Friend of SFist Niall Kennedy managed to cause something of an uproar in the blogosphere this week. Trying to make a point about the tension between blogging and corporate public image by creating a mashup of an American propaganda poster with logos of popular blogging software, which he posted to Flickr and wrote about on his own blog, only served to cause some consternation among the higher ups at his own company, Technorati, where he works as Community Manager.
The post, which Google cached (we've posted a backup here in the interest of presenting as much information as possible), was put up over the weekend. After some concerns were expressed that it could be seen as an official position of Technorati, as Niall has written extensively on his job there before, he posted a disclaimer clarifying that it was his own work. But even then, some parties alluded to in the mashup went directly to Technorati executives with their own concerns, Niall chose to take the entire post down. He has written an eloquent explanation of the events on his own blog, admits to it being a mistake, and points out that the discussion has lead to a clarification in Technorati's policy on blogging. In Niall's own words, "It is suggested employees utilize their coworkers for a point of view of how the content may be construed."
David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, responded late last night with an explanation that, while it has one factual error (the use of corporate logos in the context is clearly an example of parody speech protected by the First Amendment), it shows that there was serious time and consideration behind the decisions made by Niall, David and the rest of the folks at Technorati. We chatted with Niall, and while he's certainly embarrassed over the whole thing, he feels that he was treated fairly, his arguments were respected and that the feeling at his company is that a mistake was made, has been addressed, and that everyone's moving on.
[Ed. Note: A change has been made regarding David Sifry's post, as it has come to our attention that there were, in fact, two mashups -- but we still feel that using the trademarks in the context constitutes parody, which is protected per the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.]
This is not a case, such as Mark Jen's (who's doing quite well, apparently) where the information presented was actually illegal (Jen's comments could have drawn the ire of SEC down on Google), but it did relate to the public image of his employer, especially within the small network of blogging companies. Of course, Niall's intent was not to defame any of the logos he used, but instead to laud them for allowing people to communicate publicly, and to provoke people into understanding that the freedom to publish may have costly and inintended consequences. The lesson has certainly been learned.
Original propaganda poster from the New Hampshire State Library.Ed. Note: This post regards a very sensitive situation involving people we really like, but we would be remiss if we didn't report on the story or present the facts so that our readers can come to their own conclusions, hence we have included source documents that may be perceived as offensive, but only in the interest of full disclosure.