Freedom of speech is a tricky thing, since speech and publishing (including blogging) can have all sorts of consequences. Whenever you’re concerned about possible consequences, that makes your speech a little less free. Reckless speech can cost you dearly. That tradeoff may not be ideal, but that’s life.
Yesterday, my good friend (and one of the smartest people I know) Dave Taylor tackled this thorny topic. See Who Owns Your Words, Blogger?
I mostly agree with Dave’s perspective on this. He wrote:
“If you believe that your place of employment ‘rents your brain’ for X hours each day, then it’s clear and obvious that when you aren’t at work, you can do whatever you want and write about whatever you want in a public forum, without the possibility of censure from your employer. If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the ‘I pay you, I own you’ philosophy, then your private time isn’t quite as private as you may think.
“I’m presenting this in a simplified fashion here for rhetorical purposes, but there are some serious legal issues that we’re touching upon. For example, if you work at a church but then attend pagan activities at night, can you be fired? If you believe that you can, then you’re falling into the ‘we own you’ camp, even if just a little bit.”
I think Dave’s right in terms of the objective way of looking at the issue. However, employment is a two-way street. Subjective perceptions on both sides matter at least in terms of how the working relationship functions, if not in terms of absolute legality.
If you believe that your boss “rents your brain” for X hours, but you boss believes (consciously or not) “We own you,” well there could be a problem…