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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?"

  • 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!
  • the lesson... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> 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.

  • by Carmelia (718891) <Carmelia_Z@yahoo.com> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @10:58AM (#7501828)
    Why didn't he release it under an alias?

    For the same reason you don't post anonymous on slashdot
  • 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...
  • 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.

  • by Horny Smurf (590916) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:02AM (#7501855) Journal
    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.
  • 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...
  • Re:I can't wait! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BJZQ8 (644168) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:03AM (#7501864) Homepage Journal
    I've always been amazed at how badly Apple treats everyone from their employees to their dealers. The dealers have been beaten bloody for years, but they keep on coming back. If that isn't zealotry, I don't know what is.
  • by Gudlyf (544445) <gudlyf@realis[ ].com ['tek' in gap]> 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?
  • 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 Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> 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.

  • because (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Transient0 (175617) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:07AM (#7501911) Homepage
    this isn't a story about apple so much as a story about employees rights to the fruits of their labor.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:12AM (#7501956) Homepage
    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 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.
  • by openSoar (89599) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:16AM (#7501988)
    according to the tidbits article linked off the authors' homepage, "Netflix Fanatic reads the cookie information from your Web browser, so you don't even need to configure it with login information" - i take this to mean that if there is a cookie there already, visiting the netflix page manually or programmatically via the app will take you to the "i'm logged in part of the site" - i'd like to think that if this cookie wasn't there or had expired, there is no way the app could manipulate your queue without re-logging in.
  • 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 theLOUDroom (556455) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:23AM (#7502027)
    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 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.
  • Re:Apple compote (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MooCows (718367) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:24AM (#7502040)
    Please, post about innovations, not about such idiocies, otherwise it doesn't matter.

    Yeah, that'll be much more objective than current /. postings.

    All sarcasm aside, this is not a story about Apple, this is a story about a company claiming ownership of an employee's work in his spare time.
    It doesn't matter if it's Apple or any other company.

    And the MS-bashing isn't that bad anymore, just look at the "Microsoft to Launch MSN Music Service in 2004" 2 topics down.
    What's bashing about that one?
    It's objective and plenty informative.

    Silly zealots.
  • 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.
  • 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?

  • 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?!?
  • by Nykon (304003) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:35AM (#7502153) Homepage
    to people like us, we see it as a violation of an employees right to own what he does on his own time. But to the other 90%, in a court case, it would appear the employee was trying to steal from Apple was was rightfully owned by Apple. I don't think a case like this will effect marketshare at all.
  • by yerricde (125198) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:36AM (#7502168) Homepage Journal

    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

    According to commonly used EULAs, wouldn't Mac OS X itself be considered "trade secret information of the employer"?

  • 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 Xformer (595973) <avalon73@caerleonYEATS.us minus poet> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:37AM (#7502173)
    RTFA (including the linked part of the labor code), then get back to us when you have a sufficient amount of clue.
  • by rot26 (240034) * on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:40AM (#7502195) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Re:Apple compote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by j-turkey (187775) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:41AM (#7502196) Homepage
    Please, post about innovations, not about such idiocies, otherwise it doesn't matter.

    You're sounding a whole lot like a Apple fanboy who doesn't want to hear anything but praise for your favorite platform. I'm not here to tell you how great you are because of the system you bought (nor am I here to tell you that you're a moron for buying the system). I'm sure that there's a Mac fanboy page/blog where you can discuss how great your system (and the company who created it) is all day long.

    This post has nothing to do with that, nor is it an attempt to tear at the fabric of your favorite platform. This looks like reasonable reporting of some suspicous behavior by a large company to me. Just because you happen to really like that company doesn't mean that the story shouldn't be reported...right?

    --Turkey
  • Re:Apple's Sins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IM6100 (692796) <elben@mentar.org> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:53AM (#7502287)
    Apple 'brutally crushed' Apple clones going way back into the Apple II days. There were a number of Apple II clones, all run out of business by the Apple legal team.

    Also note the Apple Look-n-feel lawsuit. If Apple had won that one, Microsoft wouldn't have been allowed to produce Windows, nor would the X Window System be allowed to exist without paying heavy royalties to Apple. Apple essentially claimed they owned the GUI and claimed it in it's entirety as their own. It's ironic that Microsoft's legal dollars paid for the right for us all to use common GUI elements that otherwise would be Apple Computer property.

