"is that California makes it so easy to betray, cheat, and steal. The state’s founding commercial laws generally prohibit companies from constraining their employees with “non-compete clauses.” As a result, for most of the state’s history, workers could jump from company to company, carrying secrets in their heads,"
Is the author really so obtuse not to realize there's a difference between "changing employers and using your knowledge at the new employer" and "changing employers and bringing a treasure trove of confidential documents with you"?
If the author wanted to report the facts, the headline would be about the court verdict and the nature of the documents stolen, not the author pontificating about Big Evil Tech.
What's happened here is you saw an article you didn't agree with and invented a completely fictional scenario to justify dismissing it. You're also fundamentally confused about the medium.
This seems to be part and parcel with the mindset endemic to HN where any coverage of any issue that doesn't 100% agree with the commentator's preconceptions is assumed to be Wrong and the author either malicious or incompetent.
It's disturbing to see people whose job it is to inform instead playing games with judging based on tortured analogies. That's what one expects from a freshmen in a mandatory English or philosophy course, not a national publication's longdorm writer.
Articles like this are part of a tendency among some people to think that by taking a contrary position they are somehow more insightful.
It's worth noting that Levandowski did not steal secrets and give them to a struggling startups - which is still wrong, but a lot more sympathetic.
He stole from one goliath and gave to another goliath - this behavior does not stimulate innovation.
(FWIW, I agree equating the two is ridiculous.)
Having the actual documents makes a huge practical difference. In the absence of the documents, the employee's new company basically has to re-do the research under the employee's guidance.
Some will disagree because there exist people who can memorize everything.
Or you are saying that a person can't create a plan to be followed by people below him?
It would be a life's work for anyone to memorize 600kb text only file.
He wouldn't have been okay. In most states, trade secrets don't have to be contained in a document or other recording. If you memorize the formula to Coca-Cola, it is still a trade secret. The dividing line between skill/experience/general-knowledge and a trade secret is fuzzy.
Though, its a lot harder to win a trade secret case when the alleged trade secret is only in the mind of the defendant because it's harder to show that you misappropriated it.
Somebody will inevitably reply that I'm wrong, and then I'll still travel slightly over the speed limit with no consequences for ~5 hours today.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright-line_rule for a starting place to learn more about this.
The discretion police use is a huge gray area that is often problematic, but probably less problematic than not having a gray area.
The distinction between moving a person's experience from one company to another, and a trove of documents has already been discussed here.
But the second thing is that's not the indictment that could be stifling innovation, it's the laws that forbid it.
If you think trade secrets stifle innovation, blame that laws, not the prosecutor how does his job, or the company that tries to apply existing laws.
He's missing the whole thing about the documents. If Levandowski steals the schematics the new companies circuit boards might look near identical. If he uses his knowledge at the new company to design new circuit boards they won't look near identical and be at risk of copyright infringement cause inevitably he'd change things & improve things cause that's the way people work.
Same thing with code.. if you copy & paste the code from your old employer into your new one's codebase that will look very different than if you design & write a new implementation to do something similar.
It doesn't necessarily sound like Levandowski did any of this kind of work himself though. It sounds more like he walked out the door with a pile of documents explaining the designs of people who worked for him.
It also remains to be seen how much real actual innovation Levandowski should be credited with, beyond his clear skill at talking people out of huge sums of money. It’s far from clear how disincentivizing this type of behavior will cause any problems.
Like is the premise here that there will be a causal relationship between this indictment and the progress of technology?
Lightly paraphrasing Matt Levine in Money Stuff (which I plug any chance I get), "Google is a big rich company with lots of lawyers to enforce its legal rights in civil courts: and it did so, and got a significant settlement out of Uber. It makes me a little nervous to think that big tech companies can also use the prison system to keep their engineers from competing with them."
It just strikes people as wrong and kind of scary for it to be criminal and not civil. When things are stolen from ordinary people, and the police don't stumble across the act in progress, they are pretty blase. They don't say "oh, you have a dispute with someone? Well, we'll arrest them and put them in jail for a million years". You deal with it through insurance, and/or lawsuits, don't you? Because as a citizen, the police don't work for you.
It feeds into the anti-corporate feelings these days in a visceral way, so one may ask "how did we get here, and what purpose does it serve?"
There are benefits and drawbacks to both systems but society innovated for thousands of years before there was IP law to guide us.