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The Almighty Buck

Adam Hinkley's IP Hindsights 231

spam-it-to-me-baby writes: "Adam Hinkley started out as a bright 17-year-old Australian software hack with a good idea. Now he's 22, broke, and has lost all his intellectual property after being crushed by the multinational software company that first took him into its folds and then dragged him through the courts in an at-times bitter and protracted battle. He has a few words of warning for any other young mind thinking of starting off down the same path." Sobering, but it looks like Adam has been able to shrug off the ruling with admirable ease. Learn from what he says.
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Adam Hinkley's IP Hindsights

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I know what you are saying but I don't think it is completely so. A person who has had significant wealth, for whatever reason, will be at an advantage over someone who has never had wealth. This may only be because of social connections but it is an important advantage the poor man does not have.

    I have some friends whose parents are fairly well off (a million isn't what it used to be!). Naturally, I also have some friends whose parents aren't as well off. I have observed that the well-off discuss the generation of wealth in practical, almost mechanical, terms. The less well-off talk about "hitting the jackpot" or "lucking out".

    To leap to a conclusion: the wealthy think about money as the outcome of executing a plan while the poor think about money as something that just happens to you. Children absorb these ideas from their parents and their financial lives are the result.

  • as close to a gaurantee as you'll come is to speak to a legal professional regarding exactly these points. When I started a new job, I made it clear in my interviews that I would be working on personal projects and that I would retain full ownership of them. I got a clause written by a team of IP specialists and had my employer sign it.

    Each engagement may have unique issues so you can't have some blanket agreement that encompasses every employment situation. You'll at least have to have the clause reviewed when you change jobs.

    Total cost: $300. That's less than some video cards :)
  • Anonymous Coward writes:

    From my uniue perspective it is clear that Hotline Communications bent and manipulated the law legally and not so legally.

    What is your "unique perspective"? How did Hotline Communications misbehave?

    Maggard posted in another thread:

    You are so sure he's the victim & everyone else was a crook & a swindler. From what I've seen Adam Hinkley has presented no compelling evidence of this, just his childish accusations & the sycophantic repeating by his fans.

    To me it looks the opposite - a young man who got greedy & attempted to walk off with stolen goods, twice.

    I could be completely off-base. Indeed I openly acknowledge I likely am in many ways. However yours & others repeating how Adam Hinkley was screwed doesn't make it so & until something more substantive is presented your assertions don't mean much, however passionately repeated.

    Do you have something new to add or you just another "'cause I was told so" syncophant?

  • I couldn't have said it better.

    There are lessons to be learned from this case, but they are not the ones being promoted by many of the other comments, or the tone of the article ("businesses suck, they always try to screw the little guy", etc..)

    The lesson here is simple: don't steal. Adam Hinks stole the property that these businesses rightfully paid for, and has been found guilty of such in a court of law.

    Him making these apparently honest businesspeople out to be 'con artists' in his little rant is totally unfair. Adam Hinks is the con-artist.

    And he was caught. Good.

    In the future, I'm sure he will be much more careful about the contracts he should sign (as we all should be), as well as what he does when the deal 'sours'.

    [This is an honest opinion, and well-justified by the facts of the case. It's not flamebait.]
  • just to partially rebut Adam Hinkley being compos mentis, the devastating personal event was his sister being kidnapped and then killed.

    Quote from Salon: "His younger sister had been kidnapped and murdered just a few months before he signed the shareholder agreements. Hinks was, his lawyers have alleged in court, put into a situation that was almost abusive: They describe him as a young boy, far from home, forced to put in grueling hours and pressured into signing a shareholder agreement that he didn't understand. They have also argued that an oral agreement gave Adam Hinkley independent ownership of the AppWarrior code." e2.html

    It's pretty hard to find any of the other stories dealing with this time period in more depth. But I remember other stories talking about semi-questionable tactics by Hotline to get what they wanted.

  • As usual, the advice not to write software when employed by someone else is both correct and incorrect.

    It's correct in that anything You write may belong to the employer. Incorrect in that it might not belong to the employer.

    Correct answer would be to get it written from the employer, either in employment contract or (actually preferable even if mentioned in contract) for each project.

    In my contract there is a specific mention regarding working for other parties. And, for each project, I get an agreement from my boss.
    This, however, covers only working, not writing software for any other purpose.

    Of course the legalese differs from country to country, but I try to get agreement for whatever I decide to do that might coincide with my employers business. For me it's pretty easy, because we've agreed what's mine and what's theirs, in general terms, and thus specifics are easy to handle.
  • 2. Investment: You DO NOT need it, and it is NOT worth the trouble! Furthermore the money is non-existant anyway, there is only a weak promise. If you push yourself, you would be surprised at how much you are capable of by yourself. There are government and industry bodies that provide assistance and grants, WITHOUT you having to sell your soul. Consult these instead, apply for a grant if you need it.
    Now, let's wait until those rabid anglo-saxon libertarians start harping about the government being evil...


  • It's understandable, because if you are used to tabulating your work product at (say) $10/hour, $10,000,000 sounds like an uncountable amount of money that will put you in mansions and mercedes for the rest of your life. However, when you boil that down to a yearly payment minus taxes, it really is just a quite average honda-drimiddle-class lifestyle, assuming you quit your job.

    Not to mention the scammers that come out of the woodwork and attack these people (who since they were playing the lotto, probably weren't the brightest bulbs to begin with). After they get into debt, they are often forced to sell the remaining prize money at pennies on the dollar to someone.

    California switched to a pay-up-front system (where you get less money), and most winners take it. It's supposedly been pretty successful at preventing the total bankrupcy explosion that most lottery winners face.
  • Not to mention that hotline ops have had their ass dragged in for copyright infringement. That's more than can be said for individual Napster or Gnutella users.

    (The biggest 'media' app hotline site for example, there was a slashdot article on it, but the search function here sucks).
  • I have... for a few years during college. There is alot more time for thought. You typically work a shift a day (lunch or dinner) and occasionally a double shift. (Weekends).

    Shift consist of setup (15-45mins), waiting, and cleanup. For instance, a lunch shift. You get there at 10:45. Setup for 11:00 lunch, and get off work at about 3:00-4:00.

    So, you work from 10:45 - 4:00. You miss most of the road traffic. You get the whole rest of the time off.

    I'd say that, other than the pay, it's a great job if time is what you want most.

  • I recommend working at a car wash - there's absolutely no thought involved in the work (well, unless you're learning to drive a manual transmission on the customers' cars :) and you can get really buff (for most readers, this will be the most buff you'll ever be).

    Of course, most of your deep thoughts involve how you'll never trash your car as much as the customers have, but you could probably think about other stuff too.

  • Or, "How do you make a small fortune racing automobiles?" "Start with a large fortune."
  • You must be confused. Were you not here during the election when everyone ignorned Harry Browne and all decided to vote for Nader?

    No, there are no libertarians here... Just people that hate corperations more than anything (including the government).

  • Oh poor old would-be-capitalist. Only 22 and already he's bereft of all his precious intellectual property.

    Let this be a lesson to the rest of you: GPL it and this won't happen.

  • After all, they are the ones that hold all of the cards. You are just a prospective employee, and there are plenty of them around that won't tell them they have to sign this document...

    So the situation looks pretty simple: make sure that they're not the ones who hold all the cards. Don't go in pleading "please suh, could I have this job". Have an attitude. They may not hire you, but you'll leave the interview remembering that you didn't want to work there anyway.

    (this strategy requires obviously that you have a couple of months' rent and food worth of money in your bank account and that you compensate for surprises.)

