Today, Jon Acuff – one of my favorite bloggers and authors – suddenly resigned from him position with Dave Ramsey. As of the time of this writing, his blog, filled with thousands of posts (many of them written before he started with Ramsey), forwards to a page on the Ramsey website informing would-be readers of his resignation.
Setting aside my shock in learning from this decision, an important question comes to mind. As a creative myself and friends with many others, it’s important to establish the owner of any creative works you may produce.
Jon Acuff has been blogging for several years, and it appears that his entire site became property of the Lampo Group (Ramsey’s company) upon his employment there. Hopefully this is incorrect and his site will again return to life, but even if that happens, the point remains. Because Jon (possibly) let his employer take ownership of his work, it is (possibly) no longer his. Years of hard labor are, for the time being at least, gone.
If you are a musician, do you know who owns your songs? Many labels or publishing companies seek to gain ownership of intellectual property rights of artists they sign. You may have to give up copyrights to get the deal you’ve always wanted, but you at least need to know what’s going on. Sometimes, even an act’s name becomes property of a label. Don’t believe me? That’s why Prince changed his name to a symbol and Snoop Dogg now goes by Snoop Lion. These artists circumvented the ownership problem with a name change, but it would be dreadful for a lesser-known act to lose all name recognition.
If you are a pastor, do you own your sermons or does the church? Oftentimes ownership is implied as belonging to the speaker, but a church could easily claim that such works are commissioned (as a part of a pastor’s salary) and therefore owned by the church. In most cases this won’t matter, but technically a pastor could lose the right to freely distribute his or her own sermons after leaving a church where they were delivered. It’s important to get an agreement in writing.
The same goes for photographers, motivational speakers, and other creatives. If you produce a work, you need to know if it’s yours or if it belongs to the entity for which you created it. It’s a difficult discussion to have, but unless you want to potentially end up with a vanished website or a work you created that you can no longer share, it’s a discussion worth having.
Update: Jon posted an update to his Facebook page which, among other things, indicated that his “Stuff Christians Like” blog will return. While I’m certainly glad to hear that, it doesn’t reduce the importance of the issue, knowing what was hypothetical for Jon could be reality for others.