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Why Paying For Code Doesn't Mean You Own It

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the sadly-you-broke-it-you-bought-it-doesn't-work-either dept.

Programming 447

Barence writes "Why do people think they own code just because they've paid for it? PC Pro's Kevin Partner says many of his clients believe that by paying for the work to be done, they take ownership of it. But, put simply, code is owned by its developer even once the client has paid, unless that developer is legally employed by the client or a contract exists that transfers full ownership (and even then it's far from clear-cut). He discusses the thorny issue of making clients understand that distinction and gives advice on how developers can assert their rights."

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447 comments

Evolution (2, Insightful)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380528)

Why do people think they own code just because they've paid for it

yeah, I am used to paying for an item, and software happens to be an item (especially when it is delivered on a CD)

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380582)

> yeah, I am used to paying for an item, and software happens to be an item (especially when it is delivered on a CD)

"A book happens to be an item (especially when it is delivered on paper)"

Obviously there is a difference between copyrighted items and non-copyrighted items. When was the last time you bought a book and thought that gave you copyright on it?

Strangely enough, book publishing is one area where by convention the author usually DOESN'T own the copyright, but the person who paid for it (publisher) does!

Re:Evolution (3, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380876)

Strangely enough, book publishing is one area where by convention the author usually DOESN'T own the copyright, but the person who paid for it (publisher) does!

Unfortunately that's not particularly strange at all. Most coders don't own their code either, the company they work for does. Same is true for songwriters, screenwriters, etc.

Re:Evolution (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380736)

Does the builder or architect own my house? No, but he might own the floor plan to my house. He might not too. it depends on what I paid for.

Re:Evolution (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380968)

At least in this case I've never heard of them getting paid if you want to tear down a wall and extend the house, despite changing the floor plan.

Re:Evolution (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380816)

So you think you own the code in the engine control system of your car, a delivered item? Or the code in your mobile phone, equally delivered? Or, for that matter, Microsoft Windows, delivered on CD?

Re:Evolution (4, Informative)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380866)

Bottom line is that if you're buying COTS, then you get whatever the license says. If you're paying for development, then you get whatever you negotiate. Articulate your requirement for data rights in the RFP, carefully review the proposals for meeting your requirements, then follow-up to ensure the contract says what you need it to say.

Copyright & Licenses (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380542)

Basically this guy is complaining that his customers don't read his licenses. Sounds like he needs to work with his sales representative on that.

If I buy a bible, I don’t own the original Lindisfarne Gospels

Yes, actually you do. At least where I live they are public domain. You might not own the particular translation or interpretation of said gospels but you do own the core concepts. All of us own them. They are a part of humanity whether it be good or bad. This is the most confusing analogy one could produce.

if I pay a plumber to fix my tap, I don’t ask him to leave his toolbox so I can fix it myself next time;

No, but if you bought a book on plumbing you might just fix it yourself next time. The results may vary but it's different from compiled code in that the person has no option to 'decompile' the code and go through it. You're right but the analogy has flaws. The plumber isn't producing a copyrighted work for you, he's performing a service. No goods are exchanged between you and the plumber like a software release.

if I buy Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on Blu-ray, I don’t own the movie but only a copy (whose usage is restricted by the terms of the licence); if I buy Microsoft Word, I own one copy of the compiled code, not the source.

This is it, it comes down to licensing and copyright. Why do you waste so much breath on this rant when it's a legal agreement between you and your customer that is based on commonly known and accepted copyright and licensing terms?

I will say that with the advent of the Agile Methodology in where I work, the customer is much more involved. We meet with them every two weeks. We constantly incorporate their ideas into their site or program through our own code. And at the end it's a mixture of ideas but we're still the ones that coded it. Between you and I, I'd love to give them the code. But that's the decision of the guy who runs my company, not mine. If you have switched from the previous models of "wait a long time and big bang release" to "constant customer input" then you may now be experiencing something natural--the customer feels they own the code. Because they were with you every step of the way from infantile code to adult production code. Just keep that in mind.

