The Quick History
I read a post from an employee of a mid-size company claiming that she was asked to join an online network, make connections via the discussion groups, and then hand the contacts she had made over to the company's sales staff. She was outraged, and refused to do so.
I then raised the topic of "who owns a network" in a public forum. The bulk of the responses suggested that its a moot point, that a laundry list of contacts is public knowledge, and that no one can actually "own" a network because there is nothing to actually own.
It's Who You Know
Oddly enough, a few days later I found out that a friend of mine was being sued for allegedly violating a non-compete: he had contacted someone he had met via an online network after he had left his former employer. The "relationship" was made while he was working for his former employer.
Prior to this contact, he had only added this person to an online address book (with hundreds of others). The former employer apparently feels that the contact list is theirs. My friend, obviously, feels differently.
Note to Self
While there may or may not be any validity to the ownership claim, it's something to keep in mind as you - and I - delve into the world of social media. Make sure your clients' CNC's don't have any EGA's: Electronic Gray Areas.