View Full Version : An ethics question...

03-21-2005, 11:55 PM
Being a "traditional" motion graphics artist at our company, every once in a while this little quirk of mine comes up. Our company officially only owns After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. It has no 3D capability of it's own.

With permission of the company I've installed my personal copy of Lightwave 3D on the macintosh there with the purpose of training myself during slow times. The issue occasionally comes up where we need 3D done and while I would be happy to try and do it just to get the experience under my belt, I feel it's wrong for a company to ask that of it's employee without buying a 3D animation program of it's own first. I've suggested multiple times that we buy one since it would easily pay for itself with one or more projects but have been halted with the eternal "we'll talk about it with each other" runaround. Our company has plenty of cash that it could apply to this. Am I just crazy?


03-22-2005, 12:54 AM
Take it home, Make 3D there, sell to company for upgrade money :)

03-22-2005, 02:30 AM
Nevermind the ethics. I don't even think it's an ethiccs question per se. The question is whether you want to be an animator, 3D graphics artist or whatever your goal is.

If you installed it at work to learn, then I assume you have a purpose to learn it. That means you have some kind of goal here.

The financial side of it from the company's point of view is that - you are learning it. It is not a proven working instalation. Sure it could be. There's plenty of money there. But don't try and put the cart before the horse.

If you want to be an animator or whatever your goal is then do it, do it as much and as often as you can. Do the best work you can do for the company and improve your skills along the way. You'll get a reel. If you get good the worst that could happen is you'll be making more bucks someplace else or start your own company. What the company does is another story and really irreleveant. Take the focus off them and on to your goals. The fact that you even have an oportunity to get work while you learn is a god send. If I were you I'd take it and run with it. I'd be there after hours too, my face deep in the manual!

Oh, and don't forget to have fun!

That is assuming this is what you want to do then like Denis Miller I'd have to say "Then again I could be worng - that's just my opinion."


03-22-2005, 02:37 AM
I agree, I don't think it's an ethics question, I think it's a personal choice question. I view Lightwave as one of the assets I can bring with me, the licence says I can use Lightwave anywhere - its the dongle that limits me to one machine at a time.

You could play the clever game & get yourself into a position where you are the 3D guy, LW and all, and then pitch ideas that require the company to buy you some nice plugins :D (which the company might see as much cheaper than buying LW itself then buying the plugin)

03-22-2005, 03:45 AM
I agree with Mdust on this. It is also good that the company is allowing you to learn on their time. Work hard at it so they can see you as a good investment in the future. If they don't, then you will have the experience and the showreel to sell yourself elsewhere.

03-22-2005, 07:51 AM
I run LW at work during my lunch hour, the only time the boss wanted some 3D doing, he expected me to do it in my own time, not during "work hours".
I told him I was too busy, basically because the guy was looking for a free ride.
If they pushed the matter, I'd simply remove it from my PC (which also happens to be my own "old" home PC - but that's another story :p)

A few times since, they've tested the waters, I make a point of letting them know it would either be done on works time, or I would charge for it. That soon sorts them out.

However, your story sounds somewhat different, if you are allowed to use LW during work hours, I think there is some sort of obligation to be hepful back. Certainly if my boss had been remotely genial about the matter, I would reconsider my present position. To me, it sounds like a pretty good opportunity you have there.

As to them not buying LW - does it matter if you are getting to use it in a productive manner? As DMarkwick said, maybe it can be used as a means to get some plugins to help you. Even so, it's a great way to learn and who knows, it may branch out into a recurring role for you.

03-22-2005, 09:53 AM
Interesting thoughts. So if I continue to have the program on the computer at work, perhaps I should volunteer it's use with the warning that I'm still new at it (which I am, being an old Softimage dog). I don't mind helping people out but also don't like being taken advantage of. If I come at it with the perspective of personal growth that I see mentioned frequently, I should share the growth with my company. Of course suggesting that the Account Executive's plan more time into projects for the use of 3D might be similar to asking the sun to rise in the west. :)

Of course if the problem arises that they become reliant on my software as a free resource without paying for it, does it then become an issue I wonder. ;)

Thanks again -Rob

03-22-2005, 10:04 AM
I have my personal copy of Lightwave on my work computer to learn during lunch. I use Solidworks for everyday work and used to use it for customer presentations. I showed my supervisor my Lightwave 3D work and he thought it was very interesting. He gave me the option to model a new machine for a presentation for a customer during company time if I would like. I have done a couple now becuase they like the look. Bottom line for me is that I think it's great to get payed on company time, includes overtime if there's a tight deadline, to make an illustration and learn for other side jobs later. As for them purchasing a seat, the attitude is more of - if I can make a Lightwave rendering great, if not, they are happy with the Solidworks (CAD program) model.

