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Apple Claims Ownership of Shareware 759

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the we-takes-it-now-we-does dept.
(54)T-Dub writes "Cricket Media recently released 'Netflix Fanatic', an OSX based shareware app that lets you manage your rental queue without logging on to Netflix. An article on Think Secret reveals the reason behind it's mysterious disappearance. Apparently the developer's employer, Apple, has claimed ownership over the application's name and source code. The developer claims that under Section 2870 of the California Labor Code this is illegal. The law states that if a company has an employment agreement with provisions saying employees must assign the rights of their inventions to their employer, those sections do not apply if the employee developed it on his or her own time, without using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information. Within Apple, there's unsubstantiated speculation that Apple wants to include the Netflix Fanatic code in a new version of Sherlock." Also, they're presumably not too worried with employee morale.
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Apple Claims Ownership of Shareware

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  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:52AM (#7501753)
    Just buy the program off the guy and everybody's happy! They have to know that getting involved in something like this is only going to hurt their reputation! Lest we forget SCO...

    Besides, I don't think they said "Please?"

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:55AM (#7501786)
      Why should they buy the program if they have legal grounds to believe they already own it?
      • by MisterFancypants (615129) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:19AM (#7502004)
        Why should they buy the program if they have legal grounds to believe they already own it?

        Employee morale?

        Not looking like assholes in public?

        An action like this can easily undo millions of dollars spent on public relations, especially when their whole company message is about being "different" and not the faceless, corportate company so many other computer businesses have become...so in the end doing this may cost them much more than just buying the code off the employee would have.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:36AM (#7502169)
          Ok so if I understand what you said, employees should take advantage of the good "public karma" of their employer to extort money from them through something the employer should have legal rights to? In other words, abuse of those who behave well and don't of those who are assholes ... why the hell do you think there are more and more people turning into assholes everyday?!?

          Anyway, if the guy really developed the code at his house, on personal time and this project isn't competing againt business opportunities of his employer, he should have legal right to the code. If the case is not as clear-cut, Apple has every right to do what it can to gain legal right on what might be theirs.
          • by jafiwam (310805) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:18PM (#7502529) Homepage Journal
            Let's say instead of a shareware app (which sounds pretty useful to me) the guy wrote a destructive email worm that only works on Mac platorms. He writes this on his own time on his own equipment in another country, then releases it to tear up a bunch of marketing companies (who have a high saturation of Mac platforms).

            He "owns" that code (and maybe some computers too).

            Did he commit the crime? Or did Apple Corp. commit the crime? After all, they own his ass and everything he does or creates, they have the right to financially exploit his artwork, code, writings or anything else. That means he should not get in trouble and Apple Corp. should.

            Sorry, but no company owns anything not directly related to the job without prior written contractual agreement (and additional financial compenstation). Anything less is slavery, and as my example above should prove it's also obsurd.

            Apple is a big company, so I suppose they have their fair share of clueless lawyers and PHBs so moronic attempts to trample on people's individual rights can be expected.

            That doesn't mean they are any less a bunch of assholes for the attempt though. The assholes.
          • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @01:10PM (#7503004) Journal
            Anyway, if the guy really developed the code at his house, on personal time and this project isn't competing againt business opportunities of his employer, he should have legal right to the code. If the case is not as clear-cut, Apple has every right to do what it can to gain legal right on what might be theirs.

            And if you read the law BEYOND the part that was quoted, you'll see that the mandatory exclusion of transfer of rights DOESN'T cover this situation.

            2870. (a) Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that an employee shall assign, or offer to assign, any of his or her rights in an invention to his or her employer shall not apply to an invention that the employee developed entirely on his or her own time without using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information except for those inventions that either:


            1.Relate at the time of conception or reduction to practice of the invention to the employer's business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer; or

            2.Result from any work performed by the employee for the employer.


