This default has always amused me because lawyers never sign these kinds of agreements with their own law firms. We spend most of our time writing contracts, memos, and other bits of work product that, in theory, are protected by copyright. Ethics rules and professional norms also give the clients rights in the work product they pay us to produce. A firm's partnership agreement might address this too. But most firms don't even try to address who owns the underlying IP rights.
Moreover, it is extremely common for partners moving between firms to take all of their forms with them. The result is that people treat contract forms as-a sort of IP-free zone. It would not even be possible to ascertain the original authorship of most form contracts that cross my desk.
Historically, this hasn't mattered because law firms charged for hours worked. It will matter a great deal if firms shift toward offering more automated products that can be sold outside the billable hour.
 As with source code, there's also uncertainty about which aspects of a contract are expressive and which are purely functional. Only the expressive parts are protected by copyright.
Update: one project I've had in the back of my mind is to illustrate this point by crawling the SEC's EDGAR website and tracing the "genealogy" of bits of contract language in public companies' filings. (Companies need to file certain "material agreements"). If anyone has some suggestions for good text processing libraries that can help with this tracing, I would love to hear about them.
Exactly. One of the sleaziest tricks used by Realtors (most Realtors are not lawyers) is getting clients to sign their forms: their terms usually have the word "percent" hard-coded into the contract. Rather than opening the door to hourly or fixed dollar amounts, they insist that their forms are the "standard". I heard one recently say in a public forum that banks "require" these specific forms that only Realtors have... this is a total lie, and anybody that tells you that you can't negotiate to create your own contract for a deal should be prosecuted for coercion.
I've been trying for a long time to alter the common perception that Realtors add value; they don't. They take value out of transactions -- equity that's taken literal years to build up -- gone in one (fell) swoop. People need to be way more aggressive in their negotiations with real estate salespeople, and it all starts with the contract.
This is still a small, WIP, side project (free, open-source contract templates); however, you can get the idea: http://ecosteader.com/docs
When I first purchased a home my credit history was.. interesting. The value the realtor provided was putting me in touch with the right grants, forms, etc and ways to build and fix my credit. They helped me not get scammed with a high interest or ARM loan. Their knowledge helped me. Also she steered me away from a couple houses due to inspection concerns that would have cost me time.
Fast forward to now my credit is awesome, the homes I can afford are in a far different category and my last home purchase was fairly routine, so my realtor didn't do as much but I still value their knowledge and experience because you won't need it until you need it.
I bought a home recently and work in the mortgage industry. My opinion: the buyer's agent should be a flat negotiated fee, maybe an hourly rate. There is very little that most do that the buyer can't do themselves. If the buyer doesn't want to do it themselves, then that's a choice they make to pay, and for items like inspection reviewing and negotiating, I'm not sure I see why it's significantly different if I'm buying a $200k house vs an $800k house. I don't agree with their fees being a percentage of the home prices.
Seller's agents on the other hand...those guys are salesmen. I can see way more value in incentivizing that person to get maximum value for me.
For example let's say a selling agent is getting 6% on a house listed at $500k. If it sells at $500k he gets $30k, if it sells at $520k he gets $31k. If he were to get a $500k offer it probably isn't worth his time to put in a lot of extra effort to try to get that extra $1k, but to you that extra $19k is a lot of money. You might want to do another open house but the agent will convince you to just take the offer in hand. I think this is one of the reasons that agents use all these short deadlines and pressure tactics, it's not just to get the buyers locked in, they want to be in and out of each deal as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next deal.
Not sure how to fix that, but it is an issue to be aware of.
That agent was very helpful in a lot of ways, but didn't get me a particularly good price -- another, nearly identical unit in the same condo complex sold around the same time for about $30k more.
I think the next time, I will stick to my guns on the terms. That probably means I'll have to find an independent agent. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I think the agent who sold that other unit in my complex was independent.
Lots of things like that. And then both parties having to pay 5.1k for his 'service'.
It really pisses me off that in this day and age they think they can be "gatekeepers" of the information.
And they provide an extremely shitty service, they don't even take the care to take good photos of the property.
They've long lobbied for more regulation in my country and are extremely angry that most people are not using their services (I wonder why... :) ).
They did manage to make their services mandatory for state-owned mortgages :( .
A fee sounds good, an hourly rate seems to incentivize the wrong behavior (as does a percentage of the sale price).
I fully believe that there are realtors out there who make their clients money. There is, however, no reliable way for me to differentiate them from the lazy scumbags.
When realtors' business model gets disrupted, sellers will not end up getting the same prices for their houses as they do currently, or get to keep the 6% that now goes to agents - that money will simply drop out of the cost of buying homes (except for the new, smaller, cost that will be captured by the new business model).
It's not clear to me that that is true. All economics tells us is that in the current system, sales clear, which means that buyers are fine buying at the current prices and sellers are fine selling at the current prices less commission.
If the commission were to suddenly disappear, it is not clear if the buyer, the seller, or some mix would retain that money. You're suggesting that the buyer would retain all the money without evidence, whereas basic logic would suggest that the seller has more economic power (because housing prices generally appreciate faster than inflation), particularly in hot real estate markets.
