How GitHub advocated for developer interests at the US Copyright Office technical measures consultations
At GitHub, we recognize that running a great business over the long term requires a measure of “work/life balance” – and that includes recognizing that developers and other knowledge workers have creative lives outside of work. Whether that free time creativity involves contributing to open source projects, art, or activism, we want to encourage our employees, not put up legal barriers. We’ve codified this approach in our employee intellectual property (IP) agreement. We’ve made this agreement reusable and have open sourced as the Balanced Employee Intellectual Property Agreement.
By making the agreement an open source project, we hope to lower barriers to and learn more about innovation in this space. The project FAQ includes further background on related law, policies, and projects. Pull requests are welcome.
If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve probably come across some version of an employee IP agreement before. Typically they assign control over your creativity to your employer, to the extent law allows – sometimes even after you’ve left a job, through non-compete covenants. These agreements and underlying laws impact worker mobility, innovation, and regional competitiveness. Most non-compete covenants are not enforceable in California, which researchers have long cited as a key reason the computer industry took off in California instead of another contender such as Massachusetts.
GitHub’s employment agreement goes a bit further than the California default (and applies to employees outside of California). If you’re a GitHub employee, you maintain control over your creation unless it is something “you create, or help create as its employee or contractor” and it is “related to an existing or prospective Company product or service at the time you developed, invented, or created it” or “developed for use by the Company” or “developed or promoted with existing Company IP or with the Company’s endorsement.” It doesn’t matter whether you’ve used company equipment or not.