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Monday, November 30, 2009

Back on the Wagon

I have a new wage slave job. It's at a large financial institution with an explicit State-backed monopoly.

My employment contract contains the usual clause saying "All intellectual property you create belongs to us, even if not written at work." A strict interpretation would mean that my blog belongs to them. I doubt they would invoke it, because my blog isn't worth much and I'm not going to mention them here.

I haven't noticed any potential conflicts with coworkers yet, but I've only been there a week.

I'm not a full-time employee. I'm a consultant. However, some of the other consultants were there for years. It's common for large financial institutions to keep consultants for a long time. A consultant is a separate budget item than an employee. Sometimes, it's considered an embarrassment to pay low-ranking software engineers more than managers in other areas.

Technically, I can be terminated at any time. How is that any different from being a full-time employee? There are only small differences. I don't get paid for vacation time. I get my health insurance deducted pre-tax from my paycheck, paying 100% of the cost myself. Adding in those costs, it's still a decent rate.

I'm going through a headhunter who's probably billing 2x-3x as much as I'm getting paid. There's no option for me to contract directly, so my only option is to work via a headhunter. Besides, it isn't my money being wasted paying the headhunter. I should only compare this job to other jobs.

The headhunter is like a neurotic girlfriend. He's calling me almost every day to ask how it's going. I find that amusing. He's probably getting paid more for my labor than me.

It's the usual large corporate environment. The high level of bureaucracy is somewhat refreshing, compared to startups on a shoestring budget. The small startups seem to have a greater amount of political maneuvering than the large financial institution with a State-backed monopoly. It's almost like working for a University.

There's still the usual amount of incompetence. On Friday, they bought everyone pizza. However, they neglected to tell me when it arrived, or what room it would be kept in. That's an amusing bit of incompetence. Now, I know where the pizza is kept, for next time, so I'll check myself. On Friday, I gave up waiting and bought myself lunch.

It's not a super-awesome job. It's a "good enough for now" job. If I started having success with "promote agorism via standup comedy" or started blogging under my own name, they'd probably fire me.

For now, I'll stay with the wage slave track. I'm looking to start my own businesses, agorist or on-the-books. I'm working on that on the side in my spare time.

Of course, this means I'll have less time for blogging. I have a lot of drafts queued. Also, my parents made me waste a lot of time anyway, leaving little time for blogging.


Anonymous said...

>"All intellectual property you
>create belongs to us, even if not
>written at work."

A strict interpretation of that means even your vacation photographs of your parents, maybe taken in a foreign country, belong to them!

Copyright violations have large statutory fines as well. Better hide your camera real good. Possession of your camera now is illegal.

Politicians really should make a statutory law, that is said to override all contract law, that states that if a person creates intellectual property in their own home, not on work time (evenings or weekends) and solely with their own computer equipment then the work belongs to immediate creator/author and not anyone else such as the employer. The statutory law also must state employers only own WHAT THEY DIRECTLY ORDER. There is case law for this in the UK, but the trouble is that case law is very hard for amateurs to find out. It is buried amongst thousands of other cases. Plus a lawyer threatening you will conveniently forget about any case law such as this. Even if you pay a lawyer to be on your side, then will probably be lazy and not bother to look things up for you. Lawyers only wake up when piled with lots of cash - otherwise it is a uniform bad service.

Lawyers only exist to make money and to protect the illegal activities of other lawyers.

If you know the law, it is better to avoid these crooks altogether or to use a stock phrase such as "no evidence" instead when replying to extortion letters.

A normal person reading a lawyer's letter gets impressed with all the threats. However when lawyers read other lawyers' letters, the trick is to ignore the threats and just concentrate on the evidence. No evidence. No case. It sounds obvious, but lawyers know threats trump over evidence with regards non-lawyers in out-of-court matters.

By the way congratulations on getting a job. I hope you manage to learn some new skills, do some decent programming and save some money from your income.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

>There's no option for me to
>contract directly, so my only
>option is to work via a headhunter

Once I applied directly to a bank located in Canary Wharf, UK.