But I think it might be partly true, too. As you said, currently "sellers are fine selling at the current prices less commission". When those commissions disappear, sellers who were previously content to get Price - 6%, should still be content to get Price*0.94, since those are the same, and at least in buyer's markets, competing sellers have an incentive to undercut one another in the effort to get their house sold. It seems probable that those would lead to houses moving to a new normal pricing structure 6 percentage points lower than the old normal (less whatever amount the new model is capturing).
And I don't know where you are located but I've always known the standard commission to be 6% (3 to buyer and 3 to seller agents). But everything is negotiable, I got mine done at 5%. She knocked 1% of the seller agent fee to be my buyer agent on the next transaction when her fee wouldn't come out of my pocket. She got me a second great deal, could I have gotten the same? Maybe, but knowing that negotiation isn't my strong suit, probably not.
But then again, most people buy houses so infrequently that one or two experiences either good or bad is going to color your whole outlook on the industry. I've been lucky enough that my few experiences look like net wins from my perspective.
My friend has also worked with my sister, so all told he's helped myself or someone close to me with buying and/or selling 6 homes and maybe a 7th.
I've heard this before, but when we bought a house, our realtor added a ton of value.
She went out and found houses that we wouldn't have found; sure, most of them came from MLS, but there were a few she found just by driving by or by asking fellow agents. She even triaged a couple for us (by going to look at them without us once she had gotten a sense for what our common feedback patterns were, and only making us come along when she thought it was worthwhile).
She pointed out things we would have never noticed, like windows that had condensation around the edges, which indicated the seals were bad and that when the seals on one window were going out, it was likely they were all on their way out. She'd point out cracks that we didn't notice or water stains (acknowledging she's not an inspector, but it certainly gave us things to ask the inspector about). She noticed when parts of the yard looked worrisome in how it was eroded or angled toward the house. And she could usually estimate for us off the top of her head what things would cost to fix, replace, remodel, or update (or she had someone she could call to ask for an estimate if she didn't know).
EDIT: She also put pressure on the lender when they were delaying the mortgage approval, did all the negotiation on our part with the selling agent, followed up with the sellers to make sure they did all the fixes our inspector found and were put into our contingencies. She also figured out what to do when she reviewed the contractor receipts and found out they had lied about fixing one of the things in the contingencies on the morning of the closing to make sure the deal didn't fall through, as well as how to resolve the issue that the sellers had left a giant moving pod blocking the driveway/garage and went on vacation the day we took possession of the house.
I suppose I could imagine buying a house without her if you had the experience, but there's no way we even came close to matching her years of experience.
Of course, most of the people I talk to have said their experience was nothing like ours. But it makes me think that the problem isn't that realtors bring no value to the table, but rather that maybe there just aren't very many good realtors.
I don't begrudge anyone who wants to pay someone else to take a task off their hands, I do it all the time with various things like my lawn service, housekeeper, etc. But was the time they saved you worth the commission they made? When you're making 7% of the selling price, the answer to that seems likely to be no in many cases. There's a price point where it's no longer worth it to outsource the work, and I suspect many home buyers run over it without realizing it or considering they have a choice.
For a $100k home, it's fairly easy for the value added to surpass the amount paid. For a $500k home, the value added needs to be much higher. Then again, if you think of it as less value added and more like insurance (although unfortunately without a specific set of coverage), then what you're paying for is their ability to identify and prevent problems before they happen. Having a realtor notice items before calling in an inspector is useful. Having a realtor apply their knowledge of the market, and what people are generally looking for on both the buying and selling end when making suggestions for how to change the deal (such as requesting fixes prior to sale, or money back for the fixes) is useful. Does that usefulness surpass the cost they get in their fees? It probably depends on the specific deal, the cost of the houses being looked at, and the experience of the realtor. I doubt it's as black and white as being useless though.
And no, an inspector's fees aren't over $30k (of course I imagine this varies by state, but where I'm at, if your buying agent's fees were over $30k, that would mean the house you bought was over $1mil, since their fee is half of 6% of the selling price of the house, i.e. 3%). The inspectors we talked to were between $500 and $2,000 per inspection, depending on the level of inspection you wanted, if I'm remembering correctly.
And we looked at around 35 houses (which apparently is on the high side by about 10x based on discussions with our friends who have bought houses). So for us, if we called an inspector every time (assuming we could find an inspector whose schedule matched the appointment availability every time), it would have been around $17,500 on the low end to do that for every house, which is more than the buying agent's percentage.
Of course, we could just hire an inspector on the ones we liked, and it'd be much cheaper, but that means we'd have to look at it, then call an inspector and schedule a visit, which would add an additional several-day-waiting step to the process, which could lead to us missing out on the house, since it's not uncommon to lose a house to someone else getting an offer accepted first (that happened to us for two out of four houses we liked).
So, nothing wrong with calling an inspector directly, it's just a different job than what the realtor does.
Even if you disagree (and the answer would be different for everyone I imagine), it still doesn't indicate that the realtor brought _no_ value to the table, which was the statement I was responding to.
EDIT: Also, I should clarify, where I'm at it's 6% _total_, split 3% each between the buying and selling agent. So, on the other hand, was it worth it to the sellers to pay 3% to their selling agent, who screwed up pretty much every part of the process and didn't seem to do much from what we saw? Probably not.
EDIT 2: I'd probably realistically downgrade my "absolutely it was worth it" answer to, "eh, it was definitely worth something". If I had to put a value on what they brought to the table, it'd be hard to say, but maybe they were overpaid by ~30-50%. Again though, saying they didn't add _any_ value certainly wasn't the case for us.