03-22-2005, 10:13 AM
With the Architecture firm I used to work for they would not buy Photoshop this was the 4.0 days - Well I bought a scanner and PS learned them both. Three years later I bought Lightwave learned and used at the company. Well my Income almost doubled in four years and the company eventually paid me for all the software purchased as I had kept the receipts. I think you will be known for being a go-getter if you push the envelope with your training. Some times you need to be the one with vision and the will to make it happen.

:eek: :p ;) :rolleyes: :cool:

03-22-2005, 10:58 AM
Wish I could change my vote. I voted to take it home, that way they couldn't make the demand of you. Don't know what I was smoking. I wish my office would come to me and say, "Can you make this in LightWave for us?".

03-22-2005, 11:44 AM
You could always offer to make it at home, on a freelance basis, where they pay you something extra for the model. You could make your rate pretty low, since you're just learning. Once you remove the convenience and free product, they may suddenly decide they can afford to buy a copy of LW after all. Maybe you could offer to let them buy a second seat for you (at the low, low current price of $495-595, depending on how you take your documentation), which you could install at the office for their benefit, and from which you could make models at no additional cost to them (however, you retain ownership of the second copy of LW).

I tried the do-it-for-free--(well, basic salary)--on-my-copy-of-Quark for a company I worked for back in my early design days. Mostly, I got exploited. The projects they had me work on were not enough to really develop the professional skills I needed to work as a designer, and I wasted too many years there, thinking I was going to get ahead. Wade's answer is really good, if it works out that way for you, but remember that you're taking a gamble.

BTW, your employer is the one with the ethics problem.

03-22-2005, 11:46 AM
If you do it at work, you ARE getting paid to do it.

03-22-2005, 11:48 AM
If you do it at work, you ARE getting paid to do it.

If you do it at work, but are buying your own tools, you are getting under-paid to do it.

Chris S. (Fez)
03-22-2005, 12:43 PM

If you get paid to complete a Lightwave project at work and they are impressed, the worst they can do is offer to pay you for more Lightwave work.

Consider it an opportunity to pitch Lightwave. If you feel your present wage would not count as fair compensation for your Lightwave work, then simply bump your rate (within reason) to cover "software expenses."

03-22-2005, 12:54 PM
If you do it at work, but are buying your own tools, you are getting under-paid to do it.

He bought LightWave on his own, they didn't require him to buy it. It's an opportunity to have fun (I LIKE using LightWave) and learn on the company dime. He get's to take the dongle home at night, so he is out nothing.

03-22-2005, 01:55 PM
I'd do a project or two using it to show the capabilities it can bring to your company, keep an eye on how much money the projects bring in as a result, then you can approach them with actual figures.

If then they decide not to buy it because they a) they see no reason because they can use your personal copy or b) they see no money in 3D at all, then remove it and explain they are making money off your copy without any investment themselves when they next ask you to 'do a 3D job'.

That's what I'd do!


03-22-2005, 02:02 PM
He bought LightWave on his own, they didn't require him to buy it. It's an opportunity to have fun (I LIKE using LightWave) and learn on the company dime.

Or you could say the companys' lucky that he spends the 'slow times' making himself an employee that brings in more money.

I say give 'em one, then make 'em pay for the rest. Apparently you've done it multiple times already, time to tell them it's time that you recieved something for the investment in software, on top of your salary, or buy their own. Companies know that tools are an investment, they should respect that. If they're selling your 3D without paying you more, they're getting a free ride as it is.

But mostly this is a judgment call - it depends on how much you want to do 3d, and how you think the company will react to you -

And yea, what the Valiant Knight said about figures. 'Showing them the money' is a must.

