If you’ve been keeping tabs on the goings-on in the blogging world, you might have heard a bit of a stew this week over a blog campaign initiated on behalf of Google Chrome. I don’t plan to go through the exhausting details of the campaign. Instead, I’ll give you a recap, my first-hand knowledge of the campaign, and how this particular controversy brings up some sticky issues when it comes to blogging.
Here’s what went down (to my knowledge):
- Google contracted a company to run a social media campaign (Unruly Media)
- Unruly Media contracted several organizations to facilitate the campaign (one of which was SITS Girls)
- SITS Girls reached out to their community with details of the sponsored post
- I accepted the campaign through SITS Girls and wrote the sponsored post that went live on 12/31
If you want the full details of the problems with this campaign, I recommend checking out the series of articles here and a wrap up piece here. Basically, a couple of bloggers inadvertently did some things that violated Google’s policies on paid links. It was most likely an innocent error made innocently enough by a blogger that was trying to promote Google Chrome of their own accord.
But what happened next is where things went askew…
Based on the articles that were published and the proposal that Google violated their own terms of service, all bloggers were asked to remove their sponsored posts. “Remove” meant deleted. Nothing should remain. And this is where I took issue.
I was one of approximately 400 bloggers contacted for the Google Chrome sponsored post. I was approached by SITS Girls and accepted the post for 3 reasons:
1. I love and respect the SITS Girls.
2. I use and fully endorse Google Chrome as my first choice browser.
3. I’m a big fan of King Arthur Flour (the subject of the video of the campaign in question).
I was being offered compensation to write a post based on a writing prompt and embed the video code into my post. It’s not an unusual proposition for a blogger.
I posted on December 31st and on January 3rd, when most of the hubbub surfaced, I was asked to delete my post.
I didn’t want to and I’ll tell you why.
There was another post that addressed the Google campaign issue. It came to my attention because it quoted my post and linked back to it. So, when I was asked to remove the post, I immediately thought about my link backs. By removing the posts (even at the request of the client), it looks like a lack of judgment on my part in accepting the campaign because I so quickly removed it. By deleting my post, I now felt I was calling attention to the fact that it was deleted because it will result in a broken link.
It got me thinking. Who owns the blogger’s content? And what are they required to do when it comes to requests to delete?
I went to one of the few blogging experts I know that I thought would have a educated opinion on the subject. I asked Sara from Saving for Someday. Sara knows a thing or two about blogging law so I thought I’d ask her a few questions that this campaign has raised in my mind.
“If there is no signed contract (just an email agreement), what are the blogger’s obligations? I’m supposing that because it was my content, I could have left it up there but removed the sponsorship language. It’s not the first time a company has asked for a post to be removed. What are your thoughts on the content a blogger writes? I’m assuming that the blogger could forfeit payment if they chose to leave it up.”
“As for your situation, unless there is a written agreement regarding who got to dictate the time frame on the post and whether it could come down then I don’t think the agency has any right to ask you (or anyone for that matter) to remove your content. You fulfilled your obligation – write a post with criteria XYZ.
Without a written agreement stating that it is a ‘work for hire’, they do not own the content. As for the ‘there was no contract’, an email chain has been found to be sufficient in creating a legally binding contractual agreement. A signature is not legally required for a valid contract. Helpful, sure, but not legally required.
If you’re linked in a post you can do a few things (1) delete/change to draft because deleting it could come back to haunt you and give a 404 when someone clicks (2) keep that permalink and redirect to an ‘explanation’ of what happened (3) keep the permalink and add an ‘update’ at the top/bottom to explain (4) set to private so it’s not on your blog per se but still linkable.”
I loved Sara’s opinion and I love even more that she included this in her response to me.
“DISCLOSURE: Nothing in this email is to be construed as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship. Any references to legal paradigms are for informational purposes only.”
Spoken like a true lawyer.
But when she spoke from a personal blogger perspective, she hit the nail on the head for me:
“As a blogger, I wouldn’t take it down. Not just due to the broken link issue (which can affect your own PageRank), but because we don’t erase the past because it didn’t work out. PR programs go bad all the time. It’s not your job to clean up their mess. Man-up and deal with the consequences and move on.”
So there you have some perspective on what you may or may not be required to do if you’ve spent your time and energy to write a post and you’re asked to remove it.
What did I do? I didn’t delete the post. I simply unpublished it but not before I asked if there was a statement I could reference or link to. I was told unequivocally to remove the post. In the end, I decided to do that because I have respect for the SITS Girls and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their relationships with future business clients.
Now, I ask you, have you ever been asked to remove a post for any reason? What did you do?