First there is an inspection for the potential buyer, paid for by the buyer and thus owned by the potential buyer. This tells you if the house itself has problems like cracks and rot.
Second there is an appraisal to establish the home's value. Strangely, this person might not even enter the home. (they mostly look at sale prices of similar homes) To avoid corruption, the government randomly selects an appraiser. The appraisal is paid for by the potential buyer, then given to both the buyer and the intended loan provider.
Third, there is an actual survey. This measures the land and maps out the positions of buildings and fences and pavement and pools. I think the seller pays for this. I first heard of it as a buyer when I got a copy as I signed the final paperwork, which is pretty terrible actually.
If the sale is cancelled, the inspection and appraisal become worthless. The seller doesn't own them and isn't supposed to have a copy due to copyright. The next potential buyer will probably start with nothing.
In a perfect world, some wealthy doctor could just pick someone to invest in and do so, but in reality it's generally a network of 3-6 investors all putting a portion of they money into a deal, and the borrower has done this multiple times over the years as well. Coordinating that takes experience and contacts.
That being said when I sell, I definitely do not plan on using a realtor. As you said, it's super easy to sell online and I agree. I even found the house I bought without the realtor, we literally just said "we want to see this house." What she did provide was insight into the market, the area, she showed us comparable houses, explained the history of the builder, etc. This is where she brought value.
In selling a house, the only value they bring is customers. That usually (car sales, medical sales, etc.) is a percentage of sale type of transaction. So, to me it appears fair to give them a percentage. If you choose not to use them, you can!
Unfortunately, I believe in the state I am moving to I am required to pay for the buyers realtor (although I am not 100% sure). That's typically 6%, but technically, I don't have to sell to them. Sooooo I can negotiate and work with them to get say 3%.
Basically, the realtor provided a barrier between the builder and my wife who super loved the property. The realtor also had a relationship with the builder, so when I asked the builder to do X, I got a response super quick at 11:30 at night.
Don't underestimate the value of having connections. FYI my house appraised at like 10% higher than I purchased it, so we did get a deal.
This is literally the second most breathtakingly naive comment I've ever read on the internet.
If I am willing to pay Y for an item, regardless of who is involved in the transaction then it doesn't matter if a percentage is taken. i.e. if Y = Y x 0.97 + Y x 0.03, who cares? Now you might say I could have negotiated that 3% off, and I'd argue that's probably not true.
I seriously lowballed the builder on the sale, the only reason I think I got it was the relationship the builder had with the realtor. The builder has incentive to give a discount to a realtor, as he has 50 other houses he has to sell. She also has an incentive because the quicker she can get me to buy a house, the less she has to show, i.e. the more she makes per hour.
All of this isn't exactly explicit, but in my case, the realtor and I discussed this. It was actually quite refreshing and definitely worked in my benefit as I picked up my house for around 10%+ less than the people around me. The realtor was similarly happy because I only took around a day of her time, and the builder was happy because he was in serious need of cash flow.
You can't imagine a world where that was more important to him accepting your offer than the realtor bringing the offer to him?
> The realtor was similarly happy because I only took around a day of her time
So, for a single day you paid maybe 6-15k or so (guessing 200-500k house * 3%). Don't you think maybe that's a bit much?
Because you're the buyer, you pay for everything. You're the only one who brought money to the deal.
It was a bit of work getting everything right, but it was well worth it.
(Am an investor)
I don't know anything about the law so I hire a lawyer I trust. I don't know anything about buying a house so I hire a realtor I trust.
Heck, programming is literally done by schoolchildren for entertainment, myself included, yet people are quite happy to hire us because they understand the value of delegation.
To a first approximation, 0% of real estate people are trustworthy.
Doubly true in hot markets.
I used a realtor (with a discounted fee) for my first house. Now I'm buying the second by owner, because I know how the circus operates.
Hire a flat-rate agent/broker. They'll technically be your agent, but you do all the leg work.
I just sold a condo in Minneapolis using a flat fee company -- fantastic experience and will never use a realtor again, save for maybe if looking internationally in a very unfamiliar area perhaps.
If you want an industry ripe for disruption, consumer real estate is HUGE. Got a couple start ups in my area trying to do that.
A primarily digital brokerage would be (is) a huge improvement.
The price is 6% higher than the actual value, so that the buying and selling realtors get their cut.
But if you don't have a buying realtor, any offer you make it looks 3% higher to the seller, and you can recoup most or all of that.
You can hire a lawyer for exactly the same purpose. You will still need to hire inspectors, title companies regardless.
Last time I did a buy/sell we did a deal with the real estate broker where we paid her $1000 upfront (0.5%) to sell the house for a 3% commission vs 7%. The trick was we gave her 60 days to sell the house exclusively without going on MLS, and she would credit the $1000 after 60 days if it sold on MLS (which means she gets almost nothing).
And then if it didn't sell in 60 days, she would get almost nothing, and would also have to split almost nothing with the buyer's agent?
And she agreed to that?
This particular realtor focused on building a client base and having the shortest listing time. Her average time on market was 1.2 day.
The 60 day thing was a luxury for her. It's a metric hack that allows her to get more listings and be more selective. People make all sort of wacky deals to spike metrics.
We also ended up buying another of her listings, so she did well.
