Friday, May 13, 2011

Company time = company work

In my work contract, there’s a paragraph stating that anything I make while at work for the company is the company’s property. Even though I’m the one who made it, it’s not mine if I made it on company time and I don’t get to take any of it with me if I leave the company. It may seem a bit harsh to some, but at the same time, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, when I’m at work, it’s really not my own time I’m working on. It was mine, yes, sure enough, but I sold it to the company – that’s why I’m getting paid, you know! And if I choose to sell my time to a company, then I really can’t honestly expect to still spend that time working for my own self, can I? No, I can’t. That’s not how it works. When I choose to let a company buy some of my time, then that of course means that during those hours, I don’t work for myself, I work for the company that bought the hours from me. Hence, it’s both fair and reasonable that the company should be the legal owner of whatever product I make during that time. People who do physical labor or work in factories making physical products have had it like that for centuries. To them this pretty much goes without saying. It’s some of us folks who work primarily with our minds that some times have issues with this concept. But it really isn’t much different – or shouldn’t be. Just like a road worker doesn’t own the road or a car factory worker doesn’t own the cars he makes, I don’t own the systems and solutions I create and maintain in my job. It all belongs to either the company that employs me or their customers. Even if I’m in effect designing a whole new type of car or inventing a new and improved way of building roads, it’s all theirs if I do it on their time.

No, the company does not own me, my mind or my skills – those are all my own property. But as long as I have a contract to work for them, they own everything I do during those hours I clock in and get paid for. If I want to work for myself I have to do it on my own time. In fact, time is like any other commodity in this way: You can’t legally claim to still own it after you’ve sold it. It’s that simple. And I guess I’m OK with that.