A Sad Day for CouchSurfing

At least three volunteer developers have resigned from the CouchSurfing Tech Team on account of the new NDA that all volunteers will be required to sign.

The new NDA includes a non-compete clause preventing volunteers from working with any other travel or social networks. It also requires that volunteers transfer their Intellectual Property rights to CouchSurfing International Inc.

I heard that somebody describe it perfectly, they said “it’s not volunteering, it’s slavery”.

6 thoughts on “A Sad Day for CouchSurfing”

  1. I’m not sure I see the issue? The organisation is free to run itself however it chooses, and these volunteers are not being forced to give up their time for free. If they don’t like the agreement they may or may not have to sign, then quite simply, don’t volunteer.

    It’s so far from slavery it’s unbelievably stupid to call it such.

  2. @Alex: Did you read the NDA? The challenges with the NDA are two-fold. One, the organisation presents itself as a volunteer run organisation, which it is not. Two, the NDA requires an outrageous commitment, exclusive transfer of IP, non-compete clauses, and so on.

    I understand that you might know all the details, I’d warmly encourage you to read the OpenCouchSurfing Wiki if you want more information.

  3. The fact that the organisation might misrepresent itself is also nothing to do with its rights to enforce whatever ND terms it chooses. This is not a discussion about physically or economically enforced labour,as it the case with true slavery, but rather that some volunteers don’t like the terms under which their work will be used.
    There si a simple solution to that: don’t volunteer your time with that organisation if you don’t like it’s terms… Much like I won’t be volunteering my time for the animal rights activists.

  4. @Alex: I agree, if you don’t like the terms don’t volunteer. However, existing volunteers have given hundreds of hours under the promise of a new NDA. When that new NDA arrives, it’s even more restrictive than the last one.

    One of the core issues is that the organisation misrepresents itself. So volunteers have already made large investments of time and cash in the organisation, and now that investment is being used in a way that wasn’t explained up front.

    The comment about slavery was not mine, but referred to the extremely restrictive nature of the NDA. I stand by the comment, it’s not an NDA suited to a volunteer organisation, it’s more like a slavery contract.

  5. Those existing volunteers performed their work under the contract they signed at that time. A promise of a new NDA would have no effect on that work.

    Beliefs of what an organisation may or may not do in the future, versus what they say they will or won’t do, rarely coincide. Your own feelings about using Google’s services should serve as a perfect example of your choice not to participate, despite no evidence to the contrary of their stated purpose.

    Restrictive NDAs are simply not slavery for a million and one reasons, not least that slavery is inherent lacking of a ‘contract’. I suggest a field trip to Sierra Leone for whoever made that simile.

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