Re:Copyright & Licenses (2, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380766)

if I buy Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on Blu-ray, I don't own the movie but only a copy (whose usage is restricted by the terms of the licence)

That's not even true. You own the copy, but your permitted usage is restricted only by law and can be expanded by the copyright holder through the forfeiture of some of the exclusive rights conveyed by copyright. This is at least partly because licenses are generally not a precondition for the purchase of a copy of a movie/song/etc.

Re:Copyright & Licenses (1, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380944)

If I buy a bible, I don't own the original Lindisfarne Gospels
Yes, actually you do. At least where I live they are public domain. You might not own the particular translation or interpretation of said gospels but you do own the core concepts.

However, if you try leaving the British Library with the eighth century manuscript in your cart, you are going to meet with some resistance.

Neither will it be trivially easy to get permission to read or scan the Gospels.

Public domain does not translate into unconditional access to or possession of primary sources.

Work For Hire (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380548)

Back when I contracted, all contracts had that I was doing the work as "Work For Hire".

That seems pretty clear cut to me. Meaning, they own it.

Re:Work For Hire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380600)

I haven't paid any attention to this issue in quite awhile; I honestly thought most folks were doing "co-ownership" these days. I guess I got that idea because all of the contracts my company signs with others stipulate that we at least co-own any code developed. The author can certainly develop it further and sell it again. So can we though.

Because.. (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380554)

Why do people think they own code just because they've paid for it?

Because they assume they are paying you for a product, not paying you because they like giving away money.

Re:Because.. (5, Informative)

nodwick (716348) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380652)

Other posters have already said that legally it all depends on the license you work out with the customer, and they are correct.

Having said that, I find that the customer's expectations will depend on what the financing model for the product was. Typically when you get paid for software, it will have been developed under one of two models:

  • My company does the product development on with its own money, and then sells the finished product to multiple customers. Examples are products like Microsoft Office or Adobe CS4. Typically customers assume that they're paying for just a license of the product, since they weren't involved in the actual creation of the code itself at all.
  • The customer has a specific need it needs to address, and hires and pays my company to develop software to address it. Most of the consultant arms of major software vendors operate this way; for example, OPNET (which makes a product called Modeler popularly used in simulating communication networks) develops some protocol models for Modeler this way. As the customer is directly involved in directly funding the development (often billing will involve paying for actual developer-hours, and is typically much more expensive than licensing an existing product), they'll usually expect to get the rights to the code as well.

If you're using one of the above approaches but want your licensing to work differently, the key is to make this clear to the customer up-front (managing expectations isn't something techies typically enjoy spending time doing, but it's a very important part of having a successful business relationship with your customer) and make sure all your legal wording is done correctly as well. I've worked at companies before where product development was funded by customers, but the need the customer wanted addressed was sufficiently general that the company wanted to retain the copyright and IP to resell to others. In this case, the customer was granted cheap or free perpetual licenses to use the software that was developed, but the contract was written so that the company retained the copyright and the right to sell licenses to others as well.

Look out Monday morning (2, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380562)

I subcontract to a company and on Monday morning I'm going to walk right in (actually send an email) and tell them that all that code I have developed for them over the last several years is actually mine and that if they want the source code then they need to pay me a $$$ more money.

I'll try to remember to keep my head high when I am kicked out of my home and am sitting starving on the side of the road!

In theory, practice is the same as theory. In practice, it differs.

Re:Look out Monday morning (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380708)

You are not required to tell them, even if it's the truth. Perhaps that's your point?

C//

Re:Look out Monday morning (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380740)

This is one of the most idiotic posts that I've seen quickly modded up. It all depends on the terms of the contract that were signed. It should be pretty clear-cut. If there's no mention of it in the contract, then it's up for dispute. But again, it's almost guaranteed to be spelled out in the agreement.

Re:Look out Monday morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380792)

The main issue - is if you are an employee - the employer owns the code. If you are "sub-contracted" it depends on what the contract looked like. Generally though this looks like a work for hire situation where the owner isn't the author. IANAL so your mileage may vary.

Re:Look out Monday morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380836)

It's easy to do, just give them an analogy. Seeing as this is slashdot, here goes.

