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Here are some of the terms and conditions set forward by my employer. Does these make sense for a job like programming?

  1. No freelancing in any way even in your free time outside company work hours (may be okay. May be they wanted their employees to be fully concentrating on their full time job. Also they don't want their employees to do similar work for a competing client. Completely rational in that sense). -> So sort of agreed.
  2. Any thing you develop like ideas, design, code etc while I'm employed there, makes them the owner of that. Seriously? Don't you think that its bad (for me)? If I'm to develop something in my free time (by cutting down sleep and hard working), outside the company time and resource, is that claim rational? I heard that Steve Wozniak had such a contract while he was working at HP. But that sort of hardware design and also those companies pay well, when compared to the peanuts I get.
  3. No other kind of works allowed. Means no open source stuffs. Fully dedicated to being a puppet for the employer, though the working environment is sort of okay. According to my assessment this place would score a 10/12 in Joel's test.

So are these terms okay especially considering the fact that I'm underpaid with peanuts?

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It does no harm to ask for a change. The worst they can do is say no. –  Loki Astari Jan 14 '11 at 6:15
Think of practical limitations this imposes on you. Say you use Tortoise SVN at work (that's just an example and it could be any other open-source tool) and you know that you could spend five hours to fix some annoying behavior of that program and submit a patch and make the whole world better. This would not hurt your employer in any way - you would gain experience, you would do useful work, you would make a tool your colleagues use better. Yet you can't do that because of those terms. Do you like that? There's a gazillion other examples when that will shoot you in the foot. –  sharptooth Jan 14 '11 at 7:44
These terms are EVIL. Run.(But tell them how much you hate them for these terms first!) –  abel Jan 14 '11 at 11:54
#2 and #3 are bad and you should not agree to them. You can always cross out the terms that you do not agree with and sign the document, it is up to the employer then to decide whether they want to still hire you with those changes. –  briddums Mar 8 '12 at 15:24
#1 is standard for full-time job, #2 and #3 are bad, usually if such a terms are included in contract, there are limited to work, that you do on company time (or infrastructure). –  vartec Apr 18 '12 at 15:37

11 Answers 11

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Any thing you develop like ideas, design, code etc while I'm employed there, makes them the owner of that.

Out of the question. This is pure evil Get this removed out of your contract. Until that don't sign it.

The big ones usually have this nonsense but you go there to sell your soul anyway so it's a perfect match then.

No other kind of works allowed.

If the meaning is "work for profit" then it's the same as 1 and is rather typical. Otherwise even redecorating your home may fall into this category.

So are these terms okay especially considering the fact that I'm underpaid with peanuts?

No, not okay. Might consider it if you were going to be sinking in peanuts otherwise look elsewhere.

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Also I agree with indyK1ng. No other kind of work implies mainly to programming I guess. I'll be moving on. Thanks. –  o_O Jan 14 '11 at 6:09
I've got that same claus in my contract and so do most most people I know in the (finance) industry. Its not that uncommon in these modern times. I'm not saying its right, I'm just saying everyone is doing it –  Richard Jan 14 '11 at 12:19
I've worked at some huge corporate development houses that explicitly did NOT have this clause; its far from an industry standard. –  GWLlosa Jan 14 '11 at 14:09
I'd definitely turn down any job that had those clauses. I've not yet run across a company that does. What I do see are clauses saying that outside work is expected to not interfere with work for the company. That seems fair. –  Brian Knoblauch Jan 14 '11 at 14:26
+1 for visual of sinking in peanuts. –  sova Jan 14 '11 at 20:54

I agree with Developer Art about these terms and conditions. I was given an offer for co-op several months ago with similar terms and I refused because I found these too restrictive. I will list my objections to each one below:

1) This first one sounds pretty reasonable except for the fact that they're paying you peanuts. If they expect you to not work for anyone else, then they should pay you enough that you don't have to. A non-compete is one thing, but this is just excessive

2) This clause is too general. My understanding and experience with decent agreements is that they're usually worded in such a way that they only own the ideas related to their products. Steve Wozniak had such a deal while he worked for HP, but he brought it to them and they explicitly stated they were giving it back to him since they didn't want to enter the consumer computer market (I read this in the book Hackers by Steven Levy). The way this is worded, they own every programming related idea you come up with, even ones that they don't have a use for unless they give it back to you. I'd advised getting this reworded so they only take the ideas related to their core business

3) This is a big negative. The way this is worded, it prevents you from developing yourself professionally. This is a bad career move which I would advise against. By limiting you to only working on what they company wants you to work on, they're molding you to work for them for the rest of your life.

I'd advise against accepting these terms unless you really do want to work for them for the rest of your life.

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+1 for "if they expect you to not work for anyone else, then they should pay you enough that you don't have to" –  Larry Coleman Jan 14 '11 at 20:13

No freelancing in any way even in your free time outside company work hours...

This is pretty normal. If you are in the US, in the absence of a union contract to the contrary, you are by law an exempt employee.

29 U.S.C. § 213 a(17) any employee who is a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker...


As an exempt employee, you are supposed to be thinking about work all the time. Which is why mismanagers are not all that concerned about demanding you work long extra hours and weekends.

