the blog (as in the past) were strictly mine. I also set a policy, which I strictly adhered to, of never discussing cases Google was involved in, and I refrained from criticizing those with whom Google was involved in lawsuits. I did not run ads, including not using Google’s AdSense program. I cannot see what more I could have done to make what was a personal blog more separate from my employer.
For the first year after joining Google, with some exceptions, people honored the personal nature of the blog, but no longer. When other blogs or news stories refer to the blog, the inevitable opening sentence now is: "William Patry, Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel said," or "Google’s top copyright lawyer said… ." There is nothing I can do to stop this false implication that I am speaking on Google’s behalf. And that’s just those who do so because they are lazy. Others, for partisan purposes, insist on on misdescribing the blog as a Google blog, or in one case involving a think tank, darkly indicating also a la Senator Joe McCarthy, that in addition to funding from Google, there may be other sources of funding too. On Blogger, blogs are free. The blog had no funding because it doesn’t cost anything, because I don’t run ads, and because it was my personal blog, started before I joined Google.
On the whole, I don’t see corporate blogs to be as great a risk as the Corporate Secretary article makes them out to be, but I see why the story was framed that way. Corporate directors and officers usually want to hear risks first, rewards second.