Does your employer own your side projects?

Apparently, according to Joel Spolsky, they do:

…So before you hire this guy, you agree, "hey listen, I know that inventing happens all the time, and it's impossible to prove whether you invented something while you were sitting in the chair I supplied in the cubicle I supplied or not. I don't just want to buy your 9-5 inventions. I want them all, and I'm going to pay you a nice salary to get them all," and he agrees to that, so now you want to sign something that says that all his inventions belong to the company as long as he is employed by the company.

This is where we are by default. This is the standard employment contract for programmers, inventors, and researchers.
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One Interesting corollary: if you spend your day-time working for an employer and night time working on a github open source project, and 2 years from now the OS project becomes wildly popular (wink), your open source project is probably not very “open” afterall, unless you’ve had the appropriate work-for-hire clauses stipulated in your employment agreement. I’m reminded of a vaguely similar case in recent history: the infamous SCO v. IBM debacle from a few years back.