As long as you can decide not to sign it, it's a negotiation. Pretty shitty and one-sided negotiation, but still negotiation.
>It would not even be possible to ascertain the original authorship of most form contracts that cross my desk.
I highly doubt this statement is true if given Documents X, Y, Z et al are given stringent, professional forensic examination for remnants of markings. Maybe not every single one, sure, but enough in a Universe A of legal examination would, I firmly believe, uncover quite a bit more than meets the eye.
My point is that what you've noted is not an "IP-free zone" it's simply an un-tapped market for "fiscal compensation by way of derivative IP torts" - once the financial motivation is strong enough and there's evidence that can be garnered to show willful infringement...IP rights don't just go away because nobody is pursuing them.
If the Prenda Law fiasco can serve as a Gutter Dweller example of IP enforcement, this is a much more clear cut, deep pocketed scenario that should give every single law firm pause. As much as I'm entertained by cannibalistic feeding frenzy behavior, Law Firm Representing Law Firm(s) vs. Law Firm(s), would, no doubt, be a basic drain on an already over-burdened legal system.
TL, DR: Never underestimate the temptation for tort cases when there's a large pile of money at stake
Don't doubt it's possible, but might be a little trickier than you suspect. My old firm, as a matter of course, installed software on our laptops that stripped all sorts of metadata from outgoing documents. It was actually really annoying since "tracked changes" in MS Word got removed too.
Some large firms in fact do require associates to sign covenants. In particular English firms seem to do this a lot. I consider it to be unethical, as it is anti-competitive and runs contrary to the interests of clients, who should remain free to select the lawyer of their choice (even a disloyal employee of their previous law firm).
This is the same world of theory in which software is not subject to copyright...
I imagine these sorts of agreements prevent employees from developing something in the due course of their work, patenting it, then charging the company for the use of the work they were already paid for via salary. I.e., it's a simple protection against extortion.
On the other hand, it would be a headache if contracts were covered by copyright: If your competitor adds a clause to their contract, can you add the same clause if it's covered by copyright, or are you forever banned from adding this clause? Would someone file a patent on "Using contracts to limit the liability against customers", for example?
First, even if you are able to borrow functional language from a contract without infringing someone's copyright, that doesn't make it a good idea. Heroku's terms were written for them and their specific business risks, governing law, etc. Your own PaaS business may have different requirements. And copying wholesale probably is infringement.
Second, by "IP free zone," I'm talking about people's attitudes and behavior towards the materials they borrow from--that certainly doesn't express a legal conclusion about it or mean what they are doing is not infringement.
You may want to take a look at libraries that provide BLAST or Clustal/MSA Analysis capabilities, then tinker a bit. From my experience, wiring those tools to a separate visualization suite provides the best results.
Source: Not a representative of Intelligize, but I've used their product quite often at my firm.
I thought contract forms are automatically exempt from copyright.
Kudos to github for this, I'm impressed!
Needless to say, I decided against that job.
Looks cool (fighting the "infected mushroom", ha).
Otherwise, it of course depends on what they're doing. It might be really interesting work that you get the chance to work with a lot of other very brilliant people to build something amazing.
If that's not true, then no, I'd probably go and start just writing fun open-source stuff all the time.
One the one hand, they want capable people who go out of their way to achieve results + love their craft. Guess what, that often happens by working on side projects (whether ultimately commercial or not, is irrelevant).
As an employee the only concession I would personally be willing to make would be to not compete directly with the company you're employed at. And only if you're not employed at a company doing everything, i.e. a Google or a Microsoft.
I had other reasons to quit which had nothing to do with the job itself (I loved it), but that was a major one. I get paid more, per hour, from my businesses than any job I've had so far.
That's unusually awful for an employment agreement. Most employment agreements claim everything developed by the employee on company time and resources, and many claim everything developed while employed, but this is the first time I've ever heard of an employment agreement demanding all past work. Good call on just leaving; not worth even negotiating with a company that tries to pull a stunt like that.
Also, a bit of an aside. What's the game you released called? I get you probably intended to avoid the plug but I'm curious.
Edit: And of course, props to GitHub for this!
Yes, the job in question was in the gaming space, working on an unannounced virtual reality title.
This has been the only time a company has ever asked me to divest interest in my own company and/or IP before being hired. Granted, I have only recently begun looking for work, but I cannot imagine this being a common scenario.
Instead, I imagine these guys as sharks that do not have my best interests in mind; only their own.
As for my game, it's called Ethereal Legends, and is now available on Steam. To bring things back onto the topic of this thread, the code for my game is also available on GitHub!
Personally, if I don't agree with and and/or aren't willing to stand by it, I don't sign it. Of course for some less fortunate desperation means they have to compromise on such ideals.
there's just so many ways around it and I'd LOVE to get some case law made just to get some unknowns clarified. Like when I contribute to an already existing open source project on company's time/resource/IP-appropriation-regime, do they get to rewrite the Apache license because one contributor had signed a contract? when running this open source software that happens to generate a transferable token with a liquid secondary market with no proof of ownership, is that the company's?
would love some broke startup to spend time on that case
That depends very much on which jurisdiction you're in. You'd be crazy to assume, without taking proper legal advice, that retrospective assignment would not stand up as part of an explicit employment contract.