If you hire a mechanic to build you a custom hotrod, you take full posession of the finished car, but you don't get to take home the customised tools and techniques used to build it.

You can easily retain ownership of source code, it's automatic, you have to deliberately sign away your default ownership in some way if you don't want to own the source. If I'm contracted to provide an executable, that is what I will provide. My code stays with me unless you want to pay more (and nobody does).

Re:Look out Monday morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381020)

So you are a contractor and have not investigated the IP ownership of your work in the contract / contract chain? Attempts at sarcasm seem less successful, when they exhibit your own ignorance or incompetence.

Contract (5, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380564)

Write a good contract and the issue is moot, for both parties.

Re:Contract (1)

timlyg (266415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380858)

Good. This is how others who don't care about this ownership issue can triumph, if there's any need for rivalry.

Incorrect (5, Insightful)

mnslinky (1105103) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380568)

If someone pays you to perform work, they own all rights to that work. When I was married, we had a difficult time finding a photographer that agreed, and simply didn't do business with those that wanted to be paid for their work, and wanted to keep all rights to said photos for use in promotions and fees for reprints. I consider that a form of double jeopardy where I'm being forced to pay for something twice.

Software is no different. If you're being paid to perform a specific work, it's no different than if the person/organization paying you did the work themselves. You can't have both.

Re:Incorrect (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380632)

That is a valid suggestion, however, it is not how Copyright works today.

Re:Incorrect (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380656)

"If someone pays you to perform work, they own all rights to that work."
Fine assertion...

"When I was married, we had a difficult time finding a photographer that agreed, and simply didn't do business with those that wanted to be paid for their work, and wanted to keep all rights to said photos for use in promotions and fees for reprints."
Which you immediately point out doesn't seem to hold true in reality.

Would it have killed you to use 'should' or some other qualifier? Stating opinion as fact is lame enough, giving evidence to disprove yourself in the next line is just sad.

Re:Incorrect (3, Informative)

lordsid (629982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380678)

The only thing correct about your post is the title.

As a programmer I own all the of the code I write until I sign away that right. It is my companies fault that they did not require me to sign a contract giving up those rights. In fact I brought the issue up to them they still haven't done anything about it.

Try asking your dentist some time if you can have the x-rays they take of your teeth.

Re:Incorrect (2, Informative)

mnslinky (1105103) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380738)

Funny, I *do* keep copies of X-rays and even was given a copy of viewing software and the images from some MRIs. No hassle whatsoever. If you're employed, you don't own the rights to the work you do for the company, unless *they give it to you*. Try it in court and you'll find your unsuccessful.

Re:Incorrect (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380756)

The dentist would probably give them to me if I asked. Are you sure that's the same thing?

Re:Incorrect (5, Informative)

Entrope (68843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380762)

As a matter of US law, you are wrong. Copyright in a work for hire resides with the employer (or whomever the work was made for). See Circular 9 of the US Copyright Office. If an entire program is being developed as a contract piece, it *might* not qualify as a work for hire, but contracted software components and anything a normal employee writes within the scope of his employment are works for hire, and the people writing the checks own those works.

I don't know about the corresponding laws in other countries, but if you work in the US, you are woefully misinformed.

Re:Incorrect (1)

sosume (680416) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380994)

> As a programmer I own all the of the code I write until I sign away that right

That is like an accountant claiming ownership to the ledger. He wrote all the lines after all, didn't he? Or a builder claiming ownership of the form of your house. Even worse, what about McDonalds claiming ownershipo of your body?? They choose which ingredients to provide you with, after all.

Re:Incorrect (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381012)

iirc, the designer can claim copyright on the design of the house, but the specific implementation is the owners.

Re:Incorrect (0)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380720)

If someone pays you to perform work, they own all rights to that work.

I think this may depend on where you live, but legally this isn't always right. The idea is that when you write software, you're creating something using your talent and skill, then you're selling the end result to a buyer. You can, in fact, sell that something multiple times to different buyers. You haven't created a single instance of an end product (the running software); you've created a repeatable process for creating copies of that end product, then selling each one.

