General Question

factoryjoe's avatar

Legally speaking, what is an open source contribution?

Asked by factoryjoe (59points) July 23rd, 2008

Many companies have to be concerned about their employees contributing to open source projects for fear of creating or contributing intellectual property. Similarly, OSS projects need to keep their IP clean (copyrights etc) to encourage wide reuse. But what is a contribution? Is a +1 on a mailing list a contribution? Or a 200 line patch? Do you know one when you see one? Or is there some other metric you can use?

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3 Answers

andrew's avatar

I hate to answer a question with another question, but how is contributing to OSS different from working on your own projects?

Developing a software patch on company equipment: bad?
Receiving listserv on the corporate email account: forbidden?
What about chatting on #python on company time?

@factoryjoe: Regarding your question: is the issue more about the time/IP that employees generate, or the possibility of unrestricted licenses contaminating the IP of the corporation if “contributions” are used/ folded back into the corporation’s product?

Forgive my naivete, it’s been a long time since I’ve worked in a proprietary shop.

Side note, have you seen The Gridlock Economy (article)?

Breefield's avatar

I’m not sure where you work, but I’m sorry for what your company is doing to you. They see things in reverse you see. They see it as your brain being their property after you sign an employee contract with them. You can’t contribute that brain power to any other company that might be detrimental to them. At the end of the day though, they fail to realize that the more you program the better you get. I’ve worked at somewhere like this before, and it stunk. Actually, in the contract they pulled that crap about not being able to work another web dev job for 6 months after quitting that job…really now. Really?

Who’s brain is this, yours, or theirs?

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