[FoRK] Drafting employment contracts for free-software authors

rst at ai.mit.edu rst at ai.mit.edu
Wed Feb 23 10:16:12 PST 2005

Luis Villa writes:
 > On Wed, 23 Feb 2005 10:02:05 -0500, rst at ai.mit.edu <rst at ai.mit.edu> wrote:
 > >
 > > I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to do here.  Code
 > > released under an open source license is no longer being held as
 > > confidential, and the methods and knowledge that code embodies
 > > certainly aren't trade secret.  So, if it's your intention to allow
 > > that, for code your employees develop "as part of their employment",
 > > you don't actually want to reserve those rights at all.
 > There is still the issue of ownership of copyright, even if the
 > copyright is granted under, say, GPL. For example, much of the code
 > Sun employees write and contribute to GNOME is officially (c) Sun,
 > instead of (c) $EMPLOYEE, which gives sun the legal right to defend
 > GPL violations of that code. Similarly, when Novell employees
 > contribute to Evolution, that code is (c) Novell, instead of (c) the
 > employee. While it isn't Novell's goal, AFAIK, this does give Novell
 > the right to a proprietary fork at some point in the future, since
 > they require copyright assignment for external contributors.

Kragen's original note said that his candidates were getting spooked
by an intellectual property agreement that went well beyond "the usual
copyright assignment stuff".

Copyright assignment is an issue, but it matters less in an open
source context than it might otherwise, since the original authors can
continue to develop and distribute deriviative works, just like anyone
else, according to the terms of the license.  It still does matter --
as you note, the copyright holder can relicense the code (to allow
closed-source derivates, for instance), and nobody else can.  So,
copyright ownership is a detail that the contracts certainly should
take care of.  But I got the impression that it wasn't the potential
deal-breaker here...


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