(This isn’t actually new, it’s just generalising and open-sourcing the agreement that’s new. This has been the case at GitHub for at least a year, probably much longer.)
“But rather than negotiating a deal, Alcatel fired Brown and sued him for ownership of the idea. After a seven-year-long court battle, he lost and was forced to spend three months at the company’s offices, without pay, writing out the code to implement his solution.”
Remind me to never work in Texas.
These policies are one of the reason why independent contracting may be so attractive in the software and OSS industry, because you can set your own rules.
this is very much what I do as an independent contractor. I not only retain all rights to anything done outside of the very narrow scope of your project, I also require that I may MIT or BSD license any component built under your contract if I deem it a general solution to a common problem. this lets me give back to the OSS community that support me in my contracting.
Ah, I remember those days when IBM wanted to own even the code I have written at home. So long suckers, I do not put my employers copyright even on the stuff I create at work any longer. Just MIT or GPLv3+ COPYING file. :-D
I remember those days when IBM wanted to own even the code I have written at home.
Apple pretty much (still) tries to do this. Whether it’s enforceable (e.g., in California) is a different question.
Google tries to do this as well . Even in California, unfortunately, it’s not clear they are in the wrong legally, because California’s limits on employers claiming ownership of employee IP only exclude IP created by employees on their own time that does not directly compete with the employer’s own businesses. But Google is in so many markets, that there is a pretty broad range of stuff that directly competes with Google. You’re better off, at least in California, if you work for a company that competes in a narrower set of markets.
 See, e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2208207
True, though Google has an established track record of open-sourcing stuff. Granted, I’ve no idea how difficult it is to actually push stuff out into the open, but one only has to look at the track records of G vs. A to make a conclusion as to which one has a better path for employees.
It’s especially fraught for GitHub I imagine since so many projects use its resources: if an GitHub employee makes a contribution to an Open Source project which just happens to be hosted on GitHub, is that “use of company resources” or not?
Congratulations to GitHub for thinking their way out of this hole.
Recently I went for a job interview (which I turned down after some dodgy comments from the interviewer) where I asked about the companies attitude towards side projects which are sold. I was something to the effect of ‘under UK law, the company owns everything by default’.
It’s good to see a change in this attitude from bigger companies, my current company is OK with side projects as long as they don’t compete. A reasonable position really.
my current company is OK with side projects as long as they don’t compete.
As @mjn mentions above, as the company gets larger, it becomes easier for the company to assert that pretty much anything relating to software or hardware “competes” with the company. As an Apple employee, if, say, you wanted to do technical training as a side business, sorry, iTunes University offers training, so you’d be “competing”.
Though if I was in a band and wanted to distribute my music on iTunes, apparently that’s fine.