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Looks like a fairly standard non-discosure and non-compete to me, but I'm not a lawyer, so take my advice as worth what you paid for it.
AFAIK, as long as whatever you're working on isn't related to anything they're doing you don't need anyone's permission. Say they sell CRM software and you write a open source OCR application; that'd be none of their business. On the other hand, if you clone their CRM prog at home, even if you rewrote the whole thing in another language and on your own time, then released it for free under the GPL, you'd probably get sued for a million bucks.
Your best bet is to contact a lawyer who deals with this sort of thing and have him/her go over it with you. Whilst we have a great number of very knowledgeable people here, you need to get an expert's opinion on the matter - if we say "go for it" and we're wrong, it's you that will be up in court, not us.
Crisis over. I ended up flat out asking the boss if I could do FOSS, and he goes "Yeah of course, I'd actually encourage FOSS development, as it's going to improve your skill set and have benefits for us too. And we'd have absolutely no IP claim to any FOSS stuff you'd do." I doubt that's legally binding, but I've known him for a couple weeks and he seems like a nice guy.
Get it in writing. He may be a nice guy, but he is a businessman, he didn't get to where he is by not being aware of what will bring in money to the company. Remember the old adage: a verbal contract is worth the paper it's printed on.
Righty-o, will do. Though I would hope it takes more than just being a business person to lie flat out to someone's face about something they obviously care so much about (I was practically shaking when I asked him this).
Right now he's a business person, but should things start to go wrong for him, he'll become something else.
To be honest, it's good to do this for your peace of mind and to start off on the right foot. The last thing you need is for you to be happy there and suddenly start to panic when it looks like the situation is changing.
And what happens if the company gets bought out...?
Will you be developing this FOSS on your employers' time or your own time? I'm pretty sure in most parts of the world no employer can *legally* force you to give up work you do in your free time. But again, local laws should be consulted for this.
Distribution: UBUNTU 5.10 since Jul-18,2006 on Intel 820 DC
Hari, the OP said in free time.
Nevertheless, its a minefield out there. Take an example cited above - OCR reader and CRM. Could it be construed as <Quote>... detriment to or loss of business opportunity ...<Unquote> if the company somehow integrates OCR recognition into the CRM package.