  • Of course, you'll have to remember that ninety percent of everything is crud. That includes the people, so 90% of everyone are foolish.

  • Not really. Companies usually have some form of claim to inventions, but straight copyright work is fairly safe. If you have a special contract saying otherwise, Id suggest you charge overtime for every single line of code you ever write.

    The issue is, are they paying you to do something? If they are, it's theirs. If they arent, they have no claim. It usually hard to claim that an invention related to your job was not thought out or inspired during work. But those 25000 lines of code at home are another matter.
  • Even better; establish a company with his IP (fair enough); but run away from the company after trashing the place because you realized you don't personally own the code any more.

    You want me to startup a company with you; and you want me to allow you, whenever you feel like it, to walk away with the IP used to start the company and expect me to NOT sue?

    Get Real.

    If he had done this because they wouldn't let him put banner ads in NOBODY on Slashdot would be agreeing with him.

    If he wanted to control it he should have made sure he had controlling interest in the company at all times.

  • what happened with his sister? did they ever find her?

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • its very simple. release as GPL and assign copyright to the FSF and you jointly (or only FSF if really paranoid). release anonymously. although that might not bring the satisfaction of seeing your name in highlights, the fact is that i (and i assume other) GPL coders do it for fun anyway and it really doesnt matter in the end. a simple (C) 2001 Free Software Foundation, Inc. does wonders.
  • These things are never as simple as they first appear.

    Aussie youth bailed on Toronto partners. []

    It looks like Hotline didn't have much choice but to sue for the IP. At any rate it is a particularly strange story.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have worked many jobs and found lots of employers will lie to you, ask you to do things that are not quite legal, etc. I
    have a solution.

    Some years ago I was working for a company that would ask you to work 12 hours but only report 8.
    "It was for the company." They would have you work 12 hour shifts and from time to time give you a call
    and say "We can not get any one to relieve you. Do you mind working the next shift?" say no and you are out, accept
    and keep your job.

    I began carrying a micro cassette recorder on me with a tie pin mike from radio shack. I would set it to voice activate
    and record any conversation with my employer. When I did loose the job they gave me all my pay and a nice
    severance package. I began carrying it to interviews. It really came in handy when I would interview, get the job, note
    something was not in the contract and play the promise of the HR person. Needless to say it became a great tool. It
    seems that here a recording is a verbal contract and very binding!

  • Blackmail. Work at any corporation and you will immediately find out that they do something terribly illegal. In fact, if you're in IT, you're definitely going to find out. You manage their information. You see everything. You know all. When the time comes you can truly make them pay.

    Of course, plenty of companies are 100% law biding, but chances are if they'd ever want to sue you when they first considered you a friend, they'd have just the right kind of greedy mentality to do plenty of illegal stuff.

  • Sorry if this is getting off-topic but ... since when is Hotline "peer-to-peer"?

    As far as I understand it, there are two components to a Hotline system. Two different software programs. They even go so far as to call one the "Hotline client," and then they call the other the "Hotline server." Does this not sound more like... dare I say it, in this we're-way-past-all-that 21st Century... the Client-Server model??

    It seems to me that the only reason they refer to Hotline as a peer-to-peer app is that peer-to-peer gets a lot of snazzy media attention these days, and since Hotline is now owned by some kind of corporation, they like that sort of thing. That, and it seemed like the upcoming Hotline2 was going to more resemble a true peer-to-peer app.

    I'm actually surprised Microsoft hasn't started calling itself the "world leader in peer-to-peer file sharing," or something of the kind. Cuz after all, peer-to-peer is built right in to every Windows box.

  • I had my best friend die a few weeks before I sold my house. It was a long torturous death that affected everyone around him terribly.

    Am I entitled to my house back?

    It's sad what happened in Adam Hinkleys life; however when it's all said & done he's responsible for his own decisions. To date he's refused any & all of that responsibility and indeed seems incapable of recognizing cause & effect, ownership & obligation.

    It's all about Adam, all about what he wants, all about how he believes things should be run, never anything about anyone else.

    Frankly while he may be a good coder he seems a tremendously (almost scarily) immature person and certainly not someone I can ever imagine wanting to be involved with professionally. Indeed I expect he has little to fear from investors & other such folks, he's clearly poison.

  • No, I wasn't under those conditions.

    However we only have Adam Hinkley's word that HE was under these conditions.

    I'm asked to believe this bright young man, 17 years old, with a family & lawyers & the skills to found a company is now unable to speak in his own defense.

    At no point does he express concerns, speak to his father (who was closely involved in the business,) raise issues with his lawyers. He was online every night speaking with his pals, many of whom had been involved in Hotline themselves & were passioniate supporters yet he doesn't run reality-checks past them, express his concerns, ask for advice or assistance.

    Instead he signs a set of contracts *very* advantagous to him and we don't hear anything negative until he wants to set terms.

    It all sounds very self-serving to me.

    It could be true but neither you nor I actually know. Clearly he wasn't able to convince authorities in Canada (where they're very concerned about this sort of thing) nor Australia (I have no idea - I live in Canada & the US, not Australia.)

    You are so sure he's the victim & everyone else was a crook & a swindler. From what I've seen Adam Hinkley has presented no compelling evidence of this, just his childish accusations & the sycophantic repeating by his fans.

    To me it looks the opposite - a young man who got greedy & attempted to walk off with stolen goods, twice.

    I could be completely off-base. Indeed I openly acknowledge I likely am in many ways. However yours & others repeating how Adam Hinkley was screwed doesn't make it so & until something more substantive is presented your assertions don't mean much, however passionately repeated.

    In the meantime it looks like it is all-moot - the legal systems of two countries have investigated & made their determinations: Adam Hinkley is responsible for the contracts he signed & thus was found in fault.

  • I've been told that I'm wise (I just think I'm sensible), and I need a million dollars.

    Indeed, I need several *billion* dollars.

    Because, dammit, I need to give it away. I think I could do a bang-up job of helping a *lot* of people if I had a lot of money.

    (Sure, I can help even without the money -- but the money would mean I could do so much more!)

  • If you're writing software purely for the love of doing so, just release it anonymously as public domain... in later years, after getting a better contract or deciding to strike out on your own, you can just pretend to discover it on the internet and use it in GPL/BSD/proprietary software with your name on it.

  • You have to take a lot of what he said with a grain of salt. This guy was screwed. It would be paranoia to say everyone with an interest in writing their own software would be equally as screwed.

    Wow, this sounds exactly like me about two years ago ... oh, right, right before I got screwed over by the nice employer I was working for "on the side" as I finished college.

    Not to sound too bitter or paranoid, but the bottom line is that unless you have it in writing, odds are they will try to screw you over. And even if the people you trust don't screw you over, what happens if the company changes hands or hires new management? The new owners have no obligations to you that aren't in writing, and the old owners can (and probably will) take a very hands-off approach to your problems.

    I loved my workplace, I was working with friends who trusted the company, too, etc, etc. I left for 8 weeks to write my thesis, and everyone at the company knew this and told me (but didn't write down and sign anything) it was ok; when I got back I found that I had all but lost my job (they were about a week away from firing me), had lost my stock options -- which were verbal agreement only -- and got paid $500 to finish my project, basically as a going away payoff.

    Side note: a family member who is an accountant said the $500 was suspicious; for amounts $600 or higher (at least in my state) the employer has various obligations to the contractor. Less than that, it's just money thrown to the wind, essentially.

    Bottom line: I was naive and stupid enough not to get it in writing, and got screwed over. When money is involved (especially now that the dot-com economy is going through a harsh Darwinian stage) you're just another number in the end. Are you 100% sure that your bottom line is that important to the employer?


