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Re: [DotGNU]Copyright waivers for developers?

From: Rhys Weatherley
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]Copyright waivers for developers?
Date: Mon, 13 Aug 2001 12:12:12 +1000

Bill White wrote:

> So if I only work on this separate from my employer's equipment,
> facilities and time, you believe I am ok, and I can sign the
> copyright waiver as myself.  I don't believe my employer has
> jurisdiction over what I do when I am not working for them.

Read the employment agreement that you signed prior
to joining the company that employs you.  Most employers
have an agreement that goes something like this:

     Any work done by the employee, even if not on
     company premises or during business hours,
     is owned by the employer.

This is usually to stop an employee from using their
knowledge to compete with the company in their spare
time.  The real effect is that anything you come up with
belongs to the company first and foremost.

You will normally be OK if your spare time activities do
not overlap with your employer's activities.  e.g. if your
employer makes word processors and you build Web
services in your spare time, there normally won't be a
problem.  If however you come up with a cool new
word-wrapping algorithm in your spare time, then
the employer owns it because there is an overlap.

Things get annoying when you come up with something in
your spare time that doesn't overlap, but your employer
would like to be doing it.  e.g. turning their word processor
into a Web service.  At that point, you lose the rights to
your own work because the employment agreement
says that the employer owns it.

That's why an explicit letter from an employer is so
important.  It modifies the employment agreement to
ensure that you own anything you do that is unrelated
to the employer's business, and that they cannot
retroactively lay claim to your good ideas.

I've been majorly burned by employment agreements
in the past.  That's why I now work for me.  Employment
law was bought and paid for by big business.  Unfortunately,
most voters don't understand the implications, because
they don't work in Copyright-intensive industries like we do.
The same issues don't arise in blue collar jobs, and in very
few white collar ones also.

Anyone who works on DotGNU will need to keep this
in mind.  The last thing we want is for some employer
to front up and make demands of us because one of
their employees contributed code in good faith.  Read
your employment agreements very carefully.



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