You would think that the bank would have directly processed my application to save costs. However they passed my application to one of their recruitment agencies. So if I ended up with a job via them, the bank would have to pay something like 20% of my first year's wages to the agency.

I would guess the recruitment agency is friends with someone high up in the bank. Sweet deal if you can get it.

Ditto I applied directly to a different bank near Liverpool Street and it was the same again. They don't accept direct applications - they have to be via a recruitment agency on their preferred list.

Annoyingly the agency said I wasn't suitable for that job, made fun of me for losing my last job (it was at a venture capital funded start-up and at the time they laid off almost half the staff) and then asked if I would like them to put me forward for jobs not at the original bank I directly applied to!

Anonymous said...

@ anon above

Such law already exist. It is presumed that everything you create belongs to you.

The company would have to prove that their rights to your intellectual property is an exemption from the rule.

They will do it by producing a contract signed by you, where you agreed to forgo your rights in exchange for a job. No one held a gun to your head to make you sign it.

Thus, what you want is to have it and eat it at the same time.

FSK said...

Actually, someone is holding a gun to my head. State restriction of the market makes it hard to form my own competing business.

My current employer has an explicit State-backed monopoly. Their profits are paid by inflation. State violence forces people to use worthless State paper money.

It isn't a valid contract according to natural law. I don't have equal bargaining power with the corporate insiders that hire me. All my employment contracts have had a clause saying "All intellectual property you create while working here belong to us!"

Anonymous said...

FSK, while I agree with your notes on state violence working in favor of barriers to entry, I must note that your competition did the same thing to enter the business that is required of you to enter the business.

It makes it hard, but who said that the life must be easy?

And just because there is an unfair requirement for license and other things of this sort, still doesn't mean you are forced to sign your rights away.

Not every company requires you to sign your rights away. But those usually pay less.

You could have find a such a company, or become a babysitter, for instance.

But, you want the same pay that the people who sign their rights away get paid. Same pay, but you want to keep your rights. See?

Nothing to worry about though. Pretty soon we either completely forgo all contractual obligations, as is the case already in many ways, or become a socialist unionized paradise, where all your rights would be preserved.

Anonymous said...

In civil cases, the burden of proof is less that criminal cases.

I don't know if it is true, but generally people say that the real burden is on the defendant to disprove the accusation. Again this is what I've read in newspapers and may not be a real statement of the law.

Employers that use threats via crooked lawyers to say side-projects are in the scope of employment are evil.

Although it may sound strange to some, governments really need to protect the little people from the legal "profession".

The time and money they waste cannot be recouped if the clowns harass you and never submit anything to a court.

It is a racket. Lawyers make money regardless. The crooks know the system. A baseless accusation worded in the right way can waste quite a bit of time and money, BUT HAVE NO BLOWBACK.

Lawyers know if they don't give specifics and sling as much mud as wide as possible, they can get away with it.

When an employer wants your side-project they won't just sue you for the side-project they will try to sue you for 20 other trivial things such as being lazy, being 5 minutes late for you job 5 years ago etc. They will say hashtables are a trade secret.

They know that if they get prosecuted for fraud, they can play stupid and really say they though a hashtable is a trade secret.

It is willful blindness.

There is something wrong when a legal intellectual property textbook is 1000 pages.

Simply stated the law should be that intellectual property belongs to those that satisfy as many of the below as possible:

1) Who paid for the equipment?

2) Who decided to do the work?

3) Who paid for the training and learning?

4) Who was paying for the time? And please don't say that work at home in the evenings and weekends is paid employment time!!!

5) Who has actual physical possession of the blueprints, preliminary designs, research, source code etc?

6) If work was never requested and never handed over, then the crooks don't own it. Again you can't own what you have not directly ordered.

There is a certain amount of case (judge made) law that says ownership of property can be implied. In some cases contracts can be implied. In the UK even an unsigned contract under certain conditions can be upheld i.e. the victim didn't protest enough when the contract was waved under his nose. Parliament should legislate against this unsigned, implied junk. It just feeds crooked lawyers when they have no evidence and no case and just weakly say "ownership is implied".

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