Projects outside work-hours?

I'm curious as to whether the employment contracts given by game companies (in general) allow you to continue with hobby projects (that might form a commercial product) outside work hours?

mcdrewski's picture

Short Answer : It depends on the Company
Long Answer : Different companies have different agreements. You should actually ask about these in any interview.

Edit : I also know that many agreements prevent disclosing the terms of the agreement, so good luck getting any specifics!

unknownuser2's picture

I can tell you we allow it [:)]

WiffleCube's picture

mcdrewski: that'll be in my list of questions to ask in between 'working hours' and 'ownership of first-born'.
HazarD: I'll have to wing a copy of my CV to you sometime (I'm still redoing it at the moment) [}:)].

Kizza's picture

I was talking to some guys from a Brisbane studio (I won't say which one) about working on MODs, they said that bascially there's nothing prohibiting it but it can't affect your working hours. You can't come into work sleepy 'cause you were working all night on something else.

That's for MODs, in terms of working on an indie title or something maybe more commercial I'm not sure what the policy is.

It'd definately be worth asking in an interview if you have something you really want to work on outside hours.
Just make sure not to make it sound like there's something else you'd rather be working on and you won't give the job your all. Haha. [;)]

pb's picture

Honestly, who cares what they think they have a right to allow and not allow?

If they don't want you to work on things outside work hours they should pay you for your time. Same goes for contracts that allegedly prohibit you from competing with your employer for some period of time after you leave the company.

An employment contract in the games industry is usually a wish list, most are written by non-lawyers and take no account of the fact that they need to be consistent with the body of law governing employment and contracts in general.

pb

mcdrewski's picture

Wouldn't it be better to discuss this with your (potential) employer before signing rather than make a test case out of it?

Sure, it *may* not be enforcable, but the threat of legal action is really enough for most people anyway.

pb's picture

Ok, so say you discuss it and they tell you that you can't work on outside projects. What then? You planning on giving up your rights just because someone tells you that you don't have them? To my way of thinking only a sucker would do that.

pb

lorien's picture

Here's something you can do if you're a programmer: open source it and assign the copyright to the Free Software Foundation [:D]

Try and make them sue the GNU people (who have the professor of law at Havard university on their legal team) too [:D]

Dragoon's picture

quote:Originally posted by lorien

Here's something you can do if you're a programmer: open source it and assign the copyright to the Free Software Foundation [:D]

Try and make them sue the GNU people (who have the professor of law at Havard university on their legal team) too [:D]

That'd only work if you were the legal copyright owner in the first place. If you weren't then the company would mail FSF, FSF would check the evidence (would be pretty strong) - maybe talk to you, and then give em back the copyright (they have morals - they won't defend something which isn't rightfully assigned to them in the first place).

You would now be sued for breaching contract, and it would not be in your favour that you tried to take the copyright away from the legal holder and distribute it widely.

Dragoon's picture

quote:Originally posted by pb

Ok, so say you discuss it and they tell you that you can't work on outside projects. What then? You planning on giving up your rights just because someone tells you that you don't have them? To my way of thinking only a sucker would do that.

pb

Then you discuss the issue with them and ask them to change the relevant parts of the contract. If they won't then you have a decision to make (do you really want to work for them?). I wouldn't.

lorien's picture

quote:Originally posted by Dragoon

That'd only work if you were the legal copyright owner in the first place. If you weren't then the company would mail FSF, FSF would check the evidence (would be pretty strong) - maybe talk to you, and then give em back the copyright (they have morals - they won't defend something which isn't rightfully assigned to them in the first place).

You would now be sued for breaching contract, and it would not be in your favour that you tried to take the copyright away from the legal holder and distribute it widely.

We are talking about work you do, in your own time, on your own equipment. Good luck to anyone trying to take it away from you.

Having ownership of such work assigned to an employer is ethically and morally bankrupt imho. Also imho it makes no difference at all if the work is in the same field as what you do for work, there is a clear home and work separation.

Better warn people here: nearly all studios and plenty of other companies in other industries have these clauses.

Academics normally have no such claims on work they do at home, except if it is done for the employer.

lorien's picture

One of the things I have to teach is ethics (afaik it's a requirement for a course to be accredited by the Australian Computer Society that every subject has a component on ethics as related to the area).

The golden rule is "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you".

How would studios that claim employees spare time projects, like employees claiming ownership of everything done in work time?

Sure it's unlikely to happen, that's not my point.

pb's picture

quote:Originally posted by Dragoon
Then you discuss the issue with them and ask them to change the relevant parts of the contract. If they won't then you have a decision to make (do you really want to work for them?). I wouldn't.

So you'd make a decision about whether you'd work for an employer based on the presence or absence of a clause in the employment contract that isn't enforcable either way?

Or are you saying that you believe such a clause is actually enforcable?

pb

mcdrewski's picture

IMHO - the point is that the attitude they show to your concern over the clause will show a lot about what sort of employer they are.

Dragoon's picture

quote:Originally posted by pb

quote:Originally posted by Dragoon
Then you discuss the issue with them and ask them to change the relevant parts of the contract. If they won't then you have a decision to make (do you really want to work for them?). I wouldn't.

So you'd make a decision about whether you'd work for an employer based on the presence or absence of a clause in the employment contract that isn't enforcable either way?

Or are you saying that you believe such a clause is actually enforcable?

pb

Define enforcable? I'm personally not sure of the legality of the clauses, but it doesn't hurt to make sure that ownership doesn't cover stuff outside work hours with your own resources.

If they aren't legal, then ask yourself: how much money do you have to defend yourself even if it isn't legal (or is questionable)? Likely you couldn't afford to, or couldn't afford as much as them (so would lose), or could do without the hassle.

If the company, in my mind, isn't willing to explicitly state that they only have rights to IP done on their time or with their resources, then morally are they a company you want to work for?