            This work would appear to "relate at the time [...] to the employer's business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer". Apple does consumer multi-media software apps for their own platform. An app to "manage rented media queues" would seem to most reasonable people to be clearly "related" to that business.

            The inventor can protest all he wants that it was done on his own time with his own tools and it doesn't matter. Unless he can convince a judge or jury otherwise, 2870. (a) 1 says that 2870. (a) doesn't apply. So his contract to assign his inventions to Apple is valid.

            Apple's view is that they already PAID him for this program. If they let him give it away when they could be selling it (or sitting on it for their own business reasons), they're not just letting him take something that they paid him for. They're also jepoardizing their ownership of EVERYTHING ELSE they paid their employees to do. So why are they paying all these people all this money?

            Sounds to me like the situation is this:

            1) Guy builds a neat software app and, misunderstanding the situation or thinking that Apple is not interested, thinks it's allright to release and/or sell it on his own.

            2) Apple says "Wait a minute! We paid you to give stuff like that to US!"

            3) Guy says "Oops! You're right!" and pulls the app.

            4) Media finds this out and mentions it.

            5) Slashdot reader doesn't recognize that the exception in 2870 (a) 1 applies, so he thinks that it's an assault on open source and composes a post saying so.

            6) Slashdot editor posts the new item essentially verbatim.

            and the flap is on.

            2870. is the engine of California's hi-tek booms. By letting inventors keep and develop inventions that are outside their employers' interests and non-competing, it promotes an explosion of inventiveness and startups. But it falls short of giving workers the right to develop potentially competing works that their employer didn't explicitly assign them to create or doesn't wish to pursue at the moment, and didn't give them PERMISSION to take back. Some would even argue that this is deliberate, a necesary provision to avoid killing the succeeding generations of geese just as they start laying the golden eggs.

            So let's not misconstrue the law. If the developer decides to press his claim and can show in court that the exception applies, it's his. If he doesn't or can't, it's Apple's. And if you don't like it, get the law changed.
            • Not so fast... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:43PM (#7503909)
              Apple's view is that they already PAID him for this program.

              So let's ask some simple questions.

              1. Would they have paid him the same if he hadn't have written it?
              2. Would they have paid someone else to write it instead?

              If Apple can't demonstrate either of these things, it's hard to argue that they already paid him for the work, in which case the guy appears to have a legitimate grievance.

              Legally speaking, the phrase "the employer's business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer" seems to place the burden of proof firmly on Apple: they have to show that they were doing, or definitely going to do, something along the same lines.

              At this point, it's up to the legal system to interpret the relevant law given the specifics of the case. Of course, whether one man can hope to fight a legion of Apple lawyers within the current legal climate of the US is a different question, but the theory is sound.

            • by LionMage (318500) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @05:35PM (#7505610) Homepage
              Apple says "Wait a minute! We paid you to give stuff like that to US!"

              Guy says "Oops! You're right!" and pulls the app.

              Except that I spoke to the shareware author for this app back when this started weeks ago (before Slashdot picked this up, before the Netflix Fanatic website got recently altered to omit mention of the specific laws), and the author never said, "Oops! You're right!" He pulled the application pending negotiations with his employer's legal department. At the time, I had no idea this guy was working for Apple.

              Paraphrasing from the private e-mail that Cricket (the shareware app's author) gave me, he said his employer was making their claims based on 2870 (a) 1, but that this was a sham, and they had no interest other than in putting the application on a shelf and never doing anything with it. Therefore, they're in the wrong. Since the author can't afford to fight this for several reasons, justice will not prevail.
          • Well, as I have said for years (and to deaf ears in the community), Apple is just as bad as any other major corporation in the software business.

            Let's do an experiment!