  • Actually, this was demonstrated in a Simpsons episode. Mr Burns lost his power plant and estate and went bankrupt. (I don't remember how)

    Lisa introduced him to recycling things to get change. Before long, he'd opened up a recycling plant and was again the richest man in town. Of course, he also turned sinister and devised a contraption to "sweep the sea clean" by catching fish in a huge net of six pack rings.


  • If Hotline isn't "peer to peer", then nothing is, including Napster and 'Doze's file sharing.

    P2P isn't the opposite of client-server. It's more about dynamic servers that come and go, such that no static database can keep track of them.

  • It is a great idea, but if it was just you and some others that started handing these to prospective employers, they simply wouldn't hire you.

    Isn't that the whole point? Weed out the bad employers. If they aren't open to negotiation, then they're not people.

  • "I think I could do a bang-up job of helping a *lot* of people if I had a lot of money."

    If you need any help for spending a few billions on *good* things, send me a mail!

  • Though I recall hearing about this before, I can't seem to figure out what the problem is. (I know there is one...)

    He wrote Hotline, he worked for HCL, who he assigned all rights of hotline to, and then he left the company.....
    and now he has no rights to Hotline, but the company does...
  • If we had something like the AMA, I would find another profession.

    Take as one example (not to takes sides on this, but just to point out the kinds of things that would certainly happen in our industry), the 60 minutes story of one doctor who was removed from medical practice by the AMA....

    His patients were the sort who suffered chronic, debilitating pain the likes of which you and I are not likely to be able to empathize with. He found that perscribing large doses of narcotics (e.g. opiates and the like) helped these people live normal lives, and according to his results and all of the research available, such patients were seemingly immune to the addictive properties that the recreational users of these drugs were subject to. Apparently, the feedback loop that causes addiction is somehow interfered with by the using the drugs to relieve chronic pain. Who knew.

    Instead of holding this man on a pedistal for finding a way to let his patients live relatively normal lives, the doctor had his license revoked and at least one of his patients, unable to face the debilitating pain again, killed themselves.

    No, paperwork standardization is one thing, but I don't want or need ethical oversight.
  • What that sounds like to me is you need a Union.

    Unions have a whole lot of baggage that I don't think this industry needs. A stripped-down sort of union might be nice. The problem is, I don't want to be constrained to do business the way everyone else does, I just want to get some paperwork standardized so that companies don't get spooked every time I hand back their IP agreements with loads of red-marker.

    If you want to call the organization that produces that document a union, fine, but I have no interest in standardized pay scales; time off; benefits; etc, because I'm in a position trade on my skillset for what I want. I'd have to step down in all of those areas in order to get standardization across the industry. Clearly not a win.
  • How about something like the AMA? Would that work for you? If you organized well paid people you could seriously effect government policies just like the doctors, lawyers, and the CEOs do.
  • In most areas of the law taking advantage of unerage kids is illegal. They are deemed unable to provide consent (in statutory rape cases for eaxample) and easily influenced by adults. This kid got raped intellectually there is no two ways about it. They took advantage of an underage person and really should be in jail (not that it would ever happen of course).
  • "I had my best friend die a few weeks before I sold my house. It was a long torturous death that affected everyone around him terribly."

    were you underage? were you forced to work long hours in isolated circumstances? were you separated from everybody you knew? were you pressured by your bosses? were you made promises? were you duped adn swindled? If so then yes you could take some leagal action (only if you are rich though in America only the rich win in court).
  • Just like to say I have done work for his Dad and Paul is perhaps one of the nicest people I've ever met. Only knew Adam as the son who had better things to do than maintain the code he wrote for his old man (not that I can talk).
  • It's interesting to me how the /. community is all up in arms to attack owners of IP when such owners are large corporations who use IP to make money. But then when the IP owner is an individual trying to do the same thing, suddenly IP is a good thing.

    No matter, I think that this kid made the same mistake that most large corporations make w.r.t. IP. He assumed that he could own an idea, and at the same time tell someone about it. The fact is that you get to do one or the other. Once an idea is shared, you can't ever take it back. In fact, the benefactor of this sharing can't give it back no matter how hard he tries.

    I think that if Adam Hinkley really wanted to keep the code that he worked on, while employed by someone else, he should have released it under GPL. But because he tried to keep ownership of it w/out the resources to defend that ownership, he lost it completely.

  • You are just a prospective employee, and there are plenty of them around that won't tell them they have to sign this document...

    This may be changing given the recent economic situation, but last I heard there were still more tech jobs open than qualified people to fill them. As a prospective employee, you do have leverage; just as the company can tell you to go away, you can seek employment at another company with more reasonable policies. Adopting the attitude that you have no negotiating power is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Remember that a light year describes a distance (the distance light travels in a year) and not a time span.

    That accurately describes the standard Western European time metaphor. The model that we use is that we're standing on a time line, walking forward as time elapses. That's why we say "it was a long way ahead" referring to a span of time, or we are "forward looking" if we think about the future and "backward looking" if we think about the past, and it's why we "face the future".

    If you think about it, the time metaphor that we use doesn't make sense. You can't see into the future, but you can see into the past. That's why some cultures (from memory, and I could be wrong about this, Chinese and some Australian Aboriginal cultures do this) have as their metaphor that you're walking along a time line backwards. Presumably in their buzzword-laden corporate cultures, if they have them, someone who looks to the future is "backward-looking". :-)

  • "Give a poor man a million dollars, he will remain a poor man. Take away a million dollars from a rich man, he will make another million dollars. "
    What a nasty unpleasant and largely untrue saying that is.

    And what an unthinking reaction that is. One only has to look at the large number of lottery winners who end up deeply in debt after the money is gone, and the large number of entrepreneurs who bounce back after losing everything, to know that the saying is, in fact, quite true. Whether it's unpleasant and nasty might depend on whether you're a poor man who thinks getting a million dollars is going to make him rich.
  • What you've proposed here looks pretty similar to the IP agreements that I've seen in the past with one notable exception. It seems commonplace for the company to stipulate that any inventions that are the result of knowledge gained from your work belong to the company regardless of when or where work on this project took place. When applied to physical objects this seems to make sense, but it gets kind of fuzzy when you start talking about software developers. At my job I write software that interfaces with hardware components and networking protocols. If I were to completely eliminate those areas from my choices of personal projects I'm really not left with much in the way of useful software. The one consolation that I have is that I develop DOS and Windows software at work and play with Linux and PalmOS in my free time. I hope that the platform differences will be sufficient to distance my personal projects from my work should any disagreement arise.
  • "...Justice Harper concluded that Adam Hinkley and his father had breached Redrock's rights over the AppWarrior class libraries, but because it was "innocent", the plaintiff should not be able to seek damages against Paul Hinkley..."

    Wow! Amazing! A judge that considers intent, not just the hard line of the law. We see that even though Adam did violate the terms of employment, he had no intent to cause harm to the plaintiff, and probably minimal harm was done.

    This case is not unlike the kid who brings a tin of Altoids to school and gets kicked out under the drugs "zero tolerance" (read: zero common sense) policy for having something that looks like the real thing.

    Or, like the time I got pulled over for speeding, the state cop told me "you weren't doing anything dangerous, you were just breaking the law." Granted, I deserved the ticket and had no grounds to object, but it still burns me that he said that .