03-22-2005, 02:52 PM
I prefer to see it this way: I can tell them I don't like having to use software that I had payed for and continue to find time to practice at home for free or I can say okay and instead of doing BOM updates or engineering changes I can spend time at work improving my skills. :)

Recently, the last illustration I made, the president of the company sent me and e-mail telling me what a great asset I am to the company with the various skills I bring in. I've survived 4 layoffs because of that.

03-22-2005, 10:09 PM
He bought LightWave on his own, they didn't require him to buy it. It's an opportunity to have fun (I LIKE using LightWave) and learn on the company dime. He get's to take the dongle home at night, so he is out nothing.

LOL, Matt. We all like using LightWave; that's why we're here. I prefer being compensated fairly for my work, and don't like being exploited, is my point. But I can see your point, too. I think this is one of those issues with only grey areas, and no black or white.

It'll be interesting to hear what he decides to do and how it works out for him. For the best, I hope. :)

03-23-2005, 02:25 AM
He bought LightWave on his own, they didn't require him to buy it. It's an opportunity to have fun (I LIKE using LightWave) and learn on the company dime. He get's to take the dongle home at night, so he is out nothing.
Darn tooting! :) - I'd be in pig heaven if I could do LW on works time, it's like getting paid to learn, which is not to be sniffed at.

03-23-2005, 08:27 AM
Personally, I wouldn't do it.

Once you do it - despite what anyone says - you are setting up the expectation that you'll always be able to do it. Better to do it on your own time, impress your employer and pitch the purchase of the software. Plus, most companies have strict policies about employees installing their own software, and for good reason. If something goes wrong, it puts you in a very difficult position as you are now the only software support. If anything goes wrong with the project you'll be the one who comes out looking bad.

At my college internship working at a printing press, I installed a font management program to help with the hundreds of very expensive fonts the macs there were running at the time. It ended up throwing a huge cog into their smoothly running workflow that required my boss to have to babysit several pressing projects late at night. Needless to say, he was not happy. Luckily, my impressive design skills won him back. :D

03-23-2005, 11:03 AM
Bit of an update, I sent an e-mail to my boss suggesting I was thinking of volunteering the use of the program to build my experience in it. Haven't gotten a response yet but she's been a busy girl. If I don't get a response I think it might be one of those "uncomfortable" work questions and I'll just quietly remove it from the computer. :rolleyes: Ahh don't you just love office politics sometime? I can see some of the benefits of freelance ;)


Of course it is possible that I'm just crazy... or crazier.

03-23-2005, 12:05 PM
I have installed over the years various programs at work that were mine: photoshop, Illustrator, Lightscape, Lightwave.....etc. All have been purchased for me at work but they all took time for the "boss" to see their value. I have recently started using Lightwave and pretty soon I am sure I will get my own copy at work. A few points to consider are the following:

1. Learning to do something on company time is great! Steady paycheck and learning on someone elses nickle.

2. Building up that portfolio on someone elses time.

3. If you feel taken advantage of at any time tell your boss you do NOT feel capable of doing the project or tell them it is going to take some crazy amount of time to complete. I sometimes do this at random....remember YOU are doing them a favor, and you are just "learning". This has two effects, one you will not be expected to do any of this work and two they probably will give you more time to learn ( if they see a benefit to them).

4. Be careful as to who owns the work (copyright). This can get complicated. Work produced at work on company time usually belongs to the company. In this case it is your program so the answer is very gray. I have it in writing at my office that all 3D work is mine if I produced it either on company time or my program. The company benefits greatly from my work and so do I.

Good luck!

03-24-2005, 04:25 AM
Wow, it seems that most of you work for more understanding companies than me. I think situations like this are common. I work in TV and use LW at home making animations because I loved doing it and wanted to get some of my stuff on the air. Problem was the station got dependent on it.

That's the real trap. All of a sudden it became part of my duties to work at home and I was 'compensated' by overtime, which doesn't nearly cover the cost of my own software and equipment. Of course they keep promising to purchase of seat of LW for the office... 6 years, haven't seen it yet. I'd put my own copy on the work computer but our IT guy would never allow it (I got in trouble for itunes).

You can try acting as a freelancer for such projects but a lot of time companies can't pay you contract work if you are already a full-time employee, it's just a weird book keeping problem, it's like your getting paid twice.