            Substitute Apple with Microsoft and we'll see how many people would be screaming then!. Just because the company is called Apple and is viewed as something like a saint in the community, people go out on a limb to make up excuses for them. Wake up! Just because theire boxes are considered sexy, doesn't make them A-OK. I will never ever ow
      • by The_K4 (627653) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:35AM (#7502142)
        For the same reason that many companies give stock options.....to encourage employees to be more innovative! If you are a good programmer (for Mac OSX) and you have a great idea for software....would you be more likely to write it if you know that Apple might give you a 10 - 20 K bonus for it, and then include it on EVERY copy of their new OS?!?
      • RTFA (including the linked part of the labor code), then get back to us when you have a sufficient amount of clue.
    • by scovetta (632629) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:00AM (#7501846) Homepage
      Apple: "We'll give you your old job back if you give us the program"

      Developer: "What do you mean?... oh.."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know why everyone is acting so surprised. Apple have a long and well known history of stealing. They stole the Apple II from Steve Wozniak. They stole the GUI from Bill Gates when he was working as a copier repair man at Xerox (Still, he got the last laugh!) They stole the iMac from Maynards Wine Gums. They stole the "desklamp" Mac from Ikea. Everything they have ever done has been stolen. This is nothing, and any Apple employee should expect such behavour.
  • Shocking... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moehoward (668736) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:52AM (#7501756)
    Yet another slashdot story filled with rampant speculation and innuendo.

    So, let's all rant and rave for 500 messages. Then, in 3 days, the real story will come out and be the complete opposite. And it won't ever be mentioned again on slashdot.

    Knee-jerk-pot-smoking hippies! The whole bunch of you!
    • Yet another slashdot story filled with rampant speculation and innuendo.

      So, let's all rant and rave for 500 messages. Then, in 3 days, the real story will come out and be the complete opposite. And it won't ever be mentioned again on slashdot.


      Hurry, we only have three days! Unless of course the article gets reposted, which should buy us at least one more day of ranting before the truth comes out.
    • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:24AM (#7502044)
      Knee-jerk-pot-smoking hippies! The whole bunch of you!

      Snotty-overpriced-hardware-buying-nouveau-art-deco -loving-yuppie scumbag. But hey, I can say that since I'm a Mac user too. :-)

  • A [...] shareware app that lets you manage your rental queue without logging on to Netflix

    Is it just me or does this really sound like "check your email without logging on to your mailserver" ?

    Me slightly confused.

  • Are they psychic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Oakey (311319) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:53AM (#7501765)
    How did Apple find out that one of their employer's had created this?

    Did he run around Apple HQ boasting about it? Seems a pretty dumb thing to do, these kinda of clauses (where employers maintain rights to your creations) seem pretty common.

    Why didn't he release it under an alias?
    • by Carmelia (718891)
      Why didn't he release it under an alias?

      For the same reason you don't post anonymous on slashdot
    • The idea behind shareware is that users will pay you for it. "if you like this program, leave an unmarked $10 bill under the garbage can by the northeast park entrance" isn't a viable business model.
    • Re:Are they psychic? (Score:4, Informative)

      by GeorgeH (5469) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:20AM (#7502010) Homepage Journal
      It's not dumb if you think that your employer will respect the law. Section 2870 (linked in the story) says that the clauses you mention don't cover creations made on your own time with your own equipment, which I assume that this guy did because he's claiming 2870. From the law:
      Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that an employee shall assign, or offer to assign, any of his or her rights in an invention to his or her employer shall not apply to an invention that the employee developed entirely on his or her own time without using the employer's equipment

      Why should he have to hide his identity if he's not doing anything wrong?
      • Re:Are they psychic? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gekko (45112) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:00PM (#7502365)
        As it has been pointed out there are exceptions to that clause.

        The rest of the clause is
        "
        and (a) which does not relate (1) to the business of the employer or (2) to the employer's actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development, or (b) which does not result from any work performed by the employee for the employer. Any provision which purports to apply to such an invention is to that extent against the public policy of this state and is to that extent, void and unenforceable."
    • Did he run around Apple HQ boasting about it? Seems a pretty dumb thing to do, these kinda of clauses (where employers maintain rights to your creations) seem pretty common.

