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I've had an interview with an ad agency and they've asked me to sign a NDA before I do an interview task.

Now, I understood this was to protect their clients which I believe are somewhat secretive and that's all fine but there is a part that reads

"You hereby irrevocably and unconditionally assign to the company any and all copyright on intellectual property (including future copyright) in any work created by you in connection with any assignment or order for services provided under this agreement and waive and any all moral rights conferred upon now and in future etc etc etc"

Is this saying that if I create something amazing for this interview task they could basically use it for a client, potentially not hire me and not pay me?

Is this weird?

  • 2
    Does it really say "copywrite"?? – Philip Kendall Oct 31 '18 at 8:18
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    sounds like it. probably unenforceable unless they pay you for your time, but honestly the chances of you building anything useful in an interview are so close to zero why does it matter? – bharal Oct 31 '18 at 8:19
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    @bharal "building something useful" can also means "fix that bug". Or that you have to build a program that import a CSV file into a Oracle DB that we will use in our daily planned operations. – Gianluca Oct 31 '18 at 9:12
  • @bharal you never worked at ad agency didn't you? 30 minutes is what you have to create whole projects. – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 31 '18 at 11:04
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    There are countries in which that clause would be against the law. In some countries, it's not possible to waive moral rights. – David Thornley Oct 31 '18 at 20:52
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As a person working in ad agencies and peripherals and marketing:

This is fishy (as in fish that eat excrement)

  1. I've seen dozens of "competitions" that had the same mumbo jumbo and people who participate (but didn't win) seen their ideas used next year by the company. For free.
  2. They don't need to protect their clients. They can give you a task for made up company, for made up campaign with made up strategy and so on.
  3. This don't protect their clients in any way because it's not an NDA

They want you to give up any right to anything you create, don't give you any money and (most laughable) said that you don't have moral right to be angry if they make money on stuff that you make.

Unless they hire you, YOU have all rights to anything you create. If you freelance, unleast the contract specify it, client don't have right to idea they don't choose but you created. If you show client 5 options and they go with one you can still reuse those remaining 4. And they can't take your ideas to different agency/person. Because that's intellectual property.

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    @JoeStrazzere 1. I just seen this type of legal wording in schemes designed to milk people for free ideas and work. It don't matter if it's named "competition" or "contest" or "interview". 3. If Ponzi scheme will be part of document labelled "butter recipe" it still won't be butter recipe. This is not NDA. Different paragraphs may be NDA. But this quote is not. – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 31 '18 at 15:07
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Is this saying that if I create something amazing for this interview task they could basically use it for a client, potentially not hire me and not pay me?

Yes. Although it is extremely unlikely that they would use a product that you develop during an interview, without first adding a lot of work to it, it is conceivable.

If you create something that amazing, you'll most likely get hired.

Is this weird?

No. It's pretty standard.

If you object to this specific part, you can cross it out and ask if the revision is acceptable. I've done that on similar agreements before.

If the thought of this very unlikely scenario bothers you, then don't sign the NDA and walk away. Find another job that won't require this step.

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    The document may be called an NDA, but the cited clause has nothing to do with non-disclosure, and everything to do with copyright assignment. I have never seen anything like this. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 31 '18 at 12:52
  • @MartinBonner It is somewhat related to NDA; if the tell somewhat else what they did, the company can sue them for copyright infringement. – Acccumulation Nov 2 '18 at 1:06
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Yes, so bear that in mind when doing task they set you during the interview.

Alternatively, it may just be to protect the details of whatever task they do give you - we give all our candidates a toy task to do, and it would be more than a little annoying if that leaked so it wasn't a fair test any more. We don't actually bother with an NDA or anything though as it would never be worth trying to enforce it.

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This is more about protecting the company from you spilling the beans on anything you learn during the process.

For example, if you get an interview with Google to work on some future project for them, then they wouldn't want you to blog or otherwise talk about it as it could give information away to competitors.

I wouldn't worry about this and I'd carry on with the interview process.

  • I agree that I wouldn't worry about and go through the interview process. However the NDA also protects the company from being sued. So whatever product goes to make and then the person interviewing can't sue claiming that they contributed significantly to the product and deserve some compensation. So I'd work on something for a few hours to a day for free, but not a month. – MaxW Oct 31 '18 at 8:29
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    This is not an NDA. NDA is "I won't tell" this is "take things I made and make money out of it while giving me nothing in return" – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 31 '18 at 11:16
  • It gives the company the means to sue you maliciously. No way you would sign this. – gnasher729 Oct 31 '18 at 18:41
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Disclaimer: I am a software engineer, not a marketing person, so I don't know how standard this is in your field.

This sounds extremely fishy to me. It sounds like they're asking you to do unpaid work for them under the guise of an "interview". In a real interview setting, they would usually come up with some kind of contrived scenario or situation that would simultaneously gauge your skillset to see if you were appropriate in skill level for the company while also being far enough unrelated to anything the company is doing so as to make your work inapplicable to their ongoing business. It looks like this company is not only not doing that, but also intends to (or at least is not closing the door on) use something you do, for free, if they think it's worthwhile.

This sounds extremely shady. If you want this job, then sign the waiver, but when you get the details of the assignment, think long and hard about whether this is actually an interview for a job, or an excuse for the company to get free labour, and determine whether you want to continue this interview with this company after getting the details of the assignment. Which is to say, there is nothing wrong with signing the document in and of itself, but once you see what they are asking of you, you should carefully consider whether you actually want to do it.

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It is reasonable for the company to be worried that if you come in and present something during the interview and don't get hired, you may later come back and find some campaign they've run and claim that it's similar to what you presented. Even if your claim is spurious, it can still cost them a lot in legal bills to defend against it. Now, of course, you have the worry that they'll just exploit you for free work, and that's a legitimate concern, and it's a difficult question of how to balance those concerns.

What is less reasonable is their saying "copyright" rather than "license". A license means that you can't sue them claiming that one of their campaigns is "similar" to your idea, a copyright means that they can sue you claiming that you later work is too similar to what you did in the interview. And if they just called this an "NDA", with no mention of copyright part other than in the fine print, that's another red flag.

There is some question as to whether this is enforceable: there is such a large power imbalance that this can be seen as coercive/exploitative. For a contract to be be valid, both sides must be doing something for the other party, and it's not clear what the company is doing for you. And one could also make the argument that if the company is planning on making money off your work, but not paying you, that violates minimum wage laws.

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