intellectual property agreements and open source . was - Re: Why does this fail? [2]

Samuel Walters swalters_usenet at
Mon Jan 5 20:17:52 CET 2004

|Thus Spake Dave Murray On the now historical date of Sun, 04 Jan 2004
23:54:57 -0700|

> After re-reading this part, I can see that it is an idea that I like.
> How does participating in open source work for someone (me) who has
> signed the customary intellectual property agreement with the
> corporation that they work for? Since programming is part of my job,
> developing test solutions implemented on automatic test equipment (the
> hardware too) I don't know if I would/could be poison to an open source
> project. How does that work? I've never participated. If all the work is
> done on someone's own time, not using company resources,
> yadda-yadda-hadda-hadda, do corporate lawwwyaahhhs have a history of
> trying to dispute that and stake a claim? No doubt, many of you are in
> the same position.

IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer)

As suggested elsewhere, consult your legal counsel.  Dig up that NDA.  Go
to the corporate lawwwyaahhhs and ask them to provide you with a clear
delineation in writing.  Have your legal counsel look over that document
to make sure it says what you think it says.  Be prepared to explain the
difference between general purpose tools and special purpose tools
directly related to the job.  Specifically, be prepared to explain how
contributing to general purpose tools can allow you to more quickly (and
inexpensively, time is money yadda-yadda) develop the special purpose
tools.  By contributing to, say, a web spider when your business involves
stress-testing web servers would allow you to leverage the knowledge and
work of others towards the companies goals.  As I understand it, no
open-source license has yet been tested in court, so your guess is as good
as anyone's about how much risk is involved.  That's why everyone is
waiting with baited breath over the SCO vs IBM fiasco.  It may be that
first legal test.  In fact, go to and read up on the SCO
vs IBM suit.  That's as good of a starting place as any.

Oh, and be sure to take a look at the specific license involved in a
project you contribute to.  Some licenses, like BSD, have little to no
restrictions on how an individual or company uses the code.  Most, such as
GPL require that you simply distribute the source and any changes you've
made if and only if you distribute the product or any products including
code from the project to a third party (in the case of companies, that
means outside the companies.) YMMV and again, IANAL


Sam Walters

Never forget the halloween documents.
""" Where will Microsoft try to drag you today?
    Do you really want to go there?"""

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