  • Releasing the software under GPL could get you into some interesting legal trouble. If your employer legally owns the rights to the software, how can you legally release it under GPL. It might be taken as giving away something that doesn't belong to you. I'm not sure what this means to the thousands of people working on GPLed software in their free time, but I suspect there are a lot of people violating their employment agreements.
  • wow! you ever waited tables? There isn't a lot of "free time to think over problems"
  • You really only "connect" to one Napster server at a time. Your search runs to many servers. But trust me when I say starting a HL server is JUST as easy as a napster one. You launch the server app, pick folders to share, and you're done.
  • How is Hotline any different from Napster? because the client and server piece are in two diffferent apps? What's the difference? Because you can't run Napster without being a server? Yes, you can.... I just don't see the big difference.
  • No offense, johnos... I'm not trying to call you a liar. But if you don't know Hinkley, then that means you presumably weren't around when all this went down; you're a new guy. So what makes you think that you really heard the full story from your employer? I'm not saying that Hinkley reacted correctly; obviously he didn't. But I don't think he thought he was going to get a better deal; I think he felt he was losing control (or had already lost control) of the company.

    And the false promises that Roks and others made to Hinkley, LONG before your time at HLC, are quite relevant to this.

    Ok, I have to get in one little dig - I hope you're looking for a new job, because it doesn't look like HLC has much of a business model these days! ;-)
  • His job advice seems a bit naive to me. I have to work so I can afford to have the spare time to work on my own stuff. I don't I will ever have the time and the resources short of my retirement to be able to just "hold off" writting my own software. You just have to be really specific in your employment agreements about what is yours and what is the companies. His statement about everything in writting makes its point here. Make sure your employer agrees that anything you write on your own time and on your own systems is yours. And also don't write software that would compete, that helps too.
  • I work at Hotline Communications. You can judge my comments with that in mind. I am NOT speaking as a representative of Hotline Communications. these are my personal opinions.

    I am very familiar with all of the issues in the case. I have met all the main players, except Adam Hinkley himself.

    I find it hard to believe the bullshit that I have seen in these comments. Many of the "facts" cited here are entirely made up. For example, Hotline was ruined by the PC port. Most of the work on the pc port was done by Adam Hinkley himself. He did not leave because he was opposed to banner ads, or because he disagreed with the way the company was going, or because greedy investors threw him out, or even because he was homesick. The death of his sister, tragic though that may have been, was entirely irrelevant. He left, and took the source with him, because he wanted a better deal. He did not feel that anyone else should own any more of "his" product. Even if they were investing money in its development. He wanted complete control, in perpituity.

    Keep this in mind. When he left, he was the President of the company and its majority shareholder. He had a seat on the board and a veto over any change in ownership structure. Nobody had the power to take anything away from Adam. He WAS the company.

    Read the judgement. It confirms what I have always thought. Adam Hinkley screwed everyone he ever had a chance to screw. Including his own father.

    Greed was indeed the problem here. But it was Adam Hinkley's greed, not that of his business partners' that was the real issue. Sorry, but if you want corporate bullys, you will have to look somewhere else.

  • Quite right. I've just got my company to sign a waiver for a project I'm about to start coding for. They did remind me about a clause in my contract that says that I must not have any outside interests that interfere with the efficient running of the company, but that does at least make both our positions clear.

    If you're thinking of writing some code outside of company hours, then ask for a waiver. Resist the temptation to code when you don't have one, especially if you've asked for a waiver and they've refused. They're almost certain to demand the IP later, especially if it's beginning to get somewhere.

  • The business world is extremely evil.
    Just like everything else: there are good people and non-good people.
    This past August - October I worked for Aurora Casket for 2 months without contract.
    Employment is an interesting area of the law. It is possible, especially in lieu of a written contract, to be an employee without ever signing anything. In general, if you work at the company facilities, using company equipment, when the company tells you to, using methods specified by the company, you are an employee.
    They paid me my first 2 weeks pay in a company check right on time.
    Thus creating a paper trail demonstrating the existence and fulfillment of an employer-employee or client-contractor relationship.
    During this time management thought things out and changed their ideas ... and have this new kid start over with a better well thought out idea.
    If no contract or employment existed, then they are wrongfully using your trade secrets and your copyrights. Cease-and-desist 'em, let 'em scream about how they have a right because your were an employee or contractor, then stick 'em with breach of contract. They can't have their cake and eat it too.
    End of year I had to pay taxes on that first bit of money they gave me ($2500)
    If you're in the U.S., have a look at the IRS's "twenty questions" test for determining whether you are an employee. This [] seems to be a good page on the subject. (Google found it for me -- I didn't read it closely.) If you answer "yes" to more than 10 of the questions, you are an employee, and the company should probably have paid taxes. Moreover, they should probably also have paid other things, like unemployment insurance, worker's comp, yadda yadda yadda.

    On the other hand, it's always a good idea to keep aware of your tax situation even if someone is supposed to pay for it. The IRS commandos don't care whose door they break down. Of course, you probably know this now.

    ... meanwhile being shorted the $10,000 they still owed me for all my other hours work ... I don't have the grounds to fight them in court and by that point I was so screwed for cash there was no way I could afford to.
    Firstly, don't assume you cannot afford to fight them in court. Small claims court isn't terribly expensive (for either court fees or amount of lawyering needed). Even if small-claims has a $1500 or $2500 limit, you might could get them to settle out-of-court for more just to avoid the hassle. Even if you just get the small-claims limit, well, that's more money than you had. Secondly, if you are sure they owe you a debt (check with a lawyer first) there are other ways to attack them. For instance, a creditor can file a lien against the debtor's assets: land, buildings, bank accounts, and so forth. This would make them unable to, for instance, mortgage their property until the lien is resolved.

    I'd recommend to get all your tangible evidence together (notebooks, bank records showing deposited check, names of people you worked with), and go talk to a lawyer. It isn't that expensive, and even if you don't litigate, a good attorney can help you avoid this sort of situation in the future.

  • This is simply my pessimistic interpretation of Hinckley's "advice" that he leaves for you programmers out there, as you can read for yourselves here []. Okay, I understand that he might hold a slight grudge, but I still think he's sending part of the wrong message along with his own...

    1. Always give in to those that are accepted as more powerful and never fight the system. Let them win because they have the money, and money always wins! Don't attempt to change it because you can't. (Or, if you would rather, you can follow my personal philosophy, which is very similar to the Golden Rule, which is to act accordingly - trust until given a reason not to trust, like until given a reason not to like; it's that "live and let live" philosophy. Of course, you could always do it your way, which is what I really recommend. Use your own judgment. All businessmen aren't the same, no matter how many people try to convince you otherwise. There are honorable people in this world.)

    2. Don't do it... Short-cuts or easy ways are like cheating, and you need to work to earn your keep, you know? (Honorable; I don't really disagree.)

    3. Trust no one! Always trust no one! You cannot trust anyone! (Back to my "live and let live" philosophy - I'll trust someone until they give me a good reason not to trust them, and then I'll react accordingly.)

    4. Very good advice. This can be backed up by words from John Stuart Mill in his political/philosophical essay, On Liberty, in which he asserted:

    Though [one's] opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

    In other words, no single source of information has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Another quote from a good friend of mine - "There is only one absolute truth: this is absolutely true" - meaning there is no absolute truth to any situation. The only way you can go about finding the best "truth" for any situation is to vary your sources of information. Excellent advice, that #4 was, I say.

    Hinckley then goes on to say how easy it is for someone to fall into those traps, "even after someone warned you." Judging by that statement, he would assume that I would be one of the first to fall into one of those traps. Maybe he's right. Maybe not. We know without the experience to back it up.

    The best advice anyone can offer on any situation, really, is to research it well and use your best judgment, and use caution.

    And finally... I wish the best of luck to anyone losing their own rights and freedoms simply because the big businesses have the resources to take them.