All of that is splitting hairs, I know. And I don't think it agrees with common sense, myself. But that's how a lot of the legal and tax systems treat the process. You can, of course, change the ownership issue with contracts, which is what TFA talks about.

Several years ago, when I owned my own custom software business, I went through a state sales tax audit. The worst six weeks of my entire life, easily. I used "Work For Hire" contracts with my customers, with the modification that I retained the right to excerpt "useful subroutines" and reuse them in any other projects (along with clauses saying that a customer's project may contain such code). In the main, though, what we wrote belonged to the customer when we were finished. The tax department really didn't like that, as that exempted us from charging sales tax (thereby depriving the state of some revenue). I won, eventually, and that whole process left me far more knowledgeable about the tax code and whole lot less enthusiastic about it. They've probably closed that loophole since.

Re:Incorrect (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380870)

not a lawyer, blah, blah, usual disclaimer

As far as I am aware, the distinction in most countries legal systems is whether the work was commissioned by a particular buyer. If somebody has created something copyrightable to specific instructions by a single buyer, the copyright is owned by the buyer. That applies to everything, not just software, although it can be overriden if there is a contract that states the coder/writer/artist/whatever retains their copyright. If the work was created without any prior arrangement, the rights work the way you would expect and you can then sell the work to whoever you want as many times as you want.

Re:Incorrect (1)

FrozenGeek (1219968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380764)

What this really comes down to is the business model - how you intend to make a profit from your work. If a programmer's business model dictates that he owns the underlying code (and can use bits and pieces to accelerate development of future projects), he will price his work accordingly. If his business model dictates that the customer owns everything, we will price his work based on that model.

Problems tend to arise when customers expect the benefits of the programmer-owns-the-code model (shorter development times, lower costs) as well as the benefits of the customer-owns-the-code model (we own the code, we can hire someone else [cheaper] to do maintenance and upgrades).

In many cases, the root cause is ignorance on the customer's part. If the customer will let you educate them, do so. If they won't let you educate them, when possible, let them be someone else's problem.

Re:Incorrect (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380838)

idk when you got married, but 1.5 years ago that was rather easy to find, but was about double or triple the price of the places that were keeping rights.

Re:Incorrect (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380842)

If someone pays you to perform work, they own all rights to that work. When I was married, we had a difficult time finding a photographer that agreed, and simply didn't do business with those that wanted to be paid for their work, and wanted to keep all rights to said photos for use in promotions and fees for reprints.

Part of it is of course that they expect the same total pay, don't expect to cut them off from the additional income and expect the base pay to remain the same. But I think the other part is that they start thinking of what a similar commercial work for hire would cost. The type where you get model releases and can use them in commercial promotions, magazines, websites and so on both in original and any form of derivate and sublicense those rights to others, which is quite pricy. Maybe they're thinking you want to set up a bridal gear shop and is looking to get a professional set of stock photos on the cheap by being your own models? Or have a deal with someone that wants to? If you ask for all the rights they will imagine the possibilities, even if you haven't.

Re:Incorrect (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380954)

that kind of thinking is what i take as proof that the concept of copyright have mutated into some kind of mental brier patch.

its like one would have to go around asking each and every craftsman working on a building if its ok to sell it before its put on the market.

Re:Incorrect (4, Informative)

15Bit (940730) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380888)

Wedding photography has a very well established business plan where the base fee covers the basic costs of the photographer, and the prints supply the profit. You are not paying twice for the same thing - the real cost has simply been split up in a way which is convenient to both the photographer and the customer. As it is not exactly an uncompetitive industry, and you don't see many wedding photogs turning up in Porsches, i'd say the pricing and model were pretty fair.

The reasons for the model relate to the photographer having control over his/her reputation, not to screwing the customer - when photos were still taken on film, the quality of the final print had as much to do with the printing process as the actual taking of the picture. Retaining control over that was important to the reputation of the photographer - if he actually handed you a stack of negatives and let you have them printed by any old mail order company, the lousy final prints would impact his reputation. You *could* argue it is an outdated model now, with the rise of electronic media, but most couples still want prints, and the same problem actually still remains - giving out jpg's and letting people print at home or from a cheap online outlet is going to result in exactly the same quality/reputation problem as in the film days.

