Re: Workplace issues

Subject: Re: Workplace issues
From: Technical Writer <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2008 07:02:42 -0400

On several occasions in the past couple of years, I have seen the issue of output ownership come up, with some surprising results. In one case, a business declared that it owned output created by its employees offsite and off-work, because the business was "providing resources and intellectual stimulus that directly resulted in the output." Specifically, their argument was that the output would not have been developed independently; it required the stimulus of employment-related activities to facilitate development.

If Worker A is employed on a Widget Project, and develops a newer, better way to build widgets, that process is "owned" by the business because they provided the resources, activities, and intellectual stimulus that resulted in the development of the new, better way.

Before everyone jumps on this with a Sebastian Statement (from the Neverending Story, "But thats impossible!"), this is not an isolated case, and may be slipped in as part of "non-compete" agreements in employment contracts. If you develop something while employed by Company A, they own it, not you.

Next case, an adjunct faculty member at a university developed a multimedia tutorial for the topic matter she was teaching at the university. Generic, not specific to the course--only to the topic. The university claimed ownership, it held, despite the fact that the tutorial was developed offsite on the instructor's time.

This is a big issue, and it directly affects anyone employed in a technical field. The issue of an employer providing the "intellectual stimulus that enabled or facilitated the development of X" and thereby gaining ownership of X, is huge. If what you are doing is essentially worthless, it doesn't matter. If you happen to develop the 2008 equivalent of DOS--on your own time--and your employer claims ownership, it could be a problem.

It is not as "clear" an issue as "I did it on my time, so its mine."
tekwrytr - Contract business analysis and solutions development in Visual Basic .NET, ASP .NET, SQL Server, and XML. Specializing in cost-effective rapid application development (RAD), prototyping, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) IT solutions for SMBs.
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