Joel's answer on "If I'm working at a company, do they have intellectual property rights to the stuff I do in my spare time?" certainly was an interesting read. However, it was pretty much centred around USA law.
Therefore, I ask you: what is the legal situation regarding code copyright and side-projects in Western Europe (specifically Germany, the Netherlands and the UK)?
PS. Since the original question was asked on OnStartups, I'm asking this question here as well.
I recently did a software development job in a Malta which contained a few clauses about doing 'creative work' outside of work hours and how the company would have rights to it. I brought this up and said to the HR person that it seems to me that even if I were to write a song then the company would own it (if I signed the contract). The HR person removed the clauses after getting permission from their head office (in the US).
After chatting about this with a few people I was told by a few people that this type of clause would never be recognised in European courts (don't know if this is true, but sounds plausible). Still I would never agree to anybody having rights to what I do outside of work.