    There is a LONG history of Free Software folks being strongly against Apple during the look-n-feel suit that seems to have been airbrushed away in recent years.
  • by codefool (189025) <ghester@@@codefool...org> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @11:58AM (#7502344) Homepage Journal
    He's moonlighting, for profit, in his employers's own line of work

    I wasn't aware Apple was in the Netflix management business.

    If Apple had the same type of program in their roadmap, or were considering it (and can PROVE it), AND this employee had access to that program and/or was working on it, THEN Apple would have a claim as you suggest.

    However, now that Apple has fully converted to the Dark Side, he would have been much wiser to release it anonymously or dump it in the public domain. He could have still requested $10 donations.

    Let his fate be an omen to all that follow...

  • 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.

  • 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 Zed2K (313037) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:11PM (#7502473)
    He could have been sued by Netflix also. Since he wanted to go shareware and therefore charge for this is was basically going to be making money off of the netflix name without netflix's permission. Does this guy have any clue about the legal side of this world?
  • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:13PM (#7502486)
    RTA.

    If his contract states that whatever he works on at work is the property of Apple, then he is fucked and tough shit to him.

    And then the California District Attorney can post an arrest warrant for Steve Jobs...

    California's labor-laws are notoriously pro-employee. Contracts like that are illegal [unixguru.com] there. Enforcing an illegal contract is a crime.
  • 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 alcmena (312085) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:24PM (#7502577)
    Sure you can. You can design hot rod parts for custom mods for people. You can design race car parts that you can sell to racers. There are all sorts of things you can do.

    Just as with software. Just because you are a "software developer" does not mean that all software you develop should therefore be owned by the company if you do it on your own time. It's like being a chef for a restraunt. You can still do catering for parties in your free time and the company doesn't get x% of your profits (unless you use the company's food).
  • Re:Apple's Sins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:34PM (#7502667) Homepage
    Apple disbles iTunes functionality through software update

    What functionality? They fixed a bug that people were exploiting and was never emant to be a feature.

    Apple initially hesitates to update 10.2 for various security problems (and hasn't updated [a very vulnerable] 10.1 for a LONG time)

    What hesitation? They never said they weren't going to update it. I fact, there very first announcement on the matter was to confirm that they were after people had leapt to the wrong conclusion.

    Apple obsoletes beige G3 Macs for 10.3

    A computer that's 5 or 6 years old and likely has hardware that isn't really up to the job any more. I'm curious, does Windows XP run on a PII?

    Now, Apple rakes one of its own developers over the coals for a piece of open source software (which runs on a platform built with gcc)

    That's a rather misleading way of putting it as it suggests that Apple's problem is with OSS, when the truth is very different.

  • by rifter (147452) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:43PM (#7502751) Homepage

    to people like us, we see it as a violation of an employees right to own what he does on his own time. But to the other 90%, in a court case, it would appear the employee was trying to steal from Apple was was rightfully owned by Apple. I don't think a case like this will effect marketshare at all.

    IANAL, but no employer has ever won a court case on these IP agreements, even when the software was developed for the company on company time and on company computers. In this case, it is certainly not a "work for hire" because Apple did not ask him to develop this software or anything like it. It was also developed on his own time and with his own equipment. If this developer hired a lawyer, Apple would not have a leg to stand on.

    Of course, where would he work then? Apple developers have a very short list fo employers to go to, and honestly Apple is the best place they could work! Maybe he could go to Microsoft, but he would probably not be happy there. :P

  • Re:Apple's Sins (Score:1, Insightful)

    by luzrek (570886) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:49PM (#7502815) Journal
    Don't forget that you used to have to register all applications with apple in order to get a unique program identification number. When they were doing this there were particularly bad about extorting money from their developers and kept very close reigns on all technical information about their API. I beleive the artificially constructed hurtles agains program development were what actually killed their development community, not the dominance of Windows (home/desktop) or *NIX (server/workstation).

    Basically, IMO Apple is and always has been just as anti-competative as Microsoft, but they have not been in a monopoly position and therefore have not been subject to the same rules, and I won't buy one for the same reason I won't buy a copy of windows (or run windows for that matter). With the exception of video games all of my computing needs can be done for less money, and more efficiently, using truely free software.

  • by Wumpus (9548) <IAmWumpus AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:51PM (#7502843)
    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 to some extent. While working at an employer you are learning.

    So what? You're probably teaching them a thing or two, if you're any good at what you do. You also create a valuable product for them, a product they can capitalize on, and make many times what they paid you in profits on. I think this is a fair exchange, even without claiming everything you do at home as theirs.

