See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The Three Wise Monkeys NDA

Even within a business culture of openness and transparency, some things are meant to be kept secret. NDAs, non-disclosure agreements, are meant to help with this, but most NDAs are the opposite of open and transparent because they’re written in the same jargon-laden legalese that I avoided in Contract Killer. So I’ve written ‘Three Wise Monkeys’, a plain speaking, easy to read, open source NDA.

Three Wise Monkeys is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. That means you’re free to re-distribute it, translate it and otherwise re-use it in ways I never considered. In return I only ask you mention my name and link back to this page.

Why use an NDA?

There are two main reasons for designers and developers to need an NDA:

  • We want a client to sign an NDA alongside signing a contract (killer,) before any work starts.
  • We want a supplier (for example a contractor) to sign an NDA to protect our and our client’s information.

That last one’s particularly relevant to me as a small business that often hires freelancers to work on technical aspects of a client’s design. Of course I’d never hire someone I don’t trust, but it never does any harm to have these things written down.

The problem with every NDA that I’ve ever been asked to sign is that their complicated legal language makes me feel that somehow they’re trying to catch me out, if not now then at some time in the future. I’ve always felt uncomfortable signing other people’s NDAs and I never want to make my customers or suppliers feel the same way.

I’m sure you’ve seen NDAs that contain many passages like this:

Neither party shall without the prior written consent of the disclosing party copy, re-produce, adapt, divulge, disclose, publish, confirm, deny or circulate (or authorise or permit anyone else to do any of the same in respect of) any of the Confidential Information disclosed or communicated to it by the other party unless permitted by Clause 3 above or unless required to do so by law or by the order or ruling of a court or tribunal, judicial or regulatory body or recognised stock exchange of competent jurisdiction, in which case, if the disclosing party is required to disclose such information it will, unless prohibited from doing so, notify the other party promptly in writing of that fact and in any event, prior to making such disclosure.

I don’t want my customers or suppliers to waste their time making sense of passages like this when they could be working on something more valuable. To me, this makes more sense:

Neither of us will share any confidential information about each-other, by any means, with anyone else.

Three Wise Monkeys

Three Wise Monkeys deals with just three things:

  • What’s confidential
  • What can we say
  • How long the agreement lasts

Three Wise Monkeys keeps things simple that I hope everyone will feel comfortable signing.

I hope that people like Three Wise Monkeys as much as they do Contract Killer. I’d love you to take it, change it, improve it and let me see what you make from it.

With that in mind, Three Wise Monkeys has a canonical home where you’ll find the full text and it’s hosted on Github and Docracy too.

Important: Stuff and Nonsense is not a legal advisor. Generic templates and contracts may fail to meet your needs. Nothing on this website shall be considered legal advice and no relationship is established. Be sure to consult a lawyer to address the particulars of your specific situation.


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