    (Interestingly, this is one of those situations that I have seen organizations such as the ACLU playing both sides. One month the ACLU sides with a company suing an employee for the employee's off-the-clock work, and the next month the ACLU sides with an employee being sued by his company. I wonder how those standards work...)

  • You are right, it becomes a balancing test. The threshold for restricting speech is high.

    Yoru Nazi example may not be restricted unless it can be shown that this is an order to kill those Jews. Recently, there was an appeals court case that may be on point. This case ruled that putting the names of abortion doctors were could not be actionable. Even though this was linked to a death.

  • And finally... I wish the best of luck to anyone losing their own rights and freedoms simply because the big businesses have the resources to take them.
    Only partly true. You lose your rights by not fighting for them. Some people are not able to fight back as well as others. But, if you don't fight for your rights and others rights, you will lose them!
    (Interestingly, this is one of those situations that I have seen organizations such as the ACLU playing both sides. One month the ACLU sides with a company suing an employee for the employee's off-the-clock work, and the next month the ACLU sides with an employee being sued by his company. I wonder how those standards work...)
    First, this is in Australia, so the ACLU is not going to be involved. The ACLU does not taking the side of employee or employer, but the side of the constitution. Free speech is free speech, even if you don't like what it is saying. If you suppress what you don't like, what will stop others from suppressing what you do like?

  • I am really unable to see how this would work. It is a great idea, but if it was just you and some others that started handing these to prospective employers, they simply wouldn't hire you. I don't work in the computer industry at all so I cannot claim do know exactly how it works, but I have trouble imagining a company signing something like this unless it was drawn up by their lawyers, and allowed them to exploit the situation in their interests, and not the employee. After all, they are the ones that hold all of the cards. You are just a prospective employee, and there are plenty of them around that won't tell them they have to sign this document... Not to say that this isn't a really good idea. I just feel that you cannot offer something like this for an employer to voluntarily sign on an individual-employee basis. Why would they do something like this unless they absolutely had to? If you were part of a computer industy-wide union, it would be different. If it was in a union/company contract, then it would be manditory that the company sign it upon hiring you or anybody else. I am guessing that a vast majority of people in the computer industry probably do not want to be unionized, and that is fine. I am not saying that it is the only way or even the best way to go. I just don't think that you can get something like this accepted without that amount of bargaining power to back you up.--
  • I have a bunch of undisclosed and unofficial chats from hotline servers with hinks. Basically he moved from australia to canada at age 17 to work with investors. His sister dissappeared, and he went home to be with his family in their time of need. If I can dig them up I'll put them online, it includes finger pointing from both sides (hinks, and jason roks who was then with hotline) and gives you a better overview. Yes hinks did break contract, but the tragic circumstances surrounding it have been played down in the press.
  • He does not really suggest any proper solution to the problem of writing your own software

    I noticed that too and was most unhappy with his statement: "Do not write other code, not even in your spare time." So I'm supposed to not scratch my itch until I quit? I don't think so. I'll just make sure that my contract says that any code I write in my time on my machines is mine. Any company that refuses to accept that isn't one I'd want to work for anyway.


  • I recommend working at a car wash ... you can get really buff

    Or at least buffed.


  • I know this idealist and all that. But really, if you write something and you are getting paid by another company to write software for them, why not GPL your software and share it.

    The point is, if you are making your income else where, then why the need to "make more money", rather than just share and "make people happy".

    Perhaps our priorties are going askew? Just my $.02

  • Your take is essentially accurate, except for one missing point. HLC was initially formed by Hinkley and about 4-5 people who were just regular HL users (i.e kids) fact, it began life as an "advocacy" group.

    It wasn't until a certain Canadian member *cough*jr*cough*, convinced Hinkley that if he were to come to Toronto, and sell his soul to the Devil, he would be made rich, rich, RICH! It was only later that "investors" were brought in (I put that in quotes because investors actually give you funds, and clearly these guys had not.)

    In summary, Blame Canada!

  • To all the young and upcoming programmers out there, please accept my advice following, I think you would be wise to read it carefully.

    1. Employment: NEVER write your own software while you are an employee of someone else, EVEN if you do it in your own time

    Well when the hell are we supposed to do it then? I can't live without my job, how am I supposed to support myself? I can see this for students or people who still live with their parents, but for young programmers like me, just out of school, it's not possible to work for ourselves. We just don't have the resources.

    What would solve this problem? Well, first of all, less draconian IP agreements with our employers. I don't see that happening for the majority of people, so how about some more applied schoolwork to help young people get a portfolio together. With a reasonable portfolio the young programmers could help negotiate better terms for themselves upon entry into the job market. I had something like this because of extensive involvement in outside projects at college and things on my resume like published papers which made me more attractive to my company so I could negotiate terms of employment. Very few other graduates have this, primarially because of lack of programs/encouragement on the part of educators.

  • Must be your settings. I see the year in all the dates on /. Go to your user page and change the date display format.

    Sir, you are correct. The setting is under "Customize Homepage", and after hitting the save button, all dates were in the new format.

    You can't change previous posts, but I'd like to change it to (I'm getting annoyed at only using the month and the day as a date stamp on Slashdot posts - how short sighted of me not to investigate all the customization options, before criticizing the editors. You can really make a fool out of yourself if you don't try hard enough.)

    I only wish someone would have pointed this out yesterday, so more Slashdotters could have seen it...

  • One of the things that makes our system possible is trust. If every transaction made had to be documented and reviewed by lawyers, capitalism would be impossible. Sometimes an employer is going to ask you to trust him/her and think you unreasonable if you don't.

    Knowing the trustworthiness of the people you are dealing with is key. You should trust them and price yourself based on trustworthiness. Ask people who have done business with them before! Ask the boards! For expensive decisions, you need something in writing. In general, if the value of what you are trying to protect multiplied by the percentage expectation of getting screwed is less than the considerable cost of getting the legal-work done plus the intangible cost of the implicit "I don't trust you that much", then don't bother. Some of these work out, some don't.

    Also note that almost all Fortune 500 executives demand written employment contracts from their firms. Even though these firms are reasonably trustworthy (due to reputation concerns), the amount at stake is so high that the executives need the protection. This same basic calculation applies to everyone.

    Some agreements are so commonly documented that the failure to get a written agreement is cause for concern: consulting gigs and stock options spring to mind.

    In response to the specific article, I would recommend that anyone taking on a partner in a business get a lawyer. A partner includes any other owner or creditor in a small business. There are way too many obscure ways to get screwed to not have a lawyer. A single innocuous-sounding word change in a vanilla document can effectively transfer all ownership in the company's assets from you to them (ie. the deletion of "to my knowledge"). Lawyers know these tricks and watch out for them.

  • "Give a poor man a million dollars, he will remain a poor man. Take away a million dollars from a rich man, he will make another million dollars. "

    What a nasty unpleasant and largely untrue saying that is.


  • Either:

    1. Work for yourself.
    2. Work another job [waiting tables comes to mind, as does being a disc jockey] that gives you free time to think over problems.

    Hmmmm. Sounds a lot like being a writer or a musician. =)

  • "What a nasty unpleasant and largely untrue saying that is."

    I'm not so sure... My father and I have discussed this a couple of times, with regards to the lottery. Anecdotal evidence (and his professional experience as a bankruptcy accountant) suggests that not insignificant proportion of people who win a substantial lottery, ~$1e6, fairly rapidly lose most or all of it.

    Our conjecture is that if they were in financial straits to start with, it may have been due to their inability to manage their finances. That doesn't change when given a large sum of money, it just takes a little bit longer to fritter it all away.

