in reply to (OT) Professional Employees: who owns your thoughts?

I currently have a bottom of the barrel computer job. I am a BellSouth Dial Up Internet Services technician - tech support. Please, hold your sympathies.

I currently work on a contract which very specifically gives my employer ownership of my thoughts. My only protection is that the "thoughts" owned by my employer are only those directly related to my job, and my employer is a third party contractor, not BellSouth. Any thoughts I have or intellectual property I create up to one year after my employment that is directly related to operating a call center is the property of my employer. Shitty, but clear and explicit and pleasantly limited.

It's easy for us to say "tough beans, you shouldn't have told your employer." I'm sure that none of us mean any harm by saying it, and certainly no malice, but other than a bit of advice from one to another, it doesn't really hit the core issue here.

What Mr. Brown's employer is doing is wrong, of that there is little doubt in my mind (though I try to keep an open mind). That it is legal is an issue outside of my expertise, though offhand I'm confidant that it is. What is needed is a cultural change, not a legal one (though a legal one would help). Those of us who code for a living know that generally the owners of the program are not responsible for any damages resulting from the use of that program. This is to some degree wrong and often abused. It should probably cease to be true. It probably should also stay legal, because it is a valid position for software companies to take at times. The answer to this is customer awareness - know what the End User agreement says - and the Open Source movement - take resonsibility for your own software. An analogous series of changes could be made here.

What needs to occur is for makers of intellectual property - engineers, designers, programmers - to be aware that they are under the yoke of such right - claiming contracts. Begin convincing employers that intellectual freedom is a carrot to draw in good employees. Take your own contract to job interviews - they are hiring you after all, so shouldn't you have a standard contract? All these are cultural changes which address the problem more effectivly than attempting a change in the law.

And until then, if your such an employee, keep your mouth shut - one seasoned pro to another. :-)


Light a man a fire, he's warm for a day. Catch a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life. - Terry Pratchet

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