Solicitation In The Age Of LinkedIn
I frequently tell people that while the Internet has opened up vast amounts of information to millions of people, the fundamental rules haven’t changed. By that I mean, just because a tweet can be posted and delivered in seconds, defamation is still defamation. And you can ruin someone’s reputation in 140 characters. And just because it’s easy to cut and paste material from the Web, copyright laws still apply.
But that is not to say that the rules are completely unaffected by new technology. Here’s an interesting piece about the intersection of LinkedIn with non-solicitation agreements. Non-solicitation agreements have been around for decades, if not centuries. They’re very simple – an employee who signs one agrees that, upon leaving his current job, he won’t solicit his old customers for a period of time. And in the days before social media, things were a little more clear cut. That employee couldn’t send a letter or make a phone call to his old customers.
Enter LinkedIn. Now the employee leaves and understandably updates his LinkedIn profile. The new profile details his new position, probably with a description of what he’ll be doing, along with contact information. And assuming the employee’s contacts include his old customers (and that seems like a very safe assumption) those folks are now notified about the employee’s new home. Is that solicitation? Maybe, maybe not. Check out the link for a discussion about how the courts have handled this.
And the lesson? It’s time to update those non-solicitation agreements. Spell out the social media issues precisely. While a LinkedIn update may not be “solicitation” in the abstract – it is if you and the employee agree that it is.