      It's not dumb. What he does in his spare time is his, period. Why should he assume his employer will try to steal it?

      Why didn't he release it under an alias?

      Why should he? How is he going to get paid for it if he does?


      Do you think he should have been PLANNING on Apple trying to steal his work?
      • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:01PM (#7502379) Homepage Journal
        Do you think he should have been PLANNING on Apple trying to steal his work?

        Yes, he should have. He was naive. He probably won't make this mistake in the future.

        It's fairly common for companies to let employees develop things on their own time. If nothing comes of it, it's ignored. If the employee starts making money from it, the company claims it. Employees who object to this (perhaps by citing the law) are laid off.

        It's a win-win situation from the company's viewpoint. No-risk, no-cost software development, and if it works, the company gets the profit.

        Of course, treating employees this way is disastrous policy in the long run. It really kills morale, and usually loses you your most inventive employees. But how many American corporations are capable of looking past the current quarter's revenues?

        You folks really oughta learn more about how the world really works.

    • This is just a prime of the example of why you should read the fine print before you sign.
  • How long... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mopslik (688435) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:53AM (#7501769)

    ...until there are a flood of posters who mistakenly assume that the headline refers to Apple trying to claim ownership of the shareware concept? Perhaps "Apple Claims Ownership of Netflix" would have been better.

  • Other Laws? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:54AM (#7501785) Journal
    Does anyone know of any simular such laws outside of california?
    • Yes, Austrian copyright law, for example.
    • Re:Other Laws? (Score:2, Informative)

      Such laws are actually very common - certainly here in Britain. The hard part is to try and enforce them, I'm rather surprised Apple is doing so. In some industries it's also common to try and prevent temporary workers employed through agencies to take full time employment with the same company - the agencies often have ludicrous clauses that try and extract fees from both parties, no one ever pays them, of course.
    • Re:Other Laws? (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      in almost any western country there are limits to what of your rights you can sign off(to your employer, for example). these laws make additions like "all your ip ever belongs to employer" "you can't work in the same field for another company" pretty much unenforceable.

      slavery is illeagal, so are contracts that make you the equivalent of a slave.
    • Sweden rocks! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by k98sven (324383) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:28PM (#7502600) Journal
      As an employee at a swedish university, I appreciate the swedish laws on the subject:
      I own the copyright on everything, even the stuff I do at work.

      I even own the patent rights if I invent anything, even if I did it within a government funded university project.
      (If you receive private funding, you probably have a contractual agreement waiving some or all of your patent rights, though)

      How about that?
  • by jonatanw (667696) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:55AM (#7501789) Homepage
    Maybe Steve Jobs order a lot of DVD's online... He needs to streamline the ordering process.
  • by davidu (18) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:55AM (#7501794) Homepage Journal

    I hate to say it, but that's how it works. Companies do this all the time and I'm sure apple will make it right.

    Let's take the Stickies application written by Jens Alfke for example:

    For a while it looked as though Apple was going to get Antler Notes / Stickies at no cost -- wotta deal! As it happened, however, some of the nice people mentioned earlier in this story arranged for me to get a bonus, not officially in any way related to Stickies of course, but it made me feel better.

    You can read the whole story about how Jens wrote the stickies program as an Apple employee and had it claimed as Apple's while they made sure it was dealt with at the same time here [mooseyard.com].

    -davidu

    • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:06AM (#7501898) Homepage
      Companies do this all the time and I'm sure apple will make it right.

      Buying you flowers and candy after they've ravaged your ass, does not "make it right".

      If you or I so much as copy a song, it's a crime; if a large corporation claims to own your creation, it's buiness as usual. Welcome to modern corporate capitalism.

  • I, For One, (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tsali (594389) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:55AM (#7501795)
    ...Am shocked that a corporation would dare do such a thing.

    Now, what's the article about again?
  • the lesson... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:56AM (#7501798) Homepage

    I felt like I was being a little paranoid when I demanded that my last contract - which stated that my "full productive capacity" belonged to my employer - be modified to make it clear that work I did on my time was my own.