The industry is adapting to modern times though, so you will now find some wedding photogs will include a DVD of low resolution images for you to put on the web (and many will host a web presence for you as part of the package). But any you find who are willing to give you full size images and reproduction rights for anything less than a big pile of money are probably not the quality of photographer you want covering your wedding anyway.

Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (5, Insightful)

CAOgdin (984672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380570)

There's a practical presumption in law that if you pay for something and it is delivered, you own it. You have to have it in writing if you don't want to work that way. That, for instance, is why we have those obnoxious (and legally tenouous) "shrink-wrap" licenses. Because "licensing" is not the same as "owning." If licensing were the normal case in common law, you wouldn't need a "licensing" agreement.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380660)

The question becomes exactly what is the deliverable. Sometimes it's defined as the executable/program, sometimes the source, sometimes both. Which it is is defined in the statement of work/contract. I think if its not clear exactly what you are supposed to be working to then it's a pretty good assumption that whatever you did while you were on the clock is theirs because in reality they are buying your time, not a product.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380716)

Nope. He's not wrong at all. Copyright belongs to the creator by default, even if someone else paid for the work. There are a few exceptions, the biggest being that if the work is "work for hire," then the employer owns the work. This most commonly happens when a regular employee does copyrightable work for his employer.

Normal property laws do not apply to copyright. Copyright is governed by federal statute.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380936)

TFA author is wrong in this sense:
He keeps stating that he owns "the code". This is blatantly false. Depending on the law and the contract (there needs to be a contract if he expects to get paid, even if it isn't written down) he may or may not own the copyright; the buyer owns the code that is delivered. Even if the the buyer doesn't own the copyrights, they will own licenses to copy the code as required for its' intended use. Again depending on the law and the contract (and again, there should be a contract even if it's not written down) the buyer may own licenses to copy the code under other circumstances.
Also, TFA doesn't mention the fact that much of the code may have limited copyrights, as you cannot copyright code function and you cannot copyright where there are limited ways to say (or do) something, you can only copyright creative expression.
IMHO, IANAL, YMMV, etc.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (3, Insightful)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380760)

A lot of you are missing one of the main points of the article, namely that there is typically a lot of pre-existing library code which gets used even when the application being developed is a one-off. While the client arguably has full rights to the custom part of the application, it is not sensible to transfer ownership of the generic library code.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (1)

iamwahoo2 (594922) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380966)

In my opinion, the use of existing libraries is one of the most interesting and contentious issues, especially when the customer negotiates for more than typical data rights.

For example, In a development effort contract the US Gov typically expects unlimited data rights or government purpose rights. When multiple contractors bid on a contract, the Gov has no insight into whom is planning to use existing libraries or 3rd party libraries. Obviously the contractor who can leverage off of existing software is going to scope a much lower level of work and be able to bid lower and win the contract. When the Gov office finds out that the contractor does not plan on delivering a full set of code with the level of rights that they were expecting to have, they are not going to be very happy.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380984)

it is not sensible to transfer ownership of the generic library code

What is sensible and what is legal very rarely coincide.

Re:Find a Lawyer; this guy is WRONG (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381040)

It all points back to the need to have a clear understanding up front of what is being "purchased". When it comes to third-party libraries, the contractor does not even have the option of legally transferring ownership, as they are owned by someone else.

Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (3, Insightful)

Templar (14386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380572)

It depends upon your local laws and your contract. In the U.S., the default laws tend to vary by state. The last time I checked with my attorney, he told me that here in NY, all work is considered to be work-for-hire unless specified in writing. This means that the source code is automatically the property of the client, unless I get a contract stating otherwise. Which I do sometimes, but not that often.

Things get stickier if you use other people's libraries or even open source software within your project.

I've found that it's easiest to avoid problems if you simply discuss it with your client beforehand, and be as transparent as possible in your methods and expectations.