I think the bottom line is (at least for me), be careful. But, never let an opportunity to do some good work slip by and at the very least it all goes into the portfolio. Just be sure that whatever you get out of it, whether you get paid, or experience, learning, or a spiffy new demo reel, is worth it to you.

03-24-2005, 05:37 AM
I work in TV and use LW at home making animations because I loved doing it and wanted to get some of my stuff on the air. Problem was the station got dependent on it.

I'd put my own copy on the work computer but our IT guy would never allow it (I got in trouble for itunes).

Hehe, I think it's time for you to put your foot down on this :D

If the station is dependant on it, get that IT guy to find a way of allowing your installation, he's there to do just that, that's his job, make him do it :D

You can use the excuse that you use your machine at home for your own projects and that any time you're not working in Layout the machine is busy rendering. That way it becomes up to the company to supply you with equipment to do your job I.E. the work installation of LW. You can then keep the machine on overnight to render, saving you your own PC time.

03-24-2005, 05:49 AM
Problem was the station got dependent on it.

I agree with DMarkwick, it's time for you to put your foot down. I'll be ****ed if I would let the company force me to do work at home and let some bone-head not allow me to install the software at work. At this point, I wouldn't even use mine at work, I'd make them buy their own.

03-24-2005, 09:14 AM
This is what I did in sort of the same situation some years ago.

Company found out I did 3d work.. instead of outsourcing or hiring their own artist or buying software + equipment, they chose to solicit my work "on the clock".

I told them this, "my work is on the clock but as long as you use my software and equipment you'll also pay a per frame fee (or in the case of the video quality we were trying to produce, a per field fee) on all animation finals."

As soon as they saw my bill for a 6 minute animation they had me do, they bit the bullet, shelled out the cash for software, hardware, and a trained 3d staff of sorts.

At that time I charged them .80 per rendered field... a bargain... at over $17,000 plus my time. :O)

03-24-2005, 10:57 AM
Okay... Just some advice from a graphics department manager who has been producing 2D graphics with various programs over the past 29 years and has started learning LW these past 6 months -- mainly because I have always been in awe of what you 3D guys do and I needed to learn something new in order to shake the cobwebs from my brain.

The best way to survive in the business world is to be unique and in demand. That goes for companies as well as for individuals. A smart person creates a niche for themselves in a company by providing a benefit to that company that no one else can provide. If a company uses your work to impress others, then, rest assured, other companies in your industry will also be taking note of your work. You eventually become a commodity your company doesn't want to loose and you, hopefully, benefit from that situation. If not, you go talk to one of those other companies that is aware of your work.

I guess 2 different situations have been described in this thread. (1) If your employer is allowing you to install your own copy of LW at the office and giving you assignments so that you can learn while they get a product, without a huge expectation, I'd say you are both experimenting with the software and it is a very fair trade-off. Sounds like you are just entering the niche phase. But (2) If your employer is EXPECTING you to work at home using your own LW on company projects having hard deadlines, you already have established your niche and it's time your home PC hard drive "crashes" just short of the project due date. My guess is they'll allow you to put a copy of LW on your office PC in a heartbeat. Then try to get them to at least purchase plug-ins and future upgrades for YOUR software.

For what it's worth.

03-25-2005, 07:39 AM
Well, I think in a perfect world bargaining with managment would be the way to go. But, working for a company as big as FOX, as I do, it's best not give your management ultimatums or invoices. They frown on that. But, if your studio is fine with that I agree, it's the best course of action for such situations. One of the hardest things I have found being an artist is being underappreciated. So, sometimes we have to make sacrifices to be needed.

I have comtemplated the 'timely computer crash' many times. But, because of my own ethics decided that's probably not a good idea. Basically, my justification is exactly what was mentioned... making myself standout from the other artists, job security. If I can offer something the others can't, I become less expendable. Eventually (crossing my fingers) the volume of 3D work requested will force them to buck up and order LW. Until then, I'll build a nice portfolio to eventually leave.

As for getting the IT guy to let me install LW at work. Heh, yea right. I now have 4 passwords on this computer. One to logon, One to get my email, One to get to the news scripts and another just to use the internet. And this is one of the few computers without the floppy drive locked. I'm afraid that I'll come to work monday and have to punch in a code to use the bathroom.