IF and IP

What ho,

As one who dabbles with various coding projects in their spare time, including several teensy IF WIPs and Trizbort I wondered if I might ask other IF game, tool and/or publication authors: how many of you have a day job (with a company, academic institution, etc.) with a contract which states that it owns all of your intellectual property, works of IF included, unless you agree otherwise with the company? How many of you have had to negotiate in order to release your IF works, tools, publications or the like?

I ask because over n years as a “professional” software developer I’ve encountered about a 50/50 split between companies where this is the case and companies where it isn’t (or is, but with sufficient exceptions and general leeway). Sometimes it’s for sound contractual reasons (say the company supplies software to other large companies and their contracts have indemnity clauses, yada yada) and sometimes just because the company prefers it that way. I’m curious what the split is in a broader sense; I’m concerned that it’s becoming more common, and as someone who enjoys attempting to be creative in their spare time it’s beginning to worry me. Anecdotes and related links appreciated.

All the best,
-eg.

AFAIK they can’t hold a claim on anything you make at home in your spare time, but if you work on it at work, it becomes… negotiable. :imp:

I’ve never had a company try to push a policy that they owned all my creative output. I have had a company ask me to declare what kind of programming work I did in my spare time. I was honest, and since IF work had no overlap with the company’s line of business, they never mentioned it again.

I once (briefly) worked for a computer game company. I brought up the subject before I signed on, and they were happy with a declaration that I was writing a shareware Mac puzzle game in my spare time and it had no relation to company projects. (This was, yes, before A Change in the Weather.)

PS: Yeah, don’t work on your own project on company time or on company hardware. That should go without saying.

I find it hard to imagine that such a clause would have legal validity, but then (a) I am not a lawyer and (b) I have no idea where you live. At any rate, I would be surprised if it were legal here in the Netherlands.

You might be interested in this post I cam across some time ago; it quotes a part of California law that also indicates that such clauses would be legal only in very special circumstances:
plushapocalypse.com/borut/?p=421

Thanks guys, that’s very interesting.

I certainly don’t produce anything with company resources, on company time or on their premises; that would indeed be asking for trouble.

It’s rather that I seem to be tripping over more and more (well, two, of late) employment contracts along these lines, and they vex me somewhat. The gist is pretty much “all your IPs are belong to us”. I have no objection to employers owning anything I do which is even conceivably related to their business, but it strikes me as perhaps excessive that they might lay claim to any non-rhyming limericks, monotonic sonnets, operas for the bass kazoo and paper comb, or new kinds of tea cozy that I might invent. It also seems to put something of a damper on working on open source projects; the Niagra Falls over a guttering candle during a tornado kind of damper.

I may have to bite the slightly expensive bullet of consulting an actual contract/IP lawyer before signing said contract. I’m just slightly concerned that if this is spreading, I may have similar difficulties elsewhere.

Sadly I’m not in California and nor are my employers; that law is superb and clearly crafted by people who understand where innovation comes from. It rains far too much here to be California; it’s a British kind of rain.

You could just ask to have those lines removed or changed in the contract, of course.

Absolutely, and such was my initial approach after having the odd negative experience with contract IP in the past. Sadly this latest one appears to be for genuine, torturous and plausible commercial reasons, at least to some degree. Which doesn’t so much limit my options as polarize them.

Perhaps this is more of a UK-centric phenomenon, or maybe I’ve just been unlucky; but the notion that this might be more widespread is not a pleasant thought, hence my rambling enquiry.

Well, I for one would be demanding that sort of clause to be removed from any contract I signed. I have to say that I have not seen anything like that in my UK work contracts.

Just adding to the chorus: I’ve had employers who’ve claimed ownership of anything created on company time/premises/hardware … and that was fine. I had one employer who asked that I not do freelance work of the same kind while employed there … and that was fine (I had another who didn’t mind creative moonlighting provided it didn’t interfere with my company work) … But an employer claiming all rights to unrelated creative work I do at home? I can’t imagine the kind of perks that would have to be provided before I’d even entertain the idea of signing away my entire private output … what anyone does at home, provided it doesn’t undermine the employer in any way, is none of the employer’s business, let alone property.

Thanks all :wink: As a footnote, I discussed it further with the M.D., who made very intelligent observations about the state of IP law and contract enforcability, and in particular observed that the default position in law is probably rather less favourable I appear to believe, which if true (and it may be) is somewhat concerning. He did his best to accommodate me - an excellent fellow he was in fact - but wasn’t able to go as far as I wanted, for what I suspect are indeed (his) very sound business reasons.

In the end it was a case of “our way or the highway”. Rather to their surprise, I found little alternative but to express a penchant for highways.

What Ghalev said.

If your company’s legalese overreaches, bring it up with HR to have it corrected.

But what about schools? I kinda got interested about it, since the GNU pages said something about getting a disclaimer from work or school in order to license the software properly. I wonder to what kinds of schools does this apply and why exactly.

There are schools that make IP claims on the creations of their students. See for instance this article about Digipen:

underdevelopmentlaw.com/solution … p-problem/

One last (hah) update on this topic for the terminally interested: as intimated by my previous post, in the end we couldn’t come to a mutually satisfying agreement so we parted ways amicably. On the doubleplus good side, I now have a more relaxing but cheerfully paid job without any such stringent (although in that case entirely commercially sound) restrictions.

The only minus side is that I’ve been slacking more outside work since - probably due to lowered stress levels as contractual issues always bug me - and thus failing to produce much code in my free time, which is if not ironic then at least amusing. Still, the principle’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the, er, other thing. You know. That one.