Like when I contribute to an already existing open source project on company's time/resource/IP-appropriation-regime
If you did that without your employer's permission, then probably both you personally and anyone redistributing the OSS project would be infringing the employer's copyright. If that upset your employer, you could expect to be fired and possibly sued, and anyone involved in redistributing the OSS project could expect a C&D from your former employer's lawyers pending removal of any infringing work you contributed.
Depending on the scale and sensitivity of whatever you contributed, a bad result could be that you are out of a job, bankrupt due to damages and legal costs, and known for being untrustworthy since any future employer who looks you up is going to find the lawsuit, while the OSS project is significantly inconvenienced and doesn't ultimately benefit from your contribution anyway.
and I do factor in the jurisdiction in my own personal assessments and everyone else should too
there are many circumstances where the consequences are completely opposite of what the contract says (or how their employer's actually operate, care about, or will ever find out about) and people's behavior will conform to those consequences
If it’s bad faith to sign off on a contract which contains clauses you do not intend to honour (because they are unenforceable) surely it’s equally bad faith (if not more so, given the power relationship) to keep unenforceable clauses in contracts purely in the hope or expectation that they will frighten uninformed employees into conforming with them?
or that my foresight and source of legal counsel is better and people may find value in that?
or I better hope my side project takes off right!
Do you really want to buy into a feudalistic legacy organizational model knowing that the odds of rising up in the pyramid are approximately zero? And they're going to downsize with no loyalty if needed to bump the stock price later on. Like a decapitated chicken the company will strut around a bit randomly canceling or creating projects so you have no control over your future other than maybe running away to another feudal manor and some have non-competes to try and enforce that kind of slavery. So they're worth nothing to you as an employer unless you want to LARP that you're a feudal peasant in 1300 and you're worth nothing to them as they'll fire you or steal from you in a blink of an eye if they can make a nickel off it.
Meanwhile a competitor smart enough to hire you as a consultant will crush them in the market purely for organizational superiority reasons. Companies that hire contractors are inherently more modern and superior and more likely to succeed.
The future, being unevenly distributed, some folks still think employment is alive, but one effect of post-industrialism or service economy or infinite benefit prices is employment is good and dead. In a dying business model, the employer needs employees a lot more than employees need the employer.
I am pretty happy with my employment. Paid vacation, paid sick days, reasonable hours and all that good stuff.
With 3 months notice and strong union protection (public sector) it already isn't.
I'd much rather work for a single excellent organisation where I know I'm doing good than many who can't hold on to good staff and need contractors.
Makes for happy and productive workers, and also benefits companies who don't have to worry about loosing their best worker without notice.
Means you're unlikely to get another job in the industry.
>bullying a leaver for all of 3 months to discourage other people
Would result in an easy case for constructive dismissal.
And then there probably is a way to shorten the notice period when both sides
agree (I extrapolate to Norway how in my country it works).
I get that it's apparently an employee protection but it does seem kind of ludicrous. What happens if you rage quit? Win the lottery?
Well, I'm a professional, so I finish my job...
I shouldn't be changing job more than once every 2 years, so 3 months is nothing. The notice period is often reduced for the first 6 months, or you can ask for that before signing your contract.
In reality a company has no real desire to keep a disgruntled employee longer than they have to, so you can burn bridges and leave earlier if force the issue. It's a pretty unprofessional thing to do though.
No, I wouldn't. I value stability and simplicity in my life, and I will gladly eschew higher pay for a more traditional lifestyle. I'm a conservative suburbanite with no ambition, and I'm proud of it.
On top of that, non-employer insurance is terrible. In some states, you actually cannot get a PPO unless you're on an employer's policy (I refuse to get an HMO for moral reasons), and large megacorps (we're talking Disney-sized corporations here) will package their own insurance and offer benefits that go above and beyond what you can get anywhere else.
> and the ability to work for multiple clients
That's a negative for me. I'm a strict 9-5er. I just want to show up at the office every weekday, put in my eight hours, then go home and relax. I actively do not want to run my own business or do anything that resembles negotiating with anyone. I'm not an entrepreneur or a risk-taker of any kind.
I had my own private PPO for a decade (geez!) at least, and the policy provisions were better than most employer policies I saw offered to me. Well, at least until the ACA came around and shook everything up a little.
I'm happy you're a happy 9-5er with zero business desire and that you are 100% risk averse. You are not the target of my comment.
Can you elaborate on this?
Medical gatekeeping is a violation of the fundamental human right to body autonomy.
Employment isn't so bad in those cases.
I've been a contractor as several points in my life and loved it mostly. It is sometimes stressful making sure everything is on track, but the freedom of not depending on any one client and the difference in income that allowed me to work less If I wanted was great.
I currently work as an employee and also like the benefits it provides and the people I work with. But, I also know that ultimately companies now days have very little loyalty so my mind never lets me think of being an employee as some absolute guarantee of stability.
So you broadly claim that "employment is dead" using big words like "feudal system" and how you can make so much more money contracting etc. etc. and then it turns out you are an employee after all? Seriously?
So, please don't put words in my mouth.
I'll take my impostor syndrome and constant medium-high anxiety thank you very much.
For whom you have to spend roughly 1/3 of your time on collection because companies don't get rich writing a lot of checks. If it fits your psyche, great. Not everyone is like you.
Generally higher income is not much higher either way, at least around here. Nobody wants to hire contractors for more than they have to pay full time employees.
You still get to pay your health insurance (typically covered by employer automatically here) and taxes.
