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job vs. free time work

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For those of you that work for game/graphics related companies, are you guys allowed to work on your own (non-commerical) game/gfx stuff outside of work? Just wondering what kinda NDA, and IP issues people have run into, if any...

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I have seen a lot of contracts and they vary widely. Some claim ownership of all work in the field. Some allow spare time projects (commercial or otherwise) and others try to stop you doing anything that competes with your current employer if you leave.

It is also worth keeping in mind that many companies are willing to negotiate on contract clauses.

[Edited by - Obscure on March 17, 2005 6:12:41 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
It really depends on which companies you work for. Some are very liberal and even allow you to publish commercial games on the side, others are very strict and basically say that everything you do that is remotely related to games in a window of X months around your period of employment belongs to them.

Make sure you read your contract before signing it.

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I work for an educational game development company,
and while they have the whole contract spiel about:

"whatever ideas, procedures, etc. made while you are employed are ours until the end of time"

I am not very worried, my employer knows full well that I am working on a game,
and they said that they were fine with it (since it wasn't in direct competition).

From what I have heard, the salary based 'we own you' contracts, with thier non-compete after n years crap, doesn't stand up well in court, if they even decide to procecute you.

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It's a suit waiting to happen if you ever start making money from it.
Get something it writing from the institution stating it is aware of your endeavors and exempts it. They may want to add their own clauses such-as you cannot use university time, resources, nor collaborate with other employees to work on it.

This is actually a question I might submit; I have heard that an employer cannot contractually bind you from working in your field of study, although it is common though for engineers to have 1-year non-competitive clauses in their contracts. How legally enforcable are such non-competitive agreements? If termination if with-out cause, does that provide any 'legal relief' from such agreements?

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Magmai Kai Holmlor:

This is actually a question I might submit; I have heard that an employer cannot contractually bind you from working in your field of study, although it is common though for engineers to have 1-year non-competitive clauses in their contracts. How legally enforcable are such non-competitive agreements? If termination if with-out cause, does that provide any 'legal relief' from such agreements?

[/Quote]



Enforcing a non-compete varies from district to district. UbiSoft was granted agreement from a Canadian court to stop several of the key splinter-cell guys going to EA's new studio. Last I heard, the poor programmers were sitting unemployed; no job at Ubi, no job at EA. The games corporations play...

I severely doubt anything like this is going to fly in the EU, since they're considerably more pro-labour than their US counterparts.

Allan

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Quote:
Original post by Magmai Kai Holmlor
This is actually a question I might submit; I have heard that an employer cannot contractually bind you from working in your field of study, although it is common though for engineers to have 1-year non-competitive clauses in their contracts. How legally enforcable are such non-competitive agreements? If termination if with-out cause, does that provide any 'legal relief' from such agreements?


From my understanding and findings this practice is illegal in India and this clause did not hold water in the past in the Indian courts.

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Quote:
Original post by indigox3
For those of you that work for game/graphics related companies, are you guys allowed to work on your own (non-commerical) game/gfx stuff outside of work?

Just wondering what kinda NDA, and IP issues people have run into, if any...


It usually depends on the state you are working in. Companies would like to say no that you can't, they'd like to say anything you do is owned by them, but many states have laws which say you can work on 'inventions', provided they are done outside the companies time and without use of company equipment. Nor can working on said invention be used as grounds for termination. Note this doesn't usually include being an employee of another company.

This is why you will see 'severability' clauses in any contract. E.g., if any part of the contract is found null and void then the rest is still valid. Some states are very liberal. IIRC, California bans No-Compete clauses as well.

At some level, this isn't true - if you are an officer of a company then a different set of rules apply. Basically, if you are being payed in the millions of dollars for services, companies can expect a certain degree of exclusivity ;)

I'd suggest contacting your state's attorney general's office, they should be able to tell you what the law says in your state.

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Thx for the input,

I got my confidentiality agreement in the mail a little while ago.
It says the usual "everything you do is ours" stuff, with a few exceptions.
Basically anything I do on my own time and equiptment is excluded, save for
inventions that either:
1) Relate to the company's business or R&D of the company
2) Result from work I do at the company

Since its not a game company, I think I'll be okay...

EvilDecl81, do you know if any provinces in Canada have the same/similar laws?

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Original post by indigox3
Thx for the input,

I got my confidentiality agreement in the mail a little while ago.
It says the usual "everything you do is ours" stuff, with a few exceptions.
Basically anything I do on my own time and equiptment is excluded, save for
inventions that either:
1) Relate to the company's business or R&D of the company
2) Result from work I do at the company

Since its not a game company, I think I'll be okay...

EvilDecl81, do you know if any provinces in Canada have the same/similar laws?


Dunno, might be worthy talking to a lawyer. Though, they like to over scare your risk of liability ;) Bear in mind that there are really 2 things to worry about. The first is liability, e.g.getting sued. That seems unlikely since you'd have to damage them first. The second is getting fired - even though an employer may not be able to lay claim to whatver you do, that doesn't mean they can't make you chose between doing it or walking.

I don't know how the legal system works in Canada, I assume it's a common law system like the US. I'd check with whatever equiv of your attorney general is (you can check the website).

It is quite likly that clause you are seeing is required by law, in which case the wording by be dictated by the state. Its quite funny to see people say, "Wow, my company is pretty reasonable, they let me work on the side!" when in reality the clause is required by state law (they never tell you that). Try googling the clause and your province and see what comes up. In most liberal states/provences, the law is on you side ;)

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I find the whole idea very odd. It makes sense a company doesn't want to spend $thousands training you only for you to leave and use your new skills elsewhere, but how else could you ever change job?
I work as a 'serious' programmer, and since coming here have learned a lot more Visual Basic and Database stuff. Does that mean that applying for a job with a company who are in the same speciality as my current employer would cause problems in some countries/states? Or is it more like if I work on a new AI for bots in an FPS, I can't then get a new job working on AI for bots in an FPS? Because once you work on something or see how others around you do things, you automatically take on that knowledge yourself in the future. I worked for a games company before this doing physics for racing games. Now I'm making a racing game of my own and surprisingly some of my techniques are very similar to those I saw...

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Quote:
Original post by d000hg
I find the whole idea very odd. It makes sense a company doesn't want to spend $thousands training you only for you to leave and use your new skills elsewhere, but how else could you ever change job?
I work as a 'serious' programmer, and since coming here have learned a lot more Visual Basic and Database stuff. Does that mean that applying for a job with a company who are in the same speciality as my current employer would cause problems in some countries/states? Or is it more like if I work on a new AI for bots in an FPS, I can't then get a new job working on AI for bots in an FPS? Because once you work on something or see how others around you do things, you automatically take on that knowledge yourself in the future. I worked for a games company before this doing physics for racing games. Now I'm making a racing game of my own and surprisingly some of my techniques are very similar to those I saw...


I beleive courts have long ruled that knowledge gained via training is not owned in anyway by the company.

No compete clauses are a more complex matter. Usually it has to be pretty cut and dry before they are enforcable, and the since most states are 'right to work', it may mean the company pays you not to work.

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