    Heh. I'll never silly about making such demands again.

    Read your contracts, folks. Point out absurdities ("all your thoughts are belong to us") and refuse to sign until they're fixed. If they say "well, we don't mean that..." - get it in writing.

    • Re:the lesson... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mirko (198274)
      In mine, they agreed to add : GPL'ed creations should remain as such.
    • Re:the lesson... (Score:2, Informative)

      by unborn (415272)
      Know your rights!:

      California Labor Code Section 2870:

      Employment agreements, assignment of rights:
      Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that an employee shall assign or offer to assign any of his or her rights in an invention to his or her employer shall NOT apply to an invention for which no equipment, supplies, facility or trade secret information of the employer was used and which was developed entierly on the employee's own time, and (a) which does not relate (1) to the business of th
      • Re:the lesson... (Score:3, Informative)

        by ahg (134088)
        While I don't agree with Apple's actions...

        Apple can claim that they have the right to usurp this guys program based on the exclusion clause in the Labor Code -- (see a1) "which does not relate to the business of the employer". As Apple has become the significant application developer for thier own platform, they could claim that any application that enhances the MacOS X platform relates to thier business.

        They could also make the more dubious claim that they anticipated developing such a program and t
      • Re:the lesson... (Score:3, Informative)

        by poofmeisterp (650750)
        1. It was created in relation to the business of the employer (Apple; providing music online from the iTunes music store).

        2. It does result from the work performed for the employer. Without knowledge of the system, the employee wouldn't have been able to craft the application.
  • by spankalee (598232) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:56AM (#7501812)

    This was discussed a while ago on MacSlash. The author directly wrote in apparently.

    Here's the link: Employer Grabs Netflix Fanatic Software From Creator [macslash.org]

  • by Marsala (4168) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:58AM (#7501830) Homepage
    And I'll say it again:

    Section 2870 does *NOT* protect you if you're a software developer. Check out sub section 1. It includes an exemption for the company if your invention relates at the time of conception .... to the employer's business.

    The company's case against you is pretty straighforward: "We're in the business of making and selling software. Your invention is software. Hand it over."

    And they don't even have to pat you on the head for writing it.

    I hope homeboy has more luck trying to exert his rights under the CLC than other people who've fallen for it have had. :(
    • by Gudlyf (544445) <gudlyf@rMENCKENealistek.com minus author> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:04AM (#7501873) Homepage Journal
      I believe there's a fine line between personal time and company time when you're a software developer, especially these days with so much telecommuting going on. Lots of dev's I know work from home, and their hours aren't necessarily in-sync with everyone else's -- some work from 2PM-1AM, some work sporadically throughout the day/night. So who defines "company time" when you're a telecommuter?
    • The company's case against you is pretty straighforward: "We're in the business of making and selling software. Your invention is software. Hand it over."

      Not only that, but the guy was "selling" the program. That sounds like a pretty direct conflict of interest to me.

      But then again, it does suck that a software employee can't make any outside $$ writing software. I would hate to think that if someone offered me $10K to develop a 100-line VB app over the weekend, that I would have to turn them down beca
  • That's Funny! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pegr (46683) * on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:59AM (#7501842) Homepage Journal
    You mean, Apple has pulled back software after it has been released to the Internet? That's rich! Did that work for the DeCSS code? Or the Adobe eBook decrypter?

    The one foolproof way of ensuring a particular bit of information is forever available on the net is to declare it illegal...

    Expect the source code to show up any minute now...
    • Re:That's Funny! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dr.badass (25287) *
      A better example would be Nullsoft WASTE (Released [slashdot.org], then pulled. [slashdot.org]).

      In that case, it was made clear that the author had written the software for his employers' internal use. It appeared that even though his contract didn't state "all your code are belong to us", that particular product was considered "Work For Hire" under copyright law, which means he didn't own the rights to it at all. The author had never heard of this forgettable part of copyright law, and quit in disgust.