    Can you guarantee that anything you write has not benefitted from knowledge gained while working for you current employer.

    The law defines what you may or may not do in this situation, and your employer has all the legal protection they need even without having you sign a draconian contract. You shouldn't have to prove that you didn't do anything wrong - they have to prove that you've done something wrong.

    You can't use code that's copyrighted by your employer without getting your employer's approval, and you probablly have a confidentiality agreement someplace that prohibits you from disclosing trade secrets. That should be enough to cover any real wrongdoing on your part.

    If you were a carpenter, and you worked for a furniture maker, would you have agreed if your employer claimed furniture you made at home as his own?
  • 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.
  • 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?

  • It's called a job (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nonameisgood (633434) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @01:54PM (#7503463)
    Expecting bonuses and a paycheck for doing your job...that you agreed to do for only the paycheck. Sounds like a bad idea. This is one thing wrong with the RIAA/MPAA business model - residuals may spur innovation, but they suppress sales if structured incorrectly.

    Not long ago, I made some changes that saved my employer in excess of $500,000 per year...but my paycheck covered this activity, so I certainly couldn't expect an _ex post facto_ bonus.

    Greed is good as a motivator, but the motivation comes as anticipation BEFORE the act, and it must be uniformly applied.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:34PM (#7503832) Homepage
    Apple sells software.
    The employee is now competing with his employer

    False. His software is not in competition with any product offered by Apple. Merely creating software doesn't make him a competitor, any more than a technical writer who writes a novel on his own is a competitor to his employer.

    using skills he honed and resources he gained while being paid by his employer

    Gaining skills is part of the nature of employment; those skills are as much the employee's as is his paycheck.

    The only way Apple might have a case is if he used Apple-provided resources, but (despite your assertations) there's no mention of such use in the article.

  • 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 vought (160908) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:50PM (#7503967)
    Employee morale?

    Not looking like assholes in public?


    Jeez, what the hell is it with the automatic assumption that Apple has persecuted their employee, stolen that person's software, and will incorporate it with no attribution or reward?


    When I worked there, employees who came up with cool stuff that could be incorporated into the OS KNEW that anything they developed for "personal use" on comapny-owned hardware or at the company at all could be picked up by Apple. When this did happen, the employee was usually reqarded with a bnus of some sort.


    There's no "big brother" style theft here. Employees know that anything they create at work or on Apple-owned equipment can be taken by the company - but when that happens, the employee is rewarded anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @03:43PM (#7504449)
    You write code that, in a sense, competes or is related to the business of your employer. The law says your employers owns it no matter when and where you created it unless another written agreement denies this.

    Now if you read the parent, it said Apple should have bought the code from the guy instead of risking to lose face publicly and affect employee morale by going in a legal fight against the coder to prove they own the code made on his own time. In other words, the guy should have said to Apple : "If you fight against me, you'll affect your nice image and reduce employee morale. If you just give me money I won't say a word". If Apple has legal ownership on the code, that my friend, is extortion.
  • Re:Apple's Sins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity.sbcglobal@net> on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @04:21PM (#7504876) Homepage Journal
    Yes, well, that's why we want fair competition between all of the computer OS and system manufacturers, and not just one company strong-arming the rest. When there are a number of players, then if one of them tries to strong-arm the rest, the rest squash them.

    People didn't like IBM in the past because they were the dominant player and the rest of the industry couldn't stop them if IBM tried strong-arm tactics. In the mainframe biz this is still true, but now there are alternatives to mainframes (PC farms). People don't like Microsoft now because they are so powerful that they can strong-arm basically at will. Linux is changing that.

    Most corporations do some good things and some bad things. Very few are basically evil. And a few are basically good.

    Apple is like any other corporation. Not all corporations are evil faceless satans. I realize that to a great many people that what I have just said here is heretical...
  • Re:Not so fast... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by void* (20133) on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @05:42PM (#7505689)
    [em]they're paying him a salary to give them everything he produces.[/em]

    They pay him a salary to produce what they tell him to produce.

    If they didn't tell him to produce an app with the given functionality, they didn't have any concrete plans to produce an app with the same functionality, and he used his own time and resources, why should they get ownership?

    If the three given conditions are true, it seems to me that they're just swiping what ought to be his using the justification 'but we pay him to write other stuff'.
  • 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.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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