If contract work is getting paid the same as FTE, then something is messed up. I literally charged double what I make right now as an FTE.
And yeah, I even called out the missing benefits, but that's something you pay for out of the income differential.
I've been a contract worker several times in my life. I'm currently a FTE and like the people I work for. Going contract is certainly not for everyone and is perhaps a panic inducing decision depending on your current situation.
That would have been wonderful!
And at some places, this lets you focus on larger problems that you'd never get solved working from contract to contract.
The big advantage is when you have strong rights and we're talking about long term illness. For example in Italy you can't be fired if you are truly sick for months: your employment will be retained, however you might not get paid, or not get paid fully.
Other advantages might be related to discrimination: for a young white male it might be easier to get a developer job, or for a seasoned white male might be easier to get a lead/manager role. It's the same with employment, but as a contractor, passing job interviews becomes a significant part of your job, as well as cultivating relationships.
I keep reading this here, but this doesn't square with the reality I see all around me (this may be specific to the USA). I've observed plenty of people getting fired, sometimes on short notice and for non-obvious reasons, often only known to the employer and employee. As someone who does not run a business, could someone explain to me the details about exactly what makes firing someone "difficult" for an employer?
Up to you to decide which path you want to take. Depends what you want from life.
Is there any stronger argument in opposition than "I got mine..." or "In a utopia..." ?
I have yet to see anyone comparing using the WORST case of EITHER of these scenarios - and I think I would argue that comparing worst cases, contract work fails harder, since the availability of non-contract employment (at least in the tech industry) is certainly easier to find than trying to self-market for high-ish prices as a contract worker with no prior experience to show for it and no current clients, especially since there seem to be SO many pitfalls for new contract workers to fall into that could hopelessly screw them over, at least in the short term.
Edit: To clarify my point:
Worst case non-contract: Shitty job, terrible company/management, average to below-average salary, and terrible (if any) benefits and healthcare.
Worst case contract: No clients to speak of, unable to get your business off the ground, still struggling with self marketing, and when you do find work (few and far between), you are underpaid because of a combination of unrealized self-worth and bullying clients who refuse to pay that amount.
In the case of "worst case", at least the non-contract worker is getting PAID.
I'd propose that above the very bottom of the barrel, contract work is slightly better because it is like speed dating and the odds of meeting the right client for you are higher than could be experienced in slower paced long term employment.
1: Technically, the policy is "ask your manager" but everyone knows what the answer is.
I didn't know the full extent before I started, but they threw more money at me than my wife and I have ever made combined, so I probably would have still taken it if I had known. Plus, I'm in NYC now.
I see no conclusive evidence in the parent comment that proves it's Google. I would've actually guessed Apple.
My understanding is that Google actually has a reasonable process for this, and that people have taken advantage of it to start or contribute to projects in a personal capacity.
They do approve side projects in rarer cases where it has nothing to do with Google's business - for example, my friend recently wrote an app for sex positions. But most things that I want to work on have a messaging / ML / AR component to them somewhere so I haven't felt comfortable building anything while I've been employed there. Hence the main reason I'm leaving Google at the end of the month, to build those things :)
Sometimes I get the feeling that even my own country (Portugal), with all its issues regarding work conditions, still appears to be in better shape.
I am no lawyer, but I don't expect that under EU work law anything done outside work can be forbidden in the work contract, in any member country.
The only issue I see from law point of view, is if whatever is being done, in terms of private projects, is related to knowledge acquired during the work activities, sometimes under NDA. Here yes, there can be issues.
Now if the projects are done in technology stacks or business domains completely different from what happens at work, then it isn't enforceable.
However I am no lawyer.
That's the real reason things are pretty messed up all around protecting IP.
As we've survived without funding so far, we're thinking of relaxing this as well. Kudos to GitHub's investors for staying away from this nonsense.
But turning down such people in favor of those who respect your IP is always the better investment down the line.
The reality is that the US is a very generous place if you have money, so if you are a software engineer you can have a luxurous life in comparison to what one would get in EU. The situation is opposite for lower paying jobs.
You could have a much bigger houses as well. If you move to munich or berlin(even though the latter is one of the cheapest cities in europe) a house is really expensive in comparison to what you can get in a city like Austin, Denver, even Seattle if you commute a bit.
Also in the UK taxation of employee shares is a lot saner plus GCT is a lot lower and you get a 16k Pa allowance for CGT
Biased metric. The US makes it hard for people to leave.
I have been working on mplyees.com, a site where employees can share what needs to change publicly and anonymously. Hopefully we can bridge this divide since employee happiness is key to a successful business.
Well, I went in and picked up the documents, and told them I needed to read them before signing and returning them to the company. I looked at the IP clause, and it said the company owned anything and everything I created or invented while an employee, in any field of endeavor.
I called the founder to renegotiate.
"What if," I posited, "I write a blog post. The way I read this, the company owns the copyright on my blog post."
> We'd never exercise that right. But we reserve the right.
> Now that you mention it, I'm not sure I want to employ
> someone who uses their creative energy for anything except
> the company's business.
My next call was to a realtor, I put my house up for sale. There was no way I wanted to be in a position where I would feel like I had no choice but to accept an offer like this.
I went through some hard times, but as it turned out, that blog that I did end up writing on-and-off over the years turned out to be valuable. Not directly in money, but in satisfaction. It lead to some work, but even more importantly, it led to communities like Hacker News and meeting programmers around the world.
