This commit is terribly troubling. Google is asserting copyright over a software product that an employee wrote using his own time and equipment.
Now Google may have very liberal open-source contribution policies, and this one copyright assertion may make very little difference to this open-source project, but the underlying principle–that a company owns code that they didn’t pay you to write–is very, very morally wrong.
Now I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even begin to understand the legal landscape. It varies state to state. Even superficially-identical statues can have a vastly different meaning about whether your work is similar enough or not to an employer’s business (or if that even matters in your state). And at some point, non-compete laws and agreements, which are sorta a separate thing, enter into the discussion. And a noncompete is something that you should never, ever sign.
Coincidentally enough, today I executed a contract with a subcontractor who will join me at DrewCrawfordApps for a few projects, and I had an opportunity to write my version of this very clause. The highlights are this:
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think it provides a very clean and fair line between company property and your property. For instance:
I would never, ever sign a contract that purported to own what code I wrote on my own time. And as I’m rapidly approaching becoming an employer, I believe pretty strongly that I would never ask an employee to do the same. Any employer that needs to rely on owning people’s side projects to avoid turnover is a very poor employer indeed. I’m confident enough in my own ability to create an awesome work environment that I don’t need to fence employees in.
If you’re an employee staring down one of these “we own your soul” contracts, why don’t you e-mail me your resume instead?