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My name is my name

As an employee of The Washington Post, I'm very upset to hear that Nate Silver has been hired by the New York Times. But as an admirer of Nate and his work at FiveThirtyEight.com, I think it's great news. What I didn't initially think about was the structure of his deal as compared to, say, mine. But Taegan Goddard and Andrew Sullivan did consider that aspect, noting that "it's a license deal where [Silver] continues to own and control the content and everything reverts back to him if he doesn't renew ... [which] is very different than the Washington Post hiring Ezra Klein."

But is it? If I left The Washington Post tomorrow, I couldn't take my archives with me. But then, I wouldn't want to take my archives with me. I don't need everything I've ever written following me around forevermore. What protects me is that if I leave, I still control the Ezra Klein brand, and all of its rights revert back to me. That's not because it's written into my deal. It's because I'm Ezra Klein and my picture is on the banner. It would be really weird for someone not named Ezra Klein to be writing in this space.

That situation is different for a titled blog. If the New York Times bought the rights to FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate might walk and the Times might replace him. But you can't do that when you're dealing with someone's actual name. That's one of the reasons, actually, that I've resisted giving my blog a title. So long as it's under my name, I control it. If it's primarily known by another name, I don't. Lawyers can take a lot of things from you, but as Marlo Stanfield said, your name is your name.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 3, 2010; 3:18 PM ET
 
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Comments

I hope that obscure Wire references never die.

Posted by: nathanlindquist | June 3, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Tell that to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

Posted by: Model62 | June 3, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

what nathanlindquist said.

Posted by: NicholasBeaudrot | June 3, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"Lawyers can take a lot of things from you, but as Marlo Stanfield said, your name is your name."

I'm not an intellectual property attorney, but I hazily recall from law school a case where the founder of a cookie company (Uncle X's Cookies) was forced out and started "X Lastname Presents: Delicious Cookies." He was successfully sued on some intellectual property or unfair competition ground.

So yes Ezra, the lawyers can take even your name. :O

Posted by: jesmont | June 3, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh, indeed.

Posted by: adg1034 | June 3, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

So you'd rather be Stanfield than The Greek?

Posted by: jeirvine | June 3, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"Lawyers can take a lot of things from you, but as Marlo Stanfield said, your name is your name."

Not if you're a musician signed with, say, Sony. If you leave that label, they retain the rights to your name--you'll have to name yourself something completely different, and your music had better not sound like you any more, either.

Posted by: litbrit | June 3, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Clothing and etc. designer Paul Frank lost use of his name to his former company, Paul Frank Industries: http://laist.com/2007/08/22/how_paul_frank.php

Posted by: maarrcuuss | June 3, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

What a strange relationship Andrew Sullivan has with The Atlantic.

Neither side seems to be coming off well with the relationship.

Posted by: laser83 | June 3, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

For God's sake, people! Do you have no mercy for people who just finished episode seven of season three? Ever since I started watching the show, the entire Internet has become a vast conspiracy to ruin the ending for me.

Posted by: strawman | June 3, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey Strawman, here are some spoilers for you:

Bunk's trombone gets pawned by crooked cops, and Freamon stages a sit in in some vacants. Oh, and Slim Charles turns out to be an identity theif.

Posted by: jeirvine | June 3, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I think Nate's deal covers the data he aquires and the mathematical models he builds while providing content to the NYT -- he gets to keep that intellectual property if he leaves.

I.e. the NYT can't continue to use Nate's election prediction model if he leaves.

Posted by: JasonFromSeattle | June 3, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Famous Amos Cookies, maybe, jesmont?

Posted by: dcamsam | June 3, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

@Strawman: Seriously, the show's been off the air for two years. There will be spoilers in casual conversations, blog comments, blog posts, everywhere, without waring. Again, because the show has been off the air for two years. Don't want spoilers?? Watch it sooner.

Posted by: spaz06 | June 3, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

That says a whole bunch coming from Andrew Sullivan and the Daily dish, who lots of the time actually isn't posting on his blog!

http://midwestprogress.tumblr.com/post/296771557/which-one-is-andrew-sullivan

Posted by: jonrobinson2 | June 3, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

That says a whole bunch coming from Andrew Sullivan and the Daily dish, who lots of the time actually isn't posting on his blog!

http://midwestprogress.tumblr.com/post/296771557/which-one-is-andrew-sullivan

Posted by: jonrobinson2 | June 3, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Silver has a more complex relationship with his data and statistical tools being more significant IP than the text of his and your columns.

Posted by: staticvars | June 4, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I don't know. You should check your contract. You might be surprised TO LEARN that your name actually belongs to the Post and they're just letting you use it...and your image/likeness, too. Yes, the lawyers can take all that away from you...

Posted by: bsquigley | June 4, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein is a brand? Like jeans? Will Brooke Shields wear you on her back side? And would you want that?

Posted by: pj_camp | June 4, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Sullivan and Klein represent two divergent mindsets.

Andrew is an articulate and insightful intellectual diva, prone to bombast and flights of fancy in which he is virtually infallible and utterly indispensable ("The Dish" is so marinated in me ... it would be very hard to imagine it run or written by someone else.)

Alas, he is also often undone by his own biases, obsessions and insecurities--which, sadly, bar reader commentary from his blog.

Ezra, on the other hand, is a sly and subversive sort--similarly insightful and well-spoken--but soft spoken, and sufficiently confident in his intellect ("I don't need everything I've ever written following me around forevermore") to allow policy discussions or philosophical inquiries to go where they may, without intermittently interrupting to bolster and/or protect his own cultural cachet.

It is curious to note that Andrew festoons his blog with the catchy (if campy) "Daily Dish" sobriquet, while Ezra just hangs his name out there like the sole proprietor that he is.

Posted by: unclesmedley1 | June 4, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

There's a big difference between FiveThirtyEight and Ezra Klein when it comes to intellectual property.

While it's true, as Ezra says, that the archive of his publications for the Post isn't something he would seek to take with him if he leaves, FiveThirtyEight is more than just publications.

It also involves databases put together by Nate and his colleagues over a several years. And it involves analytic tools (e.g., methods of poll aggregation and vote forecasting) also developed over several years. Both of these forms of intellectual property are things that Nate has presumably preserved his ownership of by using the leasing arrangement with the Times.

I read somewhere yesterday that one or more of the non-NYT suitors sought to buy FiveThirtyEight outright. That might include all of Nate's intellectual property associated with the blog (databases, analytic methods), including whatever he would create in future while working on that blog.

Given his interest in protecting his proprietary methods and databases, Nate did the right thing to take a licensing approach, even if all of his writing for FiveThirtyEight/NYT is copyrighted by the Times (presumably with the author having the right to reuse the material in other publications -- books, speeches, etc.)

Posted by: Juris2 | June 4, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

But I am Spartacus. Really.

Posted by: franklynch2 | June 5, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

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