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RE: tutorial or guidebook text for some complex topics

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: tutorial or guidebook text for some complex topics
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2006 13:51:27 -0700

        Someone knowledgeable can speak to that (I'm not a lawyer),
        but I doubt it. I have offered code previously, explaining
        that it was created outside of work (even years before I
        was employed), but that is not good enough.

    We do not need papers from Oracle for work that you did before
    starting to work there.  However, if you had other employers at those
    times, we may need disclaimers from them.

    The employer that is relevant to a given piece of work is the employer
    you have at the time you do the work.

That was precisely the case that you reviewed a couple of years ago. The
code in question was the fit-frame stuff, which was written before my
current employment. However, you requested changes to that code (e.g.
renamings), and then you stated that because I had made those changes I
needed papers from my current employer.

The need for previous-employer signoff was not mentioned at that time, IIRC.
In any case, I'm sure you'll never get papers from my previous employers
(most of the companies were either bought or went out of business). Some of
my code was written decades ago (several employers ago), but I have made
improvements to it as the years have gone by, including recently - and that
apparently means my current employer would need to sign. I have always
worked, and I've coded Emacs for decades - outside of my work. But you will
never get a past employer to sign a disclaimer, and my current employer
won't do that either.

FWIW - I am willing to contribute my code. I believe that Oracle does not
care if I contribute - my Emacs code has no relation to my job. IIUC, GNU
will not accept a contribution without Oracle signing a disclaimer. Oracle
refuses to sign. And when I become no longer employed by Oracle (after I win
the lottery), the situation will apparently not have changed. And if, after
my employment at Oracle is finished, I update code that I am writing now,
GNU will want papers from the next employer too.

I understand why GNU adopts this position, BTW.

My understanding is that Oracle's unwillingness to sign is not motivated by
any desire to lay claim to my intellectual product in this area, but because
of some potential or perceived (though inarticulated) risk to Oracle. My
guess is that the legal department sees only possible risk and no gain -
better safe than sorry. (GNU also sees possible risk, but with presumably
some gain.) My managers up to the VP level are not opposed to my
contributing, but the VP will not sign the disclaimer because the legal
department advises him not to.

I imagine that this situation is not unique to me, and that's unfortunate.
Fortunately, there are others who are in a different situation.

This was your position, BTW:

  You should not write any code, or any text for manuals.  It is
  ok to suggest ideas *in the abstract* because they are
  not copyrightable.

  As long as you can't get a disclaimer, I have to ask you to
  please NOT post Emacs patches.  If you do, we have to be careful
  not to read them.

I've respected that. On the bright side, any ideas I suggest can no doubt be
implemented by Emacs developers in a better way than I have implemented
them. And others can play with my code, use its features as inspiration for
better features, and perhaps feed those ideas and implementation into Emacs.
There are many ways to contribute, and my code is not necessarily the best
contribution I can make anyway.

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