Thursday, October 29, 2009

Employment Contracts - Read. Think. Then Sign. Maybe.

This is one of those times I'm very glad to be self-employed with a little sole proprietorship - instead of being toward the end of a conventionally 'successful' career with the government or some corporate employer.

I ran into this blog post a few minutes ago:

The gist of the post is in its lead paragraph:
"Both employers and employees may be surprised to find that employee created blog posts, YouTube, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, and even tweets may be owned by companies. ... Why is this? Employees sign employment contracts that may indicate that all intellectual property created during employment may be owned by the company, let's dive into what you should know:...."
(Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategy)
Kudos to the blogger, for knowing what he doesn't know:
"...I'm not a lawyer, so I've asked one to comment on this topic...."
(Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategy)
Even so, I wouldn't take this post as the final word on the subject of employees, contracts, intellectual property, and the whims of corporate legal departments.

I do think it would be very prudent for anyone who has signed a contract to take a good, hard look at it - and see if they've signed away their rights to all intellectual property they produce while employed - on the clock, or not.

Me? I'm safe. The last contract I signed is almost thirty years old now, with an entity that no longer exists. Almost my entire 'professional' career in writing and marketing was as an hourly wage-earner - with no contract. No complaints there.

I know that American culture assumes that contracts are some sort of guarantee. Let's look at it this way:
  • If I'm doing my job and my employer is being reasonable: we're both satisfied, and don't need a contract
  • If one or the other of us isn't satisfied, a contract could get in the way of sorting out the problems
  • If the employer is ethically challenged, some twerp in one of the departments can't pay the legal muscle it would take to win in court
So, contracts are (arguably) somewhere on a continuum between unnecessary and harmful.

I know that there are good reasons for drawing up contracts - and I approve of the idea of defining exactly what a working relationship is. On the other hand, I'm willing to see the up side of a 'you pay me until I'm not getting the job done' relationships, too.

I'm starting a discussion thread on employee contracts and intellectual property, over on BlogCatalog. (Posting on Company Time? What's the Worst that could Happen?) I hope some good insights come up there.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:
A tip of the hat to Twitter_Tips, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that post.

5 comments:

Primary Work at Home said...

Signing a contract is very important. It is very important to read and sign the contract.

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allan said...

If I were to wager a guess at why, I’d say that users don’t “browse” forms. The interaction style users engage in with forms is different, and requires its own study and design best practices.

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david said...

Gna just share my views from top to bottom as I see them.
I feel this is a good simply because it’s consistent with how the user is used to seeing the comment form and filling out information in general. Filling out the name and email wont take me much time, and if you really wanted to go ahead and type the comment first, you can do so, not really that big of a work around. I’m




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news articles said...

yeah , its very important , and you have to read and understand contract with concentration!

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