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I wonder what the general opinion is on legal protection (such signing a contractor agreement) when working with someone in another country. I figure it must be hard to enforce, and you'd mainly be working based on trust. But, it seems like having some sort of legal agreement in place, regardless of how difficult it would be to enforce, would be prudent.

Anyone have experience with this?

Hey, I've been doing some gigs in oDesk and when you're working on an hourly billed project it's quite safe. They have a piece of software you install that randomly takes print screens while you're working, and makes sure you're active by measuring keystrokes and mouse clicks. You also do daily reports and so the guy who is paying you basically knows everything that is going on. If things eventually don't check out they can appeal on the payments based on the activity and end result, but I have no experience with that.

To me that environment sounds awful. If getting up to think hard about what I'm developing would tend to get me dismissed from an oDesk project, they're implicitly selecting for willingness to just sit and type relentlessly even when that's not in the best interest of the project. It might be appropriate for data entry, but creative work with complex requirements is not well served by a WPM metric.

You are not paid based on these metrics, they are there so that the employer can have an idea of what's happening. I'm sure everyone will be very pleased when you deliver a project update on time even if you record 0 key strokes.

I have had experience in this, and you're right about how difficult it is to enforce but in my experience merely having a document to reference and threaten with legal action is enough to scare most fear away. Just don't lean on your agreement, lean on your payment. Begin with simple tasks, and the most you would be out is $20-$30 and if you begin to show the outsourced developer that you will be bringing them constant work then you will be a god-send. Do not start a project and wait until the end to point out that something is going wrong with timing/code/payment/etc.

ODesk has some default protections, but I think it's safest to execute an additional contract for a development job. IANAL but my own approach is to at least include explicit terms in the contract. I don't believe oDesk's default terms cover as much on IP protection as a contract like this. For example, depending how hands-on you are, you might need to specify the contractor needs to get your permission to use any GPL or similar licenses.

I forked a consultancy agreement on Docracy [1] recently to specify any notices take place over oDesk, then requested the contractor agree to it via oDesk's messaging system.


I have developed for foreign companies both with and without a contract. I can see no way either me or those companies would have pursued the agreement legally. Maybe because the companies were in fact startups.

However, I prefer to work under the terms of an agreement, mainly because the employer shows interest in taking the time to formally define his expectations and attitude toward developers.

I'm in a similar position, but have never worked without some kind of contract. Even if it's not binding, it describes what people expect and so gives guidance on what to do. I've never broken a contract and never had one broken.

The one thing that has worried me is being asked, after signing a contract with a company in at "at will" state, to agree to a "gentleman's agreement" to give a month's notice. If that's what they wanted, why didn't they put it in writing?

More usefully, for the OP, if you're a foreign contractor by far the biggest hurdle is trust. For finding a job and for making that job work. Anyone with an established reputation / identity is going to care - likely more than you - that things work out. On the other hand, I guess, people like that also don't have the kind of cost difference you might be hoping for...

If you go via oDesk, each contract automatically incudes an NDA agreement.

What kind of protection are you talking about?

The typical things, IP protection, confidentiality, code ownership rights, payment terms.

Do you use oDesk for all your development work? The "timeclock" feature they have seems valuable. Is it worthwhile enough to bring an outside developer, one you haven't worked with before, into oDesk to work together?

Probably not. I think it depends on where you find the developer from. If it is a recommendation from someone, you might not need to get yourself protected via oDesk.

I think it really depends on how comfortable you are with taking this kind of risk, and how much effort/money you want to put into mitigating them.

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