      This, however, seems like a mo
  • Sherlock (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:00AM (#7501847)

    Sherlock never really impressed me- until I tried the latest version; they've included a fair bit of stuff, and at least at work and at home on cable, it's pretty zippy compared to getting the same info via the web. The dictionary search has been pretty handy.

    What amazes me is the near vacuum of useful sherlock modules- there's a website here or there that has maybe a dozen or two, of which only a few are actually interesting. There's a fedex module, but no UPS module.

    What is MUCH worse is the distribution model for sherlock modules- you don't actually get the module, you get a LINK to the module, and if that website goes down, the module essentially stops working after a while even if you've added it to Sherlock; it only caches them, doesn't download them(which is why it takes a while to access a module if you haven't used sherlock in a while). Stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID! Not only is it unreliable and a waste of bandwidth, but it has great exploit potential- breaking into one account and an author's module could deliver all sorts of goodies right to an attacker's doorstep, and nobody would be the wiser. Not to mention, maybe Fedex decides they don't like Joe Blo's module and DMCA him- everyone looses their Fedex module.

  • I have at least 5 GPL programs out there and I use a psudeoname to protect them from my employer.

    No I wont tell you which as that will create documentation so the thieves in corperate can STEAL them.

    everything I do at home and from 5:00pm to 8:00am is my fricking property, but corperations do not think that way so you have to take steps to protect yourself.

    Some writers also do this to keep their day-job employer from stealing their book.
    • Did you sign a contract that states that what you create belongs to your employer? If so, then they're not stealing, they're taking what rightfully belongs to them -- you're the one ripping them off.

      The assumption, when you work for a company, is that you will not be attempting to compete with the company you work for. It's like doing freelance consulting in your spare time when you work for a consulting company during the day. At the very least, it's shady.

      It seems like you don't want to contribute to th
      • The assumption, when you work for a company, is that you will not be attempting to compete with the company you work for.

        Non-compete is completely different from "all your ideas are belong to us".

        It seems like you don't want to contribute to the company you work for, you're just there for the paycheck. That's a really bad attitude.

        Uh, his employer tries to lay claim to work done in his off hours, and he's the one with the bad attitude?

  • by iapetus (24050) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:02AM (#7501858) Homepage

    From a legal point of view, that is. Section 2870 disallows claiming of rights over software written entirely in the employee's own time

    except for those inventions that either:
    • Relate at the time of conception or reduction to practice of the invention to the employer's business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer; or
    • Result from any work performed by the employee for the employer.
    Surely this is covered by the first of those provisions - and possibly the second, depending on what the guy's job at Apple is...
  • by stevew (4845) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:04AM (#7501876) Journal
    So the author of the code thinks that Apple is violating CA law. Did the author use ANY resources from Apple in developing the product? For instance - did Apple give him his home machine as part of his employment benefit? Where did the compiler come from? Did he have access or use internal Apple tools in developing the product?

    If the answer to any of these questions is yes - he would be liable to their claims. That's why you REALLY gotta go the extra mile in separating yourself from your employer. If you work for Apple - develop software for Windows as an example.

    I don't know if the guy is being screwed or if Apple is within their rights. I think Apple is being heavy handed - but I don't know all the facts either.
    • by Alan Partridge (516639) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:15AM (#7501974) Journal
      Apple develop software for Windows too.

      If this guy was designing racing cars as a profitable sideline, I think he'd probably have a case, but as he seems to be designing useful utilities for MacOSX, he's just putting in overtime as far as Apple is concerned. Apple should give him a bonus and then take the software as stipulated in their contract.

      People who don't read the small print are the bane of modern life.
      • People who don't read the small print are the bane of modern life.