If I'd agreed to that contract, there might not be a "raganwald" today.
Wow. That statement alone tells you everything you need to know about that person and what kind of manager they are. The fact that it was the founder is just...wow. Since it was the founder, if I was in your shoes I would have asked this fool if they took that same approach when they ever worked for someone else - that they never did a single thing that was creative outside of work. Yeah, we know the answer.
Also - "We'd never exercise that right. But we reserve the right." Don't believe that for a minute. My father once worked for a fortune 500 financial company (but he was an IT person) and his hobby was music. He self-produced an album. A little while later they let a bunch of people go who were all 40+. He declined their package so that he could sue them for what was clearly age discrimination. That company then tried to claim that everything he did in his free time was owned by the company and they counter-sued him for royalties related to album sales and public performances. Keep in mind his contract did not include any of the draconian language like what you turned down. The only thing it said was that he was an "on-call" employee who needed to make sure he was available on short notice for systems-related emergencies. So they used that to say that because he was "on-call" they therefore owned every single second of his existence.
You can't make this shit up.
In the past people would coerce you into doing things by surrounding themselves with big strong men. All that's changed is the now they surround themselves with suits and it's supposedly legal.
Cool, so I get all those years of back pay with OT. Feel free to deduct the $10k royalties from the hundreds of thousands you owe me. Every time I thought about music, wrote music, played or practiced music, I was on the clock the entire time. Thanks!
"We are kinda indifferent. If you piss us off, we will look for ways to make you miserable. If you leave and start a competitive company or even a half-competitive company, we will use this contract to bring you to tears. BUT, if you don’t piss us off, and serve us loyally, we’ll look the other way when your iPhone app starts making $40,000 a month."
FYI - my father's situation happened about 20 years ago in the late 90's.
I am now very sad.
"be careful before taking legal advice from the Internet." - Indeed, Joel. Indeed.
I will point a couple:
- He says that contractors "by default" own the IP of the work they do for their employers. This is actually exactly the opposite: "work for hire" means that the employer owns the IP by default: http://contently.net/2013/07/09/find-work/work-made-for-hire...
- He glosses over / minimizes the fact that most of these "invention assignment" clauses are doomed in a court of law more often than not (even ignoring the states that outright prohibit them) if they do not fall within the scope of employment (sorry, I don't have a reference here, but I have heard of many such cases being thrown out in court)
As a business owner, he comes across as having a very clear agenda which is at odds with the reality of the law and the actual outcomes of these cases in court.
A “work made for hire” is—
(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.
I think I was probably misremembering my experience as a software contractor, in that I don't think I ever signed a single contract that did not include the "work for hire" stipulation.
Ironically, it seems far from clear that "work for hire" even applies to software: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=59a4a8c4-c446-...
Exactly, which is why his post is totally self-serving propaganda.
Though he tries to present the post as "here's a totally objective explanation of how side projects interplay with employment law", ultimately his point comes down to Business owners have all these complicated issues to deal with, so just accept the fact that they're going to screw you over, while they make millions of dollars
There's no credibility given to the fact that companies have choices here and there are other options that don't screw over the employees - those options are too hard, and they might introduce legal risk to the company, or (!gasp!) scare away investors.
It's just accepted as given that business owners must do whatever it takes to protect their company's interests and employees should shut up and deal with it. Employees carry the legal and financial risk because it would be inconvenient for the company to do so.
The company is simply acting in its own self-interest and it's not actually trying to screw you (probably), that's just an irrelevant side-effect that they might take advantage of in the future when they do want to screw you.
Now that know that you understand that, you're totally cool with it right? It's just business.
I don't think Joel is intentionally trying to be manipulative. I think he honestly believes all of that. As a business owner he's dealing with all those issues and he thinks he's making appropriate choices and has no particular intention to screw over his employees. The purpose of the post is so that everyone can see that he, and business owners like him, are not a bad guys - they're just acting rationally and you only thought you were getting a bad deal because you didn't understand the choices they're making.
"What are you doing sitting there just cruising the web, Ms Contractor" > "Oh, I'm just waiting for this quarter's invention to pop into my head. Thanks for the payslip!"
Now extend that same concept to programming: I make games and digital interactive art in my spare time too. Should I really be forced to give it to my company where they will promptly throw it in the garbage? Or should I be allowed to make it and share it with the world independent of my corporate life?
Eh, I can see it. Any company where potential new hires directly negotiate with the founder is one where the founder is waaaaaaay too hands-on for comfort. A founder who's that involved in the day-to-day is likely to be exploitative.
I don't think I'll ever understand that attitude. If you're a founder, the business just may be the work of your life. To expect the same level of dedication and obsession from your employees is utterly obscene.
If you're lucky enough to find someone who genuinely feels that way, great. But to expect or even demand it should never be the case.
Long hours is not the same as owning me.
Because that would go against "using any and all your creative energy towards the business of the company"
There's nothing wrong with people who don't like Star Trek, but they're not going to have a very good time at the convention.
Just minutes ago, I pushed "Send" on a resignation letter from a company that after 6 months of UX dev & design asked me to sign a similarly overly broad IP agreement. I'd been struggling with the decision, toes on the edge of the proverbial diving board for days. Reading your story gave me an extra boost and reminded me I'm making the right choice.
Here's to tipping that first domino...
