I moved to Kraków about two weeks ago. I have been exploring all kinds of communities around here to get involved in something interesting. Today I visited Hive53 meeting at Google For Entrepreneurs office. The guest of this meetup was Łukasz Węgrzyn, a legal professional who specializes in copyright laws and intellectual property. Łukasz was talking about legal issues needed to be aware of for startup owners, software developers and content creators.
The main goal of the presentation was to point out legal aspects software industry employers/employees should pay attention to. Some of common legal practices were mentioned in a context of 'do not waste your time and money' as well.
Get written all the things
One of the most memorable advices Łukasz put his accent on was to get most of the business related stuff written down. It doesn't matter if that would be a paper, a Skype chat or an email, what matters is that there is a reference to some type of agreement. Anything that was established in a verbal form, doesn't have any legal power, in other words it does not exist. The rule of thumb is: if its important write an email with short summary to your partner and get a confirmation.
NDAs are worthless in EU
A big surprise for me was the information about NDA (non-disclosure agreement) legal weight in EU. The answer is - none. I signed an NDA couple times before and always thought it is something that truly matters. Łukasz pointed out, that the only way to protect an idea is not by signing NDA but by executing it. Basically the message to business owners is next: better hire someone really fast and create the stuff you have on your mind before someone else does it. And as for us developers, just relax and do your job, don't worry about those damn papers.
European law is also drastically different in the area of 'idea patenting' comparing to the US one. You cannot patent the 'vision' of something, or an idea here. The only way to protect it is real life implementation.
Copyright and licences
The last thing that was mentioned during the talk was copyright ownership. From employers perspective the best way to obtain all the copyright for the code we write is by giving an employment contract. For some reason this is not the most popular way of employment here in Poland. Things get a bit tricky when work is done under other conditions. Special clauses have to be written and signed in contracts to assure rights are transferred properly. The other thing that should be remembered is that all copyright related agreements are only valid when written on paper.
As for licensing, I remember one thing only - these things are messy. Close attention should be paid to field of exploitation and the time period the license is granted for. These two things could be very broad and some licences could basically be almost as broad as actual rights ownership.
It was pretty interesting meeting with lots of discussion after the talk. Hope to visit other meetings of this fall series of legal swarms.