Re:Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (1)

CAOgdin (984672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380592)

You might be surprised that the Uniform Commercial Code often trumps local law in the courts. As I said, earlier, get an attorney if you're really concerned about ownership. And, documentation is key: If you don't have a written contract BEFORE you start the project, while everybody is still friendly, expect to be surprised by the other party with unscrupulous tendancies.

Re:Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380634)

the UCC doesn't trump anything.
It is a set of recommended laws to provide a framework for harmonization among state laws. States pass all or part of it as they please for their commercial law. If a state doesn't pass some features of the UCC, there is no "trumping" by some other governmental level using other parts of the UCC.

Re:Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380668)

The UCC itself has no force, but most state laws are model wholly or in part on the UCC.

It doesn't trump local law. If a judge "trumps" local law with the UCC, you have grounds for appeal.

The UCC may be used to interpret local law, or used to fill in gaps, but that is all within judicial discretion.

IAAL.

Re:Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380834)

It depends upon your local laws and your contract. In the U.S., the default laws tend to vary by state. The last time I checked with my attorney, he told me that here in NY, all work is considered to be work-for-hire unless specified in writing. This means that the source code is automatically the property of the client, unless I get a contract stating otherwise. Which I do sometimes, but not that often.

Your attorney is wrong. The U.S. Congress defined what is and what is not a work for hire in 17 USC 101 [copyright.gov]. To wit:

A "work made for hire" is --

(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or

(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. For the purpose of the foregoing sentence, a "supplementary work" is a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an "instructional text" is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.

New York cannot redefine the meaning of a work for hire. New York can only interpret the meaning of an employee and the scope of employment. If you are an independent contractor, you own the copyright in the absence of a written agreement to transfer the copyright. Period -- 17 USC 201 and 204 [copyright.gov].

Re:Be honest, and you won't have a problem. (2, Interesting)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380982)

" If you are an independent contractor, you own the copyright in the absence of a written agreement to transfer the copyright. Period "

Yes and NO - if you are hired on as a "contract employee" (aka a 3 month term kinda job) you fall under either part1, or if working as a team, the collective work part of part 2

If you are hired to produce a piece of work "I need you to write a program that does X" - then you DO own copyright, but anyone who does that without a contract, and where it does not explicitly transfer ownership upon payment is a fool

I've been there, for both conditions, on BOTH sides of the deal (Buyer and seller), and you have to watch this. I've BEEN in a situation where we were not getting paid, and had to threaten a copyright issue - We got paid..

But do I own the bits? (2, Interesting)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380584)

Let's say I buy the software, the end product. It's bits. It's ones and zeros. Do I own them? Am I allowed to tamper with them? It isn't the source code, and I lay no claim to owning that. But do I have a right to be able to manipulate the bits as I see fit? Can I share the bits? These are the truly thorny questions, and they're the ones that are changing our society.

Re:But do I own the bits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380714)

No, you may not.

Clients Buy The 'Use' Of The Software (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380586)

I've had clients who think that they own the code simply because they paid for a website that uses one of our libraries. They buy the right to use the code.

When you buy software in a store or online you don't own the source code. Open source software may provide its source along with the executables but that doesn't mean you own it either.

When doing custom work we offer the client the option of full ownership at full price or 'shared' ownership for a reduced fee. With 'shared' ownership they can modify it at will but aren't allowed to ever resell it. We can't sell it to anyone who would be considered a competitor. I've yet to have someone opt for the full price/full ownership option.

Re:Clients Buy The 'Use' Of The Software (1)

gallen1234 (565989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380856)

When you by software in a store, it comes with a license agreement that lays out what you're getting and what you're not. It sounds like the article's author has his own personal understanding and is assuming that his client is going to pick that up from him telepathically.

Depends (2, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380602)

IANAL, but I have researched this subject for my own work-product. The ownership of work produced on contract depends highly on the terms of the contract but nominally is considered work for hire, and, therefore, belongs to the client. If the contract does not stipulate otherwise, then the client owns the work-product.

Now, if the work-product consists of delivered source code, then the client owns the source code. If the work-product consists of delivered compiled code, then the client owns the compiled code.