    But, this is all hearsay, anecdotes and conjecture. I'd be very interested in solid stats on the finanical status of people >5 years after winning a lottery.
    D. Fischer
  • OK, so software writer's are too individualistic to form a union, and besides unions are designed to bargain against big bad employers, and not pull their members up by their bootstraps.

    Why not do what farmers in the 19th century did? They were an individualistic bunch, worked hard, believed they were the backbone of American society, and got screwed by railroad companies with a transport monopoly and banks with a finance monopoly.

    They solution was to combine forces and form their own democratically owned distribution channel -- farmer's marketing cooperatives. Their combined financial resources and market clout were able to accomplish what they could not do individually. See [] for more info..

  • Not long ago, I found myself in the position of trying to write software on my own time while working in the software industry, albeit not as a programmer.

    It is easy to decide to write software, but what is far more difficult to write quality software that your empoyers would not want. In the end, I chose technologies which I new to be unpopular in my workplace, and I got permission to do so in writing. The idea was to make it difficult to challenge my rights, and at the same time make them unlikely to want to do so.

    Anyway, the lesson is always get permission in writing and, if possible write software which might be outstanding but which your employers won't see its quality.

  • Whilst it is sensible to draw awareness to the issues of writing your own software under the employment of other people, the notion to never write software for your own purposes whilst under these conditions seems slightly too opinionated.

    He does not really suggest any proper solution to the problem of writing your own software- don't do it for yourself, don't do it for the company you work for... one can only assume he expects us to all start our own companies. However the idea of a company is to join together a group of people so that (usually) a product is produced more effectively and quickly- it is a joint effort rather than one by yourself.

    However his second point is against funding. How are we meant to start these companies of our own if we can't fund them? Unless we already have a large capital it is nearly impossible to start one's own business without it.

    I understand that clearly what has happened is unfortunate, but the guidelines set seem somewhat irrational given the realities it is trying to overcome.

  • Sorry if this is getting off-topic but ... since when is Hotline "peer-to-peer"?

    While Hotline appears to work on the old 'client-server' rote, it's much more similiar to a BBS system. The only difference between Hotline and something like Napster is that the file and server are integrated in the Napster application. Both programs contain all the features we see in 'mature' P2P apps such as chat, file x-change, etc..
  • This is a very old story and not as cut and dried as this meta-post makes out.

    IIRC he sold the software, got a job and a share otion from the purchaser, when the project came good, he wanted it his own way and left to start his own company & took the only copy of the source with him. And tried to claim he sold them something else. I think he got what he deserved.

    If your really interested I suggest using your fav search engine to dig up the other side.

  • In the event that you have an IP assignment contract, you can always try to get the company to sign a waiver. The GNU people do this, when someone joins an official GNU project. They have forms, etc, all prepared for that purpose...
  • To start with, if they were financially provident, they wouldn't have been buying lottery tickets in the first place. You get better odds from a Mafia bookie than from a gov't run lottery (at least in the USA) -- not that bookies are a wise investment strategy either...
  • Sorry, it should read: Give a foolish man a million dollars, he will remain a poor man. Take away a million dollars from a wise man, he will make another million dollars. - anotherwords, he's not lazy and will work hard to make the million back. I guess I'm slaughtering the exact saying, but the point remains the same.
  • >Is there any place I can find cookie cutter IT >contracts online that I could start using to >protect myself?

    Yes there is!
    I couldn't recommend more the following series of books by Nolo Press. Check out these links from them:

    Worth their weight in gold...and oh yes...corporations are (generally) soulless (and IMHO evil) entities run by people who put profit above the good of any one person other then themselves.
  • The site seems to be down right now, but I've used findlaw [] in the past for information. They do have a section specific for forms too.

    You can get a general flavor by doing a search for 'findlaw' on google and opening up the cached versions.

    Hope this helps,
  • Would the court decision keep him from taking what he has learned in the process of writing the programs he had stolen from him and using that knowledge to write something better that does something similar?

    Nobody quote me, but based on my amateur opinion, I believe he is free to write anything he wants. He stated that there are no longer any noncompete agreements effective, so the only restriction that I think remains is that he can't start with any of his old source code. As long as the source is not duplicated, he should be ok.

    Now the skeptic in my has to comment. If he chooses to write competing software, or participate in a similar effort, the companies that were party to this suite could choose to take him back to court, accusing him of copyright infringement. While we know that this kind of case would ultimately be dismissed, we have to remember that the companies have far more financial resources than he, and could therefore drag things through the legal muck enough to force him to comply due to lack of resources -- which is pretty much what happened in this ruling.

  • At first blush I see two alternatives for individuals who would like to pursue individual projects while employed by a company which may have financial interest in such independant intellectual property. The first alternative is to release all projects under the GPL license. Employers are not likely to be interested in products they cannot make proprietary, and if they are there is nothing to prevent you from continuing to develop and support your version. The major drawback, of course, is that there is no money in GPL projects. If your motivation is profit rather than creativity then this is not a viable option. Furthermore, if your employer is vicious enough they could claim in court that you did not have the right to release the project under the GPL and you would be out of luck anyway. The second option is akin to a pre-nuptual agreement. Make the employer sign an agreement that you have a right to all IP created on your own time. The agreement should state that the employer will not make any effort to gain control of such IP. In my experience, employers who have not been involved in IP cases rarely give such issues thought and are likley to sign such an agreement. If they refuse to do so, get another job. I could not imagine working for a company who refuses to agree not to attempt to cheat me at some future date.
  • Certainly if you have signed an agreement with an employer which clearly gives the employer all IP rights to works created on your own time then you would not be able to legally release the software under GPL or any other license for that matter.
    The solutions I offered assume the more normal case where no agreement has been signed, but the employer may attempt to seize IP rights at some future date based on a legal theory other than a signed contract.
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Monday April 09, 2001 @01:41PM (#304890) Journal
    Blackmail. Work at any corporation and you will immediately find out that they do something terribly illegal. In fact, if you're in IT, you're definitely going to find out. You manage their information. You see everything. You know all. When the time comes you can truly make them pay.
    Indeed. I know someone who was managing the IT ressources of a small manufacturer. That small manufacturer once decided to fund a political party, in contravention to the political financing law (no corporation can give money to a political party, only individuals, and to a maximum of $100 per year). So, they asked my friend to make every employee donate $100 to that political party during the next payroll iteration.

    Of course, the political party in question was not the one most of the employees voted for, so he blew the whistle on the unionized employees who, got pretty pissed-off at it. To make a story short, the company owner's got his Mecedes torched, his office was smeared with grease and other gooey disgusting stuff, his lawn sprinkled with pesticides and fertilizer at different places, and plenty of the employees who "gave" to the political party went to the political party to demand their money back, and my friend provided information about all this to the Elections Supervisor office, who promptly laid charges against the company and the political party (the candidate was later convincted of election fraud for paying people to vote several times for him).

    The company, each director, the political party and the candidate were each fined six times the amount of the "contributions", it's directors and the candidate deprived of civic rights for 10 years (they can't vote and can't present themselves as candidates to elections),

    Better yet, the insurance company didn't pay a cent for the torched Mecedes, as it was able to allege that the owner deliberately torched it himself to commit insurance fraud (the owner didn't bother fighting this as he was entangled with the bigger legal problems with the Elections Supervisor), and when my friend was fired for blowing the whistle, he successfully went to court and was reinstated with indexed back pay (the case took two years). And the company had to keep his replacement, too.

    So, as you can see, in a Socialist country, democracy cannot be corrupted easily, and the workers cannot be screwed either.

    (there. Score: 5: flamebait+3, troll+2)


  • by dduck ( 10970 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @01:23PM (#304891) Homepage
    Guys guys guys...

