in reply to Professional Employees and Works for Hire

I have searched the GPL FAQ, and found a few pieces of text that relate to this issue:

The case when someone else might possibly claim the copyright is if you are an employee or student; then the employer or the school might claim you did the job for them and that the copyright belongs to them. Whether they would have a valid claim would depend on circumstances such as the laws of the place where you live, and on your employment contract and what sort of work you do. It is best to consult a lawyer if there is any possible doubt.

If you think that the employer or school might have a claim, you can resolve the problem clearly by getting a copyright disclaimer signed by a suitably authorized officer of the company or school. (Your immediate boss or a professor is usually NOT authorized to sign such a disclaimer.)


We also ask individual contributors to get copyright disclaimers from their employers (if any) so that we can be sure those employers won't claim to own the contributions.

Another page has an example of such a disclamer:

You should also get your employer (if you work as a programmer) or your school, if any, to sign a "copyright disclaimer" for the program, if necessary. Here is a sample; alter the names:

Yoyodyne, Inc., hereby disclaims all copyright
interest in the program `Gnomovision'
(which makes passes at compilers) written 
by James Hacker.

signature of Ty Coon, 1 April 1989
Ty Coon, President of Vice

This doesn't solve existing problems, but might help people who want to release software under the GPL.


  • Comment on Re: Professional Employees and Works for Hire

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Re: Re: Professional Employees and Works for Hire
by rir (Vicar) on Sep 13, 2002 at 22:29 UTC
    This is not legal advice.

    This post contains commonplace USA provincialism.

    It is not clear that a contract is invalid because an
    employee exceeded his authority when making it.

    Being able to pull out a disclaimer signed off by a co-worker
    or workers, especially for a sum, would muddy any actions considerably.
    Even a small sum. A petty cash sum.
    Whether that co-worker followed all the company procedures
    in filing the contract, getting approval, etc. should
    be moot. Those are issues between him and the company.

    The same basic principles that give an employer rights
    to your home work, bind the employer to the actions
    that your co-worker takes as an employee.
    This is basic. If a Wal-mart employee
    shoves a mop handle into your herniated groin, you would
    take action against Wal-mart not the employee.

    Reasonable-man-being-prudent test would seem to be an issue,
    for the co-worker to avoid problems.

    If a company pursued action, an immediate & publicized
    countersuit for breach of contract, or harassment would give many
    corporations pause.

    There was a scam where a disreputable plating company
    would promise many coats and a finish like that on the
    X pens. They would get a 'small sample order' from a junior
    purchasing agent or whomever. The price would not be nailed down, just that
    it would not be much. When the purchasing company wanted
    to not pay the $50,000 to $100,000 bill, the scammers
    would go to court for breach of contract and deadbeat-itis.
    This was apparently a successful scam. I knew one
    scammee, his fortune 100 company paid, they didn't want the publicity.