Your Brain Is Ours

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In an article about a neat little utility program, Netflix Fanatic, to facilitate the use of Netflix (a great service for those of us whose cinematic tastes run to the classic or otherwise hard-to-find), I noticed the following great moment in intellectual property:

“Netflix Fanatic turned out to be too good to be true. As I started to write this article, I was surprised and dismayed to discover that the developer has been forced to stop distributing it due to a dispute with his employer (which is not Netflix) over who owns the program. Based on the note at the program’s home page, the developer believes his employer has no ownership over software created during personal time and on personal equipment, but that he doesn’t have the financial resources to fight back or become a full-time freelance programmer.”

As a programmer myself, I’ve occasionally signed one of these non-disclosure agreements that seems to say that the thoughts in my mind belong to the company. I’ve always thought they were a bit fishy. From a Kinsella point of view I suppose they’re equivalent to voluntarily selling yourself into slavery, an oxymoron. I suppose Dr. Block would have no problem with such contracts though, being a proponent of voluntary slavery.

Whatever the case, I think this sort of thing is extremely unproductive. Programmers tend to love programming and it is not uncommon for them to do programming projects on the side. This should be encouraged as long as they use their own time and resources… and their own Brain!

(Fun Fact: A Blockbuster employee just mentioned to me that Netflix has spurred Blockbuster to offer a similar service to compete, which should be available next year. Great news for us film consumers! Ain’t the market wonderful?)

11:38 am on October 14, 2003