Any thing you develop like ideas, design, code etc while I'm employed there, makes them the owner of that

Pretty much every company I've worked for in the past 30 years (that has had an employee agreement) has had such a clause. I've never been successful at getting it removed - the only solution is to leave if it bothers you. Ideally, you need to find out about these contracts before you agree to work there, however I've never been able to get a copy of them before starting work.

No other kind of works allowed. Means no open source stuffs.

This follows from claws #2. A rant from years ago about this very issue.

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I can understand the first 2, although #2 would be a definite deal breaker for me.

But #3 .... ? .... really? That's just an indication that the environment is toxic.

I'd run from that place.

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No freelancing in any way even in your free time outside company work hours

That's ok for me as well many do have this policy and mind you many don't.

The second point is completey outrageous

if by chance i develop a second google that's also in my free time at home , the time at liberty to use any way i want . i have to give it to them . not worth it

No other kind of works allowed

Well in a way they are controlling my whole life.


Well personally seems to me life would not be great even if i get these thing removed and start working there . so life is short ,best thing is be happy and make full use of it.

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+1 for "fe is short ,best thing is be happy and make full use of it." –  Calmarius Oct 10 '11 at 17:00

I think a lot of the answers here are drawing hasty conclusions. All we have to go by is your interpretation of the terms, and it seems like most people are taking it too literally. I'm no expert, but I think the terms are worded to mean "during work hours". I'd suggest letting a lawyer look at the full terms.

The second term seems like a standard "work for hire" clause which just means any code you write for their project is owned by the employer and you can't license it as open source or sell it, etc.

I am not a lawyer, but if you write code in your free time 1.) How would they know? and 2.) You're not their slave for 24 hours a day.

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I liked this until I got to the "how would they know part". I suddenly imagined standing in court and try to present that to Judge Judy... slap –  Michael Durrant Apr 19 '12 at 1:53

I suggest taking the contract for a quick review to an employement lawyer working in the jurisdiction before signing it.

The terms are restrictive but not that unusual. Weight them against the compensation and your future plans, that is to say any restriction of trade needs to be compensated for appropriately. You could use this as a leverage when negotiating the package.

The terms also mean that if you ever were to start working on your own ideas you'd have to leave the company first. And yes, they if your ideas ever became successful and the company still was around they could choose to sue you for having these ideaa whilst still being employed by them.

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A question, how badly do you need the job?

OK the terms suck but if it was a choice of signing or not being able to pay my rent I would sign on the dotted line and deal. Of course I would not plan on staying long term, but in the short term I have a wife and kids they like it when we have somewhere to live and something to eat.

If you are already working there I would consider leaving, but once again don't jump until you have a new job lined up.

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Is this a serious question? I don't know what country you're in, but in the USA I seriously doubt that such an agreement would be legally enforceable.

[Note: I am not a lawyer. And I am glad of it.]

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I was given terms similar to this in an offer that I didn't accept in the USA. These are unreasonable, but I don't know if they're unenforceable. It wouldn't stop a company from trying and I doubt the asker has the ability to fight them over it in court. That makes it enforceable by keeping people from being able to challenge it. –  indyK1ng Jan 14 '11 at 6:00
@ indyK1ng: If any of the work you do in your free time is anything remotely like your paid job they will have a claim over. If it is nothing to do with your paid job the area is more gray. BUT if they decide to fight you about a big company will crush you with the cost of litigation. On the other hand the company will not want to much bad publicity (as that affects their ability to hire new talent). So as long as it has nothing to do with the companies business you have a chance. I am not a lawyer,but nor have I made anything worth fighting for,If you ask nicely they may let you moonlight –  Loki Astari Jan 14 '11 at 6:13
@indyK1ng: just tell them that you write viruses as a hobby, and do they really want to be responsible if one of them gets loose? ;-) –  Steven A. Lowe Jan 14 '11 at 21:06
@Martin I don't have a problem with a non-compete clause, it's when they tell you you can't do anything outside work or that anything you do outside work belongs to them regardless of if it's related to the company's products or you did it on paid time or not that I find the terms unacceptable. Especially since I wouldn't have the funds to be able to fight it enough to generate bad publicity if they attach a gag order to a lawsuit. I haven't had to go through this and don't want to. –  indyK1ng Jan 14 '11 at 22:03
Yes, but even if you will win you don't want the fight –  Zachary K Apr 18 '12 at 15:17

I am not a lawyer!

In Germany (or the European Union) you could probably sign this contract, because the hilarious #2 would not stand in any court. This probably would be considered immoral, therefore not effective at all.

Nevertheless I wouldn't want to work for a company, which thinks this #2 is legit.

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It would be enforceable as long as it concerns your working hours or the infrastructure of the employer. Of course, what you do outside working hours with your own computer is nothing anybody except yourself can legally own. But be sure not to use the laptop your employer gave to you. –  Ingo Feb 7 '13 at 14:52

"Any thing you develop like ideas, design, code etc while I'm employed there, makes them the owner of that."

This is essentially there to protect the company from you getting training, information and ideas from work and then implementing them in your own time. It is a pretty common clause, though as some have pointed out, sensible companies restrict it to stufff that they do, rather than blanket coverage.

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