    Now I may sound like an old fart - which I guess I am at 30 - but from you comments it seems that most of you have a lot to learn about business in general and software publishing in particular.

    I see a lot of misconceptions here, so let's start with the biggest one right away:
    It seems that most of the people commenting on the story think that the "idea" is the main thing in getting a software company up and running. Not so! As a rule of thumb, the idea is 5% of the program. The program is 5% of the product. The product is 5% of the company. In other words: While it's certaintly true that without the idea there would be no company, it's AT LEAST as true to say that without a lot of (non-idea and programming related) work there would be no company either.

    Coders tend to underestimate the importance of the supporting organization and the networking involved in getting a product to the shelves, not to mention selling it once it's in the stores. It's true that a lot of barriers have fallen in this area over the last years, but the main part of the job is still to get the software ready for the market, and actually getting it TO the market. In other words you (OK, we) tend to overestimate the value of ideas.

    In the area of ideas: You do NOT need a brilliant idea (although it won't hurt). You need a good idea and a good plan. Without a plan you'll get exactly nowhere. Have you thought about distribution? PR? User segments? Competition? You NEED to think about those things, in order to find a way to package your IP in a product that will actually stand a chance of making money.

    The last major misconception is in the area of the nature of business deals. It seems that a lot of people are outraged that he got "screwed over". Well guess what: People do not do business in order to be nice to eachother! They are out there to make money, and if you do not make sure that your ass is covered, the easiest way to make money will be to "screw you over". That would be your fault for not getting a good lawyer to check out the contract before you signed it, and not their fault for being evil capitalists. If you don't want to deal with capitalists, don't invite them in. If you don't want to deal with them, and your product needs financing to take off, your plan wasn't good enough :) In that case, bite the bullit and cross your fingers, 'cause there's no way to make sure that they can't screw you over somehow.

    Finally you absolutely have to quit your day job in order to give your own idea the 110% attention it needs in order to become a moneymaker. You can NOT expect to make a fortune in your spare time. Actually your prospective investors expect that you spend at least half a year working on your idea ON YOUR OWN DIME... If you don't, well then you haven't shown sufficient confidence in your own ideas, right? They supply the resources, but you have to make them bellieve in you somehow.

    To sum it up: Don't bitch - learn about the facts of business before you try to play in the big (or middle) leagues. Unfortunately the only reliable way to learn about business it to try it, so expect to get burnt once or twice. But it's no big deal.... You'll learn, and eventually (hopefully) you'll bag the big one some day.

    Just don't count on doing it through amazing code alone, or expect that the venture capitalists are in the fairy godmother business.

  • by SurfsUp ( 11523 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @11:53AM (#304892)
    I am really unable to see how this would work. It is a great idea, but if it was just you and some others that started handing these to prospective employers, they simply wouldn't hire you

    Not true. I insisted on something very much like that in my most recent contract. It depends how much they want you, and for tech people with any skill at all, remember you're in the driver's seat. Think of this little freedom as a benefit the company can give you for free. If you had two equivalent offers but one of them explicitly acknowledged your rights to your off hours, non-company related work, which one would you choose? In my case, and I think this is a technique that will work generally, I said that I was involved in a number of open-source projects and I needed written assurance that my employer would not make any claim on the work I was doing there. Since your employer is most probably benefitting from the open source work you're doing you'll find it an easy argument to make, and it doesn't sound like you're planning to run off with the company's IP. Finally, if you don't ask, you won't get.

  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:47AM (#304893) Homepage Journal
    Would the court decision keep him from taking what he has learned in the process of writing the programs he had stolen from him and using that knowledge to write something better that does something similar? Prehaps somebody in the opensource camp should hire him on as a programmer and consultant. Gnutella and all the other P2P solutions I've seen need a lot of work to become viable - may as well hire someone with experience. RedHat and other big vendors should realize that P2P will be important to capturing the desktop market.
  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @10:24AM (#304894) Homepage
    "Good friends" can be the most dangerous people in the world. At least you're naturaly suspicious of most other people, but good friends can sneak up behind you and stab you in the back and you'll never know what happened until its too late.

    Not to say you can't trust them. The point is, the first time you suspect that you CAN'T trust them, you shouldn't ever trust them from that point on.

    Sorry. I've been burned before.

    Bittersweet advice...

    Don't have good friends as roommates. Sure, you want to KNOW the person and you want to be able to get along with them, but nobody can get on your nerves quite like a GOOD friend, and they're a lot harder to kick out if things go sour for some reason.

    Don't lend money to friends if you expect to be paid back. If they pay you back, thats an act of good faith on their part that shows their quality. If they don't, you have every excuse not to lend money to them again. Otherwise, that loan will become a tension point and you'd have been better off never lending it to them in the first place.

    Don't go into business with anyone who doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on reality. Buisiness that boom overnight are rare, and even more rarely predictable. A friend might have some glorious plan for becoming a millionaire overnight and want you to quit your job and put in 80 hour weeks to help him realize his dream and reap the benefits. Don't hesitate to be the rational mind in the situation. Even if he believes what he's saying, you'll still end up throwing a lot of money and time at a black hole.

    However, a sobering business plan, with modest investment, and a reasonable expectation of profits after a period of time that isn't based
    on a quackjob theory, THAT might be something that interests me. Sure, it doesn't sound like its got the potential to turn me into an overnight millionaire, but at least I'd have better faith in the chances.

  • by homebru ( 57152 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:32AM (#304895)
    Adam's comments show that, if nothing else, he has managed to learn the four hardest rules of life in the commercial world.

    I am just sorry that he learned them the hard way. If you, (Mr/Ms) Slashdot reader, read no other story today, please read Adam's four warnings []. Understanding or at least accepting them can literally change your life as a techie.

    As somebody else once said, "This is no-shit serious".

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @11:00AM (#304896) Homepage Journal

    Give a poor man a million dollars, he will remain a poor man.

    A scary number like 80%+ of all large-prize lottery winners go bankrupt within a few years. Most have no understanding of how to make that money work for them, or to turn it into a renewable resource through wise investment. They spend the $100k/year, even selling the future years' checks before they come in.

  • by Phillip2 ( 203612 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @10:17AM (#304897)
    "Take away a million dollars from a wise man, he will make another million dollars. "

    Well this version is considerably less unpleasant than the first.

    Although like that other US saying to be found in many bars "if you are so clever why ain't you rich", I would have to say that if a man was wise perhaps he would have no need for a million dollars.


  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @01:19PM (#304898)
    Sounds like the company made three of the biggest mistakes it could possible make:
    1) They didn't back up the source.
    2) They left the source entirely in the control of one person. Say he skis head-first into a tree, then where are you?
    3) They knew he thought he was being screwed over, and they still didn't back up the source!
  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:14AM (#304899) Journal
    At least he has the consolation that he is young enough to start again. Brilliant people are never short of ideas.

    It is just gutting when your sole vision in life for 5 years is cruelly crushed by large non-feeling corporate entities. But what do you do? Join them, or go against them?
  • Furthermore, I think young people need to get together when they have the advantage (when still in HS) with their intellectual property, and form a corporation with a collective structure of the inventors making decisions, so they can leverage a bit more decisionmaking power with their IP.

    when you are a kid, you would probably be more likely to share the profits a bit if it would enable you to act as an adult with your property through this corporation, rather than getting taken advantage of at a young age.
  • First of all this has been covered on /. before: see Programmer Gagged [].

    Next a few things to ponder upon:

    Note that most of this is from recollection. A number of online searches produced very little in the way of detail. I'd be very interested if someone could provide more material, reality-check my memory, etc.

