Negotiating open source with your employer

Open source is about freedom. Maintaining the right to code open source within one's employment requires careful thinking about freedom, too.

It turns out, not surprisingly, that who you work for largely determines how you work, at least when it comes to participation in open-source development community, as revealed at a recent conference in India (COSS.IN) Two heavies from the open-source community - Simon Phipps (Sun) and Danese Cooper (Intel) talked through how developers can navigate the sometimes tricky waters of writing open-source software while on the corporate payroll.

"The open-source brand has become so powerful that people are trying to wear the brand, without wearing the behavior that goes with it," Phipps said.

Employees are also likely to get caught up in ownership fights on contributions, on whether the contribution should be recognized on behalf of the employee, or the company. Even when employee contributions are recognized, it may be a figurehead rather than all the contributors that are recognized, Cooper said.

The best path ahead for open source developers is to get more assertive when identifying the companies they would like to work with, and in negotiating agreements with companies that protect their rights.

For those of us who don't code, similar principles apply. I write this blog. It's not a corporate blog, and sometimes I write things that my employer doesn't like. The freedom to "code" requires an upfront commitment from the company to give the employee her space, within reason.

Anyway, there's great advice throughout the article. Worth reading.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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