What a thuggish company, with such a feudal view of its workers! Hopefully most companies understand that they don't own their employees outright.
Dumb but not thuggish. In fact the view that it is thuggish is feudal, since it implies that the employers are lords handing out favors and punishments to their subjects below, and thus have a duty to be fair and compassionate about it. But the employer is really an equal at the negotiating table. Some people argue that capitalism can be coercive in the relevant way (a point I have no wish to argue for or against here), but it's demonstrably not true in this instance, since Braithwaite was able to walk away from a crummy deal. No doubt the employer was worse off for it. That's how it's supposed to work.
* At hire time provide a list of "my ip" and "ip from previous employer that may be controversial here"
* At personal project start time, get a document signed from management saying "this is not related to $employer, and does not count as related work"
* At exit time (particularly when there is post employment IP or non-compete) get a document agreeing that "this IP was from the employee to the company, this was not.
It sounds like a bureaucratic mess, but it's like 10 minutes of hassle here and there, and saves a bunch of issue, even in the future if say, the company gets bought out and the new owner has different views.
The actions described by the GP are not the culmination of deep legal rumination on the topic.
> "Fine, a standard salary is based on an assumption of working ~40 hours per week. You want me to work 168 hours per week. That, with factoring in opportunity cost, means my salary demand for that scenario is $6,000,000.00 / year. Sign here."
For me, that's the biggest takeaway from your story. When you're in a situation where you need money NOW, employers and creditors have all the power and can make your life hell with impunity. Most of us don't have F U money, but everyone should have a 3-6 month emergency fund and live comfortably within their means. It makes decisions like this one a lot easier. You can't put a price on having options.
But remember... I may have pointed the way, but you walked your path :-)
I don't stop thinking about work when I'm at home or it's after 5pm. If the solution for a bug comes to my mind in the middle of the night I'm not going to sell it back to the company because I own it. Like it or not, the kind of job we do is like that. I think the key is to ensure that your compensation is adequate for this expectation. Similar IP clauses are part of standard contracts for almost every company in almost any geography. In some ways they protect you as well because they help ensure your coworker doesn't steal company secrets. Companies going after employees for random side projects or blogs is almost unheard of (I've never heard of it) even though pretty much every employee signs similar contracts.
A standard contract probably also says something about it being subject to change and about needing to follow other company policies. So even if there was no explicit IP clause it could be hidden in some company policy.
EDIT: I doubt the hiring manager meant that you can't play the guitar or engage in any other creative activity in general. But OTOH I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an employee not to engage in activities that would negatively impact his job performance. E.g. not to hold two full time dev positions concurrently in two companies and similarly not to have a full time, or something approaching full time, side project. If you burn out because you're trying to work on a side project while having a "full time" dev job that's really not playing by the spirit of the employment contract.
I worked for a company for six months before we decided to renegotiate our contract. Thinking back on it, they offered me a few days of extra PTO but like any good business, they used it as an opportunity to sneak a few of these IP clauses in. (and a few other clauses).
It literally said what you're saying: anything that the employee creates or invents, in any field (competing or not) and at any time belongs to the company.
I had a hard discussion with my employer about this clause. It was one of my first jobs so I was pretty frightened. I also had a pretty awesome blog and some open source work. One of my open source projects was a Wordpress theme boilerplate (I was at a WP shop). I worked on it for weeks, trying to get it right, trying to use it to quickly generate new themes. I worked on it in my spare time, never during work. And I worked on it on my own equipment.
I was really proud of it (and still use it today) and got a lot of great feedback on it in the community.
So imagine having that discussion and knowing there is already something that they could claim their rights to.
I asked my boss directly about my theme.
> You used your experience from your job. We SHOULD own the rights to it and use it. What if we wanted to sell it and make a business out of selling Wordpress themes based on that boilerplate? We have a right to that theme.
> We reserve the right but we would most likely not exercise unless it would really benefit the company.
> Yes, that does fall under the IP clause but why would we want your sci-fi book?
> You should not be devoting any energy to anyone else. If you're working, you should be working on our projects. You're wasting mental energy on other work. If you can work extra hours freelancing, you can surely work extra hours for this job.
> It's industry standard. Do you think Google lets their employees keep IP to the things they make? Of course not, that would bankrupt them. And Facebook? Or any other tech companies?
> You may not work for any possible competitor that may reach any field that we have ventured into or may venture into within a 40 mile radius of the company. This includes tech, marketing, sales, etc. for the next two years.
> Well, it's a pretty big city! And anyways, it's industry standard. You'll find the same clause at Google.
I resulted in signing the contract - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13929845 - and I was unhappy right from the start.
"Then you'll get employees who don't have very much of it."
As long as you don't compete using their code, everything is fair game.
Such bullying lawsuits would irreversibly damage the credibility of you and your organization.
Many of the replies to your comment are rude and go against HN rules, not to mention UNFAIR to the founder and company. It's a free world, if the founder sets a price you believe too high, you can politely turn it down, just like any other high-priced product. You can even state you think it's a bad deal, even terrible. The founder, or anyone selling a high-priced item, does not automatically become "evil". I'm sure the founder is a polite person. Maybe he's afraid of you running away with secrets? Whether he has a reason or not, that's his prerogative.
Please don't resort to this:
-"What a thuggish company"
Very upsetting. A comment that mentioned "It's not thuggish" was down-voted.