by: Alain Thys

What would you do if someone (say a known blogger) picks up your advertising campaign because he thinks you've done a good job, puts it on YouTube and spreads your message to his audience ? Would you send him a box of chocolates or a letter from your lawyers ?

While to those who live in the social media space the answer is quite obvious, this isn't always as clear-cut for those who don't (which still make up about 99% of the world's population). Still, if you're on the receiving end of either the chocolates or the stick, it would be nice to know up front.

After all, the above case is not hypothetical. It presented itself when in 27 August 2005, the highly popular blogger Coolz0r posted a Don't Drink and Drive spot by the Irish agency LyleBalie on YouTube and referred to it in his blog.

On August 19.2006, almost exactly a year later, he was served a DMCA take-down notice for the ad and has had his account suspended by YouTube. Needless to say that since then, he hasn't really joined the ranks of brand advocates for LyleBalie.

While the Irish agency may have had perfectly good reasons for their move (for all I know they were simply instructed by their client to do so and in-chambers fought the decision vehemently), I think this situation is worrying for bloggers. Especially if you consider that other agencies sit on the completely opposite side of the fence.

Look at this quote by Jan Van Aken, CEO of Ogilvy Belgium:

"We sincerely believe that the old agency/advertising paradigms don't work anymore […] We thought far too long that consumers didn't have anything else to do than hear what we had to say at the moment we had planned them to. We have to assume a more humble position. Those brands will come out as winners whose consumers tell the better brand stories. So all we can do is help them with that: light the fire, hope the wind is favourable and get out of the way."

As a blogger it's getting hard to judge up front who's who. Is the next brand you write about represented by a LyleBalie or an Ogilvy ? Will you get a box of chocolate or a legal notice ? Especially as blogging, YouTube and the likes are going mainstream/commercial and lawyers are entering the game, this is getting important.

That's why I think there should be something like "social media friendliness" or "fair use" doctrine (compare it to CC if you will). A short but crisp rule book which brands and agencies can voluntarily underwrite in which they essentially say:

  • Category 1: blog all you like, good bad or indifferent we won't strike out to you
  • Category 2: blog all you like yet we do get sensitive if you change the look of our brand, our commercials, etc.
  • Category 3: you can reblog everything we post as is, yet don't touch the rest
  • etcetera

Of course all phrased in corporate correct lingo and associated with a nice logo :-)

If you're a blogger too am I just being paranoid, or is there something to it ? And if you're a brand or agency, would you come out and support such a movement ? In short, are you "blogsafe" ?

Thanks to Ilya for pointing out the Coolz0r case !

PS. For the record, I have contacted the directors of LyleBalie for comment yet have received no answer to date.

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