Mattthew Brauer is one of the people who is involved in the creation of a new Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for CouchSurfing. The current NDA is simply ridiculous, it transfers all trade secrets from the volunteer to CouchSurfing. A trade secret is a very ill-defined term that literally can include anything you can think of, such as “programming techniques” and “software patents”. The NDA should be limited to giving CouchSurfing a license to use the work of the volunteer, it should not try to transfer copyrights or just ideas.
My main concern for the new NDA used to be this part. A secondary concern is the non-compete clause, which forbids the signee from working for related organizations or companies, which is, again a bit vague. It could mean that if you sign the NDA, you can’t work for any other website. Or you can’t work for a travel agency.
When I signed the NDA in August 2006, Casey told me the NDA would be changed. This year I found out Casey Fenton had already been promising a new NDA in June 2006. It’s nearly one year later and no draft has been shown to people outside the Leadership Circle. Mattthew, one of the people who was working on this wrote yesterday:
I support a reasonable non-compete clause. The non-compete clause will apply only to other travel related social networks and will last for one year. It’s good for CS to require a commitment from volunteers. They have to make the choice to work for CS over competitors, and if they make that commitment, they are likely to be dedicated and motivated. It’s also safest for CS to ask that volunteers don’t immediately go work for competitors with the knowledge they’ve gained from CS.
…and I am deeply shocked. I know that many CS volunteers are also volunteers for Hospitality Club. I know that most people don’t give a damn about whether it’s called CouchSurfing, Servas, HomeStay, WWOOFing, WarmShowersList, BeWelcome, or WhatEver, as long as they meet interesting people. Most volunteers care about the mission of all these organization a lot more than that they care about the individual organizations.
And what about Hitchwiki, Wikitravel and other websites created by travelers. Add “friend links” and voila, suddenly it’s a travel related network, and anyone who has signed the NDA for CouchSurfing can’t work on these projects anymore.
from feeling part of something bigger, from responsibility. Someone who takes the step to find out how to volunteer is already motivated, and in CS, if they actually get to do something they must have been truly very dedicated, going through mires of information, contacting many people without getting replies. Commitment doesn’t come through the force of law.
If there will be any non-compete clause in the new NDA, I will stop doing any work for CouchSurfing and demand that the NDA I signed in August is declared void. I am sure that other technically inclined people will do the same. Since the NDA is also supposed to be signed by many more people CouchSurfing will loose a lot of its core volunteers, the people who have been struggling for more transparency, who have been working off their asses for free, and who have been able to keep the site running. If they leave, CS will be left amputated and there will just be a core of people who highly value secrecy and prefer to work with people who think the same as they do and with whom they have been close friends with for a long time.
P.S. If there will be a non-compete clause the OpenCS project could be terminated very soon: Yesterday I heard it’s likely that BeWelcome will soon release their code under the GNU General Public License.