Really good question at a conference where I spoke about the new libel law this week for Conscious Solutions. Not about libel but about ownership of LinkedIn contacts. The same question has been asked in one of our face-to-face courses.
Question: who owns the contacts you make on LinkedIn while you are employed by a company?
Answer: the company.
All the contacts you make when in employment are the intellectual property of the company. You should not take them with you to your new employment.
As is the knowledge you gain. You take your trade and expertise with you when you leave but not the specifics of what you did.
David Gilroy, the excellent chair of the conference run by Conscious Solutions, added an interesting point. Some companies are now asking their new hires to make their existing LinkedIn contacts a new and separate, personal list. So that their previous contact list does not get mixed up with the new contacts they make when employed. This way the new contacts they make can be clearly identified as the property of their new employer.
Two rules to help out, one for employers and one for employees:
- For employers: check employment contracts: make it explicit that existing contacts which new hires have are theirs and get them to start a new LinkedIn for their employment; and
- If employed, keep your personal contacts on a personal LinkedIn entry.
For freelancers: it demands on the contract you have. The contacts you gain are yours, unless there is something in your contract which says they are not. Check the contract.
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