        People who WRITE small print are the bane of modern life. People who are victimized by it are just lemmings going over the cliff.
  • If Apple's employees want to aviod usurping of personal projects, they can switch to KDE and give their time and contributions to that community. Then Apple's usurping won't happen, and if people actually do switch, it'll make apple thing twice before doing it again...

    Apple Exec1: "Every time we usurp a project, we send more people to help out KDE"
    Apple Exec2: "Maybe usurping projects is not a good idea?"

    Or maybe the employee was 'fairly' compensated?
  • by gergi (220700) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:06AM (#7501902)
    Anyone else click this article thinking Apple was claiming a patent on shareware? Maybe I've been reading /. too long. Maybe I'm still not used to the editors deliberately allowing sensational headlines.

  • by Alomex (148003)
    Read the Labor Code:

    Yes it does say that if a company has an employment agreement with provisions saying employees must assign the rights of their inventions to their employer, those sections do not apply if the employee developed it on his or her own time, without using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information except for those inventions that either:



    1. Relate at the time of conception or reduction to practice of the invention to the employer's business, or act
  • by eric76 (679787) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:07AM (#7501910)

    Evan Brown used to work for DSC Communications and ran into the same problem.

    Except in Evan's case, he had his idea before he ever went to work for DSC and until ordered by the judge, it remained an idea, not an invention. The judge ordered him to develop it for DSC without pay.

    Check out Evan's web site on the issue [unixguru.com]

  • Does this put Apple among Big Evil Inc. conglomerate or is this OK because it's Apple?
  • by NaugaHunter (639364) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:10AM (#7501943)
    While for obvious reasons Apple would have liked to keep this quiet, there's as little information to show they were wrong as there is to show that they were right. There's a fair chance he used Apple-given computers to develop this, or that he used 'trade secrets' or information he learned while working at Apple, and that the dispute amounted to them pointing this out and him saying 'What are you talking about?'

    Don't get me wrong - I hate the thought that what I work on on my own time would get claimed. But we really have no way of knowing for certain that the developer was on the right side of the law.
    • Yes, and the "employee" worked on the iTunes Music Store and several websites notice similar code between the online management cues of Neflix Fanatic and iTunes Music Store.

      This guy, had he released it as freeware or let someone else have it, would have been in the clear.
  • by amichalo (132545) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:11AM (#7501951)
    As I sit rewriting a contract with a vendor, I am reminded of the two purposes of contracts:

    (1) To clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of all parties. By putting these things in writting, you force yourself to really analyse just what it is you are agreeing to.

    (2) To establish a legally defensable position in court. Should the two parties have a disagreement about any of the conditions set forth in the contract, the contract is used to "remind" them of just what they agreed to.

    So for all those who say Apple should leave him alone or should buy it from him or whatever, they are considerably late to the party. If in fact the employment contract stated the rules clearly, (no company time or equipment) and he wilfully violated that agreement, then the options become:

    (1) Submit to Apple, or

    (2) Find a providion of the contract which Apple violated, allowing room for a counter suit, negotiation of a new contract, or possibly having the contract thrown out.

    IANAL
  • And so... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:21AM (#7502015) Homepage
    By reading this posting, you implicitly agree that all code you have written in the past, are writing now and in the future belongs to me. I would appreciate it if you just zipped up all your code and sent it along. Thanks.
  • by suso (153703) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:24AM (#7502039) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else find this funny since Apple basically got started because HP waivered their right to Woz's personal computer idea.
  • It's Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IM6100 (692796) <elben@mentar.org> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:29AM (#7502093)
    It's interesting how many people I see 'soft pedaling' this because it's Apple Computer doing it.

    If this was Microsoft doing this, there would already by 700 comments and the Slashdot site would be bogged down and unresponsive because of the fury.

    This is dangerous stuff, folks. If this is a precedent, then all the employers of people who have contributed to the Linux kernal, and to various GPL's and BSD licensed products can step forward and claim their chunk of code, too.