    Adam Hinkley sold the rights to his code. He did this without duress & in an apparently legal fashion. He took the money (ok, stock too.)

    Later he disagreed with the direction the company who had bought his code was going. Fair enough, it's not unusual for an inventor/founder to become unhappy with the future course of their product, particularly when they've sold control of it.

    However Hinkley's solution was to encrypt the source-code for the application & refuse to release it to those who had paid for it. Now I don't know about the rest of you but had I paid someone some large sum of money for the rights to a product then employed them under contract to extend the product I would expect it to be mine. Again Hinkley took the money.

    Later (as I recall) it is discovered that Hinkley had apparently misappropriated OTHER code that he'd been previously hired to develop by a previous employer, renaming & reusing it without their permission.

    I don't know how other folks view this but when most companies hire someone to write code they expect it to belong to them, not to wander out the door with the employee.

    Generally this is clearly spelt out in the employment contract and yes generally the folks who paid for the code get to determine it's license, if any. Sure skills & techniques & code snippets & even architecture go with the employee but not the whole ball-of-wax, line by line to be used in another companies' product.

    Yes Adam suffered some devastating personal events. However none of those have any direct bearing on his being compos mentis and signing contracts. At some point one has to take responsibility for one's decisions, for ill or for good.

    Finally note that Adam did not do this all without advice. His father assisted him in the decisions, was involved in running his business, and they did hire lawyers to help write & review the legal instruments.

    Adam had every opportunity to refuse to sign the paperwork, to demand things be put in writing, to simply not go ahead with the deal. However he didn't. He sold his product.

    Frankly it all reads to me as a greedy young man who had a good idea, sold it, then when he realized he'd lost control regretted it & attempted to renege on his obligations. It's great that he was so committed to the product, a pity he'd sold away his control of it. That the courts have not backed him up is not surprising, he has shown little reason for them to do so.

    What's the lesson to be learned from all of this?

    • Be legally smart.
    • Understand what one is getting into.
    • Realize that when something is sold it no longer belongs to you.
    • Understand that one can't later renounce contracts.
    • Accept that there are no legal 'outs' for personal disaster; distraction & grief are not sufficient to invalidate one's commitments.
    • Respect that if one is capable of signing a contract one is expected to honor that contract.
    • Take responsabilty for one's actions and fulfill ones obligations.
    After Adam Hinkley sold his product to Hotline he was no longer it's owner. This was trivially clear beforehand whether he recognized it himself or not. That the company may have different goals & directions for Adam's product should have occurred to him earlier & provisions been made. Without those he was simply another employee with a valued position, a paycheck & a block of stock. To attempt to then hold material hostage in order dictate terms to the new owners was stupid & illegal. To attempt to remove the materials to another jurisdiction was even more stupid. That the legitimate owners of the material were forced to bring in the law & have a search made to return their property was sad but justified - the code was theirs as much as any other corporate asset, physical or intellectual.

    Sob stories make for interesting reading but aren't particularly compelling. Perhaps next time Adam will have matured a bit & treat going into business with the seriousness it requires, respect the implications of signing a contract.

    Again: note that most of this is from recollection. A number of online searches produced very little in the way of detail. I'd be very interested if someone could provide more material, reality-check my memory, etc.

    Finally, here's the only source-material I could find: HL Afterbirth [].

  • It's been a while, so I don't remember the particulars of this case exactly.

    Adam was a kid who wrote hotline, a very sophisticated client/server filetransfer/chat app, which very quickly was picked up by the warez community. It was light years ahead of anything in the field (this was 3(?) years before Napster, to put things in perspective).

    Due to the popularity, a group of businessmen decided to fund further development of the app...Adam joined them, signing over his code. He moved to canada and worked on the project. Eventually, though, he realized that the business people were screwing him over. After trying, naively, to get them to change their ways, they reminded him of the contracts he had signed regarding his code. Adam suddenly realized that he no longer 'owned' his code. To make a story short, he PGP encrypted everything on the computer he was using and flew back to .au.

    The company was forced to reverse-engineer hl, resulting in version 1.6 (1.7?) or so, which included banner ads and a PC version. This was the death knell of the hotline community, which finally degenerated to the land of w4r3z kiddies it is today.

    And now, at 22, Adam's ready to take on the business world again. Go Adam! Kick some ass!

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:46AM (#304903) Homepage Journal
    We really need someone who knows the law to draw up a document. I'm thinking of a non-disclosure/non-compete that we can all offer to prospective employers. Here's what I think needs to go into it:

    1. Information and inventions that you are exposed to at work are property of the company, and will not be disclosed without permission.
    2. External projects will be performed only off-site unless you are instructed otherwise. No company resources will be used.
    3. Off-hours work and inventions are your own.
    4. If you're asked to deploy your own off-hours software for business, changes made will be contributed back to the project under the terms of that project's license.
    5. In terms of non-competition, software that is used by a competitor, but which does not directly engage in the business of your company will not be considered to be a violation.

    Having this, we could then present this to prospective businesses in order to take the pressure off of them to come up with a way to cover their asses. They get a document which the industry has had a chance to review an comment on so that they know what to expect.

  • Furthermore, I think young people need to get together when they have the advantage (when still in HS) with their intellectual property, and form a corporation with a collective structure of the inventors making decisions, so they can leverage a bit more decisionmaking power with their IP.

    This is true - your best ideas will probably come while you are young and in school, and working for a corporation will narrow your explorations, and probably steal your best ideas. If you want to make the big dough, and don't mind taking the big risk, start your own company.

    Having said that, I still believe post-college is the way to go. If you fail, or the industry collaspes, you will have a degree to fall back on. If you suceed, you will have at least sat through the mandatory lectures, so that you won't get lectured on Slashdot on proper list creation, database design, or basic security.

    Roblimo wrote an article earlier today that showed some real business knowledge in the minds behind Slashdot. They've been at this game for a while, and now do what they love for a living. It would be nice to have a series of articles, something like "Business for Nerds, Stuff that Doesn't Seem to Matter But Actually Does", and make it a linked column, rather than a Slashdot post, so that it doesn't get lost in the archives. Something like the FAQ, but updated, and with years (I'm getting annoyed at only using the month and the day as a date stamp on Slashdot posts - how short sighted).

  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:31AM (#304905)
    When it first started, Hotline was a great app. It was probably one of the first peer2peer sharing applications that one could reliably find MP3's on. It was the first peer2peer application that I ever used, at any rate.

    It was great at the time, because you didn't have to do the hunt and peck thing with Hotline, or beg for rare tracks on usenet. You could find what you want, frequently by the server's name and/or theme, and then try to upload in response.

    Of course, getting a stable version out for Win32 destroyed this rather friendly exchange for the same reason that all of AOL's millions of users make it difficult to use what would otherwise be a pretty good service. People began to use Hotline to try to make money and run scams. Most HL servers, I suspect, are fronts for banner schemes now. These schemes are probably seen by advertisers as part of the primary reasons why the banner market is so unsafe.

    I find it ironic that the application's creator was screwed over for the same reason that it's users were: GREED.

    I'm glad that he didn't pursue. I don't think it would have been worth his time. Personally, I hope he starts out and creates another great, innovative, killer app.
  • by cavemanf16 ( 303184 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:52AM (#304906) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of a saying:

    Give a poor man a million dollars, he will remain a poor man.
    Take away a million dollars from a rich man, he will make another million dollars.

    The point is, this guy seems to be very intelligent, so I'm sure he can move on with his life and do quite well for himself. Looks as if youthful enthusiasm has now been tempered with the cold steel edge of the real world. Although his message is a little jaded, he seems to have adjusted well to the change, all things considered. Good luck, buddy!

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.