Can a person in NDA do engineering

On our own behalf: Statement on the Nvidia-NDA

At this point, too, after our statement in the forum, we would like to take another stand on the confidentiality agreement from Nvidia, which was published by Heise.de and caused discussions and false accusations.

Why didn't we respond immediately? We had to do some research first. We knew that there had been an update request from our editorial team, but no longer due to vacation reasons - and the wording was only from Heise. And then it was still a question of how we should tell you what we want to tell you. Not to escape the judge, but because in such a toxic environment online a postponed end of sentence can lead to new convictions and conspiracy theories. Perhaps this openness and the fact that you have slept over it for a night will help to prevent that? It would be nice!

We have been running ComputerBase since 1999 because we want to publish a tech online magazine that doesn't just talk the company away. At the same time, we naturally want to provide you with our uninfluenced judgment on products as early as possible. Many of you are happy about that too. And if we are not in the first row (for example GeForce GTX 1070 FE, Intel Core X etc. pp), the questions about the reason for the delay are immediately omnipresent.

Since then, the signing of NDAs has been part of our job in order to receive information or products from manufacturers before they become public. NDAs are usually very broad and cover more than they should. NDAs are common in the industry, sometimes verbally, sometimes in writing, sometimes tacitly. ComputerBase does not sign all NDAs either, and in fact, an NDA that does not relate to a specific product is not the rule - but neither is it a precedent. We don't have a legal department to check every NDA, especially not when traveling or at trade fairs, where NDAs have to be signed on the front door.

So we read what we sign and try to make NDAs as specific as possible. For example, recently at Computex we received an NDA in advance that said neither Computex nor a product, but we only asked for one product at Computex. As it was available to us, any exchange with the manufacturer, with whom there had been little contact so far, would have been potentially endless. We had that adjusted.

In the end, however, it is always a matter of weighing up (experience with the manufacturer, frequency of disclosure of information, general NDA vs. a new one every two weeks, etc. pp.). We would also prefer to receive all information only on the basis of trust (and with some manufacturers this is also possible for us), others want to protect themselves as much as possible. A very personal assessment of the situation then plays a role, which is now based on almost 20 years of experience. This experience has taught us that we have never been pressured by a manufacturer to adapt or change a piece of content that we created under NDA and ultimately even threatened the judge.

Perhaps in the aftermath there was displeasure with our critical reporting, perhaps even the threat that there would be nothing in the future, and it was seldom enforced. But that never affected us and never will. Because when the time comes, one of the pillars of ComputerBase will be lost for both of us personally and all committed members of the team. We don't feel like doing that anymore. And we mean that very seriously!

But now we come to the specific case. What Heise “forgets” to mention in our opinion is the fact that this agreement is subject to several restrictions.

  1. The NDA only relates to information that Nvidia explicitly provides us with in advance under confidentiality. Information that has become generally known does not fall under the NDA and we are allowed to report on this in advance, even if we have received it in advance from Nvidia itself.
  2. Confidentiality ends when a product is published! As soon as a new graphics card appears, for example, we can write what we want.

When Heise writes "In other words: Journalists are only allowed to write what Nvidia fits into the stuff.“This is wrong from our point of view. Because with the publication and thus the end of the blocking period for a product, we are allowed to write anything, but before that we are simply not allowed to publish the information received from Nvidia.

Statements like "Anyone who signs this Nvidia-NDA has to bow to the will of the American manufacturer for five years“From our point of view, they are deliberately polarizing, misleading and far removed from any practice in cooperation between media and manufacturers.

If you publish something during this time without permission, you are threatened with wailing.“Even this statement is deliberately misleading from our point of view without explaining the context. It's all about the information that Nvidia provides in advance under confidentiality, nothing else. By definition of an NDA, this is allowed, because that is exactly the point, not to disclose it until publication, everything else can be reported freely without asking for permission.

It is also not mentioned that the relationship between Nvidia and Heise is heavily burdened. If Heise had wanted to live up to his own journalistic demands, from our point of view this aspect should have been mentioned in order to make a classification of the dispute more understandable for outsiders. As is customary elsewhere, one could at least have agreed with the national colleagues. The motivation to really want to change something would then have become clear, unfortunately for us it also smacks of a personal feud - even if the content-related discussion is justified.

And what does that mean specifically for us and you? In our opinion, the NDA published by Heise and actually signed by us does not change our previous way of working when reporting on Nvidia, even if the wording seems very different for those who have nothing to do with NDAs in everyday life. However, we will continue to be able to rate a product the way we want without having to expect specific negative consequences from the NDA. If that doesn't suit Nvidia, they have always been free to leave us out. The NDA doesn't need it for this.

In turn, we are entitled to forego reporting should a manufacturer ultimately derive an influence on our reporting from an NDA. We don't expect that to happen, but we promise to never allow this to happen in case of doubt!

Your ComputerBase editorial team

Update 06/28/2018 3:46 p.m.
  • Frank HüberEmailTwitter
    ... has been writing about smart homes, monitors and new technologies since 2000. He completed his studies with a degree in engineering.
  • Jan-Frederik TimmEmailTwitter
    ... is a graduate engineer and has been writing on ComputerBase since 2001 about the latest hardware, macOS and Windows.