I used to work at Telecommunication Systems (TCS/TSYS) which I discovered had unfair free software “policy”, if you can call it a policy.
The products I worked at prior (at the company acquired by TCS) utilized (significantly) free software products. Tomcat, Apache, Linux, Hibernate, JBoss, Seam, Apache Java libraries, Spring, etc. Let’s also not forget MySQL, Vim, Eclipse, Cygwin, Subversion, CVS, and all the tools that make up a developer’s environment. (And we all have benefited from free online communities as well, getting our questions on answered for free on forums, bugs fixed, etc.)
I told HR as well as the VP of Location Based Services (boss’s boss), I was a contributor for multiple open source projects and would like to continue contributing. I was soon on a conference call with the head of HR, as well as their lawyer and maybe the COO. Everybody was afraid. There was potential for conflict of interest as well as “leaking IP” into those projects. And so effective immediately, I was denied the right to continue my work. Policy would be reviewed and perhaps I could start working on those projects yet again.
Despite the low risk, and after over a year of cajoling and pleading, there was no change in policy.
Far be it for me to be presumptuous (!?) but we have a moral obligation as developers to give back as well.
Why? In place of the usual (and tidy) financial obligation, there is an expectation that if you use software that benefits everyone, you should reciprocate those changes back that benefit everyone.
The sad truth is, favors aren’t the currency of a corporation.
At TCS, was I the only one at the company that cared? I suppose it’s easy to throw your hands up in dismay when your paycheck is on the line.