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The new job and the intellectual property agreement

alien_blueprint (681111) writes | more than 10 years ago

User Journal 3

I've gone through the long and draining process of searching for and finding a new job, so that I can leave my current employer for a whole bunch of reasons, most of which come down to "I'm bored". I'll go into detail in a later entry, maybe.

I've gone through the long and draining process of searching for and finding a new job, so that I can leave my current employer for a whole bunch of reasons, most of which come down to "I'm bored". I'll go into detail in a later entry, maybe.

The only hurdle remaining is the intellectual property "agreement" I've been asked to sign. I put the word "agreement" in quotes as the process is absolutely nothing like two parties reaching an agreement. The process usually goes something like this - you are given the "agreement", you ask for changes to the more onerous clauses, and you are then told that it's never changed for individual employees and is a "standard contract" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Then I basically have to threaten to not sign on for the job, then the legal department (or whoever is stonewalling) finally allows at least *some* change in, and we compromise.

It is an incredible pain in the neck. The problem with this one is that is basically says "all your IP base are belong to us". Anything I create, or even *think* of without doing anything about, becomes the "property" of the new employer. And not just code, but all kinds of documents and even *music* as well. And all regardless of whether it has anything to do with the new employer's actual business or not. If it is successful, they can just take it, as it stands. I can understand them not wanting me to compete with them - but this is just *ridiculously* broad. I can't understand the motivation for wording it like this, apart from the obvious evil ones. I just hope it's unintentional.

This is a real problem for me right now as I have one or two open source projects I work on, and I would like to *continue* working on them! That's what gives me the motivation to ask for the changes. I can certainly see why most people don't seem to be bothered standing up for themselves over this - it's not an easy thing to do, and you have to be careful not to be seen as a troublemaker before you even start. Fortunately, this time around, it seems like everyone I've spoken to about it seems to be on my side - it's like they just didn't realize how the wording hurts open source development, and are willing to make the small changes I need. So that's good.

I've sent off my proposed changes, based loosely on wording provided by SAGE-AU. If anyone else needs examples of OSS-friendly wording, this is a great place to start. The discussion with the legal people on their side is underway, so I should hear back tomorrow.

Right now I really wish I had a regular lawyer type person I could use to help me with these issues quickly. I'm having to do things like propose the wording for the changes, and I'm just not comfortable doing that. Since I've never had any legal problems, I just don't have anyone to see. Maybe I should break some laws or something, then I'll have an excellent working relationship with a wide variety of legal professionals. Or maybe I should find out if it's possible to find a good lawyer, and give them a brief overview of my situation so that when something like this does come up I'll be ready. It seems dangerous to sort of wait for something to happen, then you have to find a lawyer who understands the issues *and* have them understand your point of view and situation immediately.

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if it's any consolation.. (1)

The Fink (300855) | more than 10 years ago | (#9257167)

... which it won't be, but anyway: on the balance of probability, combined with knowledge about said company and their heritage, it's probably either unintentional and/or passed down from the umbrella company. It must've happened fairly recently, too.

Certainly I'm fairly sure that if you, for example, created a whole new music track, they'd not be interested in enforcing the contract. Not that it's any consolation, really, since it's the fact that they could which is contentious.

Re:if it's any consolation.. (1)

alien_blueprint (681111) | more than 10 years ago | (#9264202)

... which it won't be, but anyway: on the balance of probability, combined with knowledge about said company and their heritage, it's probably either unintentional and/or passed down from the umbrella company. It must've happened fairly recently, too.

I force myself to assume the best until proven otherwise. It's usually true that people aren't actively evil, and are just trying to protect their interests. Usually.

Certainly I'm fairly sure that if you, for example, created a whole new music track, they'd not be interested in enforcing the contract. Not that it's any consolation, really, since it's the fact that they could which is contentious.

Exactly. The "we won't enforce that" defence is silly. What if management changes? What if they are bought by another company? What if the company folds and the rights to all the "intellectual property" are transferred to the new owners who have no such qualms? It won't matter one little bit if I quit - they will own the IP and that is the end of it (as it stands).

No, if it's not going to be enforced, then it shouldn't be in the agreement. That seems obvious to me, but less so to people who just see this as more work for them. Which is fair enough from their point of view, I guess - but it would be better to have a more sensible agreement to present to people in the first place, then the various rounds of negotiation would not be needed at all. I suppose if more people stood up for themselves a little then they might think twice before making it more onerous - such changes would instantly translate to more work for everyone.

wait a second (1)

blinder (153117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9257638)

This is interesting, because I have the same exact thing with my employer... well its a little differrent in that since I work for a consultancy any IP i create is owned by the client company... but that only works for stuff that I create which was billed for.

I have a few side projects which the client company nor my employer has any rights to at all because its quite simple... they don't fucking pay me to work on it!

So, I would carefully read that agreement and basically say "look if I am not being paid by you to work on this then how could you possibly own this?"

Music? Are you sure? I mean, come on... how the fuck could that work unless you are paid to produce music for said company. So... basically is this agreement saying that you are just screwing around at home and happen to record something that they own that???

No, I don't think it could possibly say that, how could something like that ever be A. enforced, and B. be legal?

IP agreements are typically to protect a company from an employee developing something on company time, then jetting and taking IP and turning that into a business.

If it *is* the case where they think they own everything you touch or have touched, or will touch... then I would run screaming because that isn't right.

That would be something akin to my employer claiming ownership over my zine or my website, or fuck, even the songs I record -- which just isn't possibly no matter what agreement I sign because I own the copyrights -- and my copyright in these properties supercede any IP agreement I sign.
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