You can’t click two links on a law practice website these days without getting a good dose of how important it is that lawyers get up to speed with social media. Kevin O’Keefe, head of LexBlog (which hosts this site), suggests focusing on the big three: blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Linkedin is one of the oldest and most established professional networking sites on the Web. … Linkedin is conservative, professional, adheres to a strict set of rules, business-oriented, highly visible in search engines and an easy point of entry for lawyers. For the most part, it serves as an online curriculum vitae (C.V.) or resume which can be linked to your firm’s Web site.
True. It’s also true that LinkedIn treats users with same respect in drafting its terms of service that consumers have come to expect from used car dealers, credit card companies, and subprime lenders.
Read their User Agreement:
1. Your Obligations — What You Must Do
License and warrant your submissions: You do not have to submit anything to us, but if you choose to submit something (including any User generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and data), you must grant, and you actually grant by concluding this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royaltyfree right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, and use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, anything that you submit to us, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. By submitting any information to us, you represent and warrant that such submission is accurate, is not confidential, and is not in violation of any contractual restrictions or other third party rights. You further agree to inform LinkedIn in the event that any such information has changed since your registration with LinkedIn and, if appropriate, you agree to make such modifications yourself to your profile.
That needs to change.
LinkedIn is building its Web 2.0 Yellow Pages, and by ever submitting anything — like your name, address, place of business, connections, recommendations and content like forum posts — you agree to let LinkedIn use it forever and that you will take the initiative to update all of it if any of it ever changes.
But what if I terminate my account?
You granted them an "irrevocable" and "perpetual" license to all content and information you ever submit to the site, and imposed a duty on yourself to keep that content and information accurate and current, so what makes you think it could really be a "revocable" or "limited duration" license?
Before you turn those wheels, note that their User Agreement details exactly what happens when you terminate:
7. Consequences of Termination
Upon termination, you lose access to LinkedIn. The terms of this Agreement shall survive any termination, except Sections 2 and 3 hereof.
The perpetual duty for users to supply accurate and current information for LinkedIn’s business is in Section 1. It "survives."
What gets terminated? Section 2, "Your Rights — What You May Do" and Section 3, "Our Rights and Obligations — What We Must And May Do." Termination ends only "Your Rights" and Their "Obligations."
Will LinkedIn ever exercise these rights in an adversarial fashion?
Probably not. Like I wrote yesterday, "A right with a remedy worse than the harm is not a right anyone will enforce." Trying to enforce these rights would likely cause a mass exodus from the platform.
But that’s just theory, contradicted by the plain meaning of the words in the agreement. Moreover, all bets are off if the company goes into distress. Regardless, the core question remains: if LinkedIn doesn’t plan on compelling users to keep its professional database accurate and current or to use its users’ content commercial without permission, then why does it need these terms?
Ask a used car dealer.