    It's dismaying that so many 'Apple Loyalists' have joined in on the Slashdot 'Anything Microsoft Does is Eeeevile but any other company is okay' choir. We don't need a 'new master, same as the old master' ascending to power, but some here seem to think it would be okay.
    • Re:It's Interesting. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by furiousgeorge (30912) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @01:44PM (#7503367)
      Funny - Microsoft doesn't do this.

      When I worked for them (1995-2000) the ownership of ideas was spelled out pretty clear in the terms of employment.

      If I came up with something completely on my own time and didn't use any company resources then it was MINE. Spelled out in black and white.

      I interviewed with Apple a year ago - they do cool stuff but the more I hear about it the less I think I'd want to work for them........
  • by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:32AM (#7502116) Homepage
    So that means Apple's bad today, right?

    I half expect to see a post praising Sony in a couple of hours--wait, no, Sony's only good on Tuesday afternoon in odd months. My error.
  • Shareware? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:34AM (#7502137)
    Why would anyone pay a shareware fee for a program to manage his Netflix queue? Is it so hard to just start a browser?

  • Overly Broad IP (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sunlighter (177996) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:35AM (#7502147)

    OverlyBroadIntellectualPropertyAgreements [c2.com] discusses exactly this sort of problem.

    The "Fine Arts Waiver" described on the page is definitely something I will not work without. With some companies it's just a matter of asking for it.

  • Ironic..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by wheresjim (412717) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:09PM (#7502451)
    Ironic that the initial formation of Apple was initially threatened because Woz was working for HP when he invented the Apple I! A supervisor at HP inspected the Apple I and deemed it insignificant enough as to not be a threat...
  • by Goth Biker Babe (311502) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:10PM (#7502463) Homepage Journal
    My employment contract says that everything I write either at work or at home technically belongs to my employer. I can understand that to some extent. While working at an employer you are learning. Can you guarantee that anything you write has not benefitted from knowledge gained while working for you current employer. So such clauses are covering this benefit.

    I don't know about the application in question but if there's the possibility it could not have been written by someone other than an employee of Apple even though the author did not use Apple tools or time then Apple does have some rights over it.

    It strikes me the guy should have checked his rights first. I discussed this when I joined my company and was told that provided I haven't written anything which is simliar to, or competes with, company products then I should still get approval for open source releases and the like but they would probably be let through on the nod.
    • by Wumpus (9548)
      My employment contract says that everything I write either at work or at home technically belongs to my employer.

      If you think it's fair, that's fine, but I was always careful not to sign contracts with this kind of clause in them. It prevents you from doing contracting work while employed, and makes any contributions you might make to open source projects legally questionable. You should ask youself whether the money you're paid is really enough to cover 24 hours/day of employment.

      I can understand that
    • by fishbowl (7759) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @01:38PM (#7503318)
      " Can you guarantee that anything you write has not benefitted from knowledge gained while working for you current employer. "

      No, and I can't guarantee anything I produce hasn't benefitted from knowledge gained anywhere.

      Does this mean my 3rd grade math teacher's name goes on my Ph.D. instead of mine?

  • by theolein (316044) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @06:48PM (#7506275) Journal
    I don't know whether the author is legally within his rights or not. Some claim he is, some claim he should have checked out his rights first.

    I also don't know whether Apple is within it's rights or not, but I do know that Apple could have had the decency (or simple common sense in avoiding a PR scandal) to pay him for the software.

    And that is what it boils down to really. Decency. I know all the yada yada yada Apple is in the business of making money yada yada and we're hard arsed bastards in this world yada yada, but decency goes a long way to ensuring good PR and employee loyalty and above all customer loyalty.

    Whether Steve Jobs knew of this or not, I can only say the following to him: Be careful, Mr Jobs. Losing the loyalty of your employees can lose you the loyalty of your customers, and that it the one thing that Apple has always had above the rest. Don't fuck it up, because in the end, I don't care. I'll drop this Mac and run Linux or Windows if I see no difference between the business practices.

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