Again, IANAL, but my research into this question boils down to something just that simple. The important conclusion is: if you desire a specific disposition of your work-product (like you retain ownership, or retain the ability to sell the same work-product to someone else, or retain the ability to modify it, or release it as open-source, etc.), you should put that in your contracts.

Re:Depends--well, no, it does not depend (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380880)

The ownership of work produced on contract depends highly on the terms of the contract but nominally is considered work for hire...

Not it is not! The term "work made for hire" is a legal term defined explicitly and exclusively in federal copyright law. If the work produced on contract does not fit the categories described by that law, then it is not a work made for hire under the law.

Re:Depends (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381038)

The nice thing though is that any freelancer with any history will have built up a framework that he uses to rapidly roll out new software, and the customer has no rights to the framework, which in my case was only ever delivered without comment as a DLL. Nobody ever sacked me to have their nephew support my software, but boy it would have been fun if they tried.

same deal with photography (1)

viridari (1138635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380604)

Someone pays me to take photos & thinks they can make their own prints. But they don't own the photos. I do. Then they get all cranky when they go to Walgreens with the crappy 800 pixel (long side) image I gave them for web use & wonder why one of two things happens:
1) their 4x6 print looks like crap
2) the store manager won't print watermarked photos without a signed release from the photographer

I copyright law f'd up in this world right now? Certainly! But right now this is how it is. I do remain open to Something Better but haven't seen it yet.

Re:same deal with photography (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380638)

IMO, this is a slightly different scenario. You're basically selling a license per photograph. If they want to buy the picture, they have to buy it from you. This is like selling multiple seats of a piece of software. From what I got out of the article, this would be more along the lines of buying 10 copyrighted photos from you and drawing mustaches on them at home. Then again, it's early and my attention span isn't quite there yet.

Re:same deal with photography (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380646)

There is nothing in copyright law preventing you from giving them full resolution originals with a liberal usage license.

Re:same deal with photography (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380662)

No, it's not the same. Photography is a specific, noted aberration in US copyright law under the work for hire section. You cannot translate what happens with photography to what happens with other types of work/media/etc.

Re:same deal with photography (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380680)

Depends, they should be able to contract either way, no issue there. Either pay for a copy of the photos. Or pay for the full rights if they don't want you using them.

Re:same deal with photography (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380774)

there are different levels to your product

1 you buy the time and the prints ( X 4/6 y 8/10 ect)
2 you also buy "retouching"
3 you also buy the negatives
4 you also buy the certification that that was the only copy of said negative

each level gets more expensive (if offered at all)

same deal with software

Depends upon contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380610)

If I hire software to be written under a work-for-hire agreement, I sure as hell own it, barring pieces that are used that fall under the ownership of others. Original code plus the arrangement of licensed code is what I'm paying for.

Slippery slopes... (4, Interesting)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380620)

This is a weird and slippery slope. I don't think that anybody feels that because they buy software they own rights to the source code, to edit code and distribute it, etc. But they do own the rights to use or utilize the software as they see fit within the confines of common copyright laws.

The author uses the example that you can buy a book or movie, but you don't own the rights to that book or movie. And that's fine, I think we'll all agree to that. However, if I buy a replication of a piece of art, a book, etc., I'm allowed to vandalize/defile it in any nature I wish as long as its for personal use and it is not distributed.

I'm not sure that I like the slippery slope that a lot of developers are trying to tread these days. Notice my use of the words "use" and "utilize." These are two very different words in the English language. Use means, well, to use something. Utilize means to use something for a purpose in which it wasn't originally intended. I can go to the hardware store and buy thousands of different tools and items for home repairs and various other projects. Many times I'll buy patented items because they almost meet my uses. I modify and "utilize" them for the specific task at hand. And this is fine, as you don't see me on the street corner trying to sell modified black and decker pecker wreckers at a markup. I think think that 1) that would infringe patents, 2) that would infringe registered trademarks and patents, and 3) I'd probably go to jail for trying to sell "pecker wreckers."

In the end, I have a product that meets my requirements and the vendor makes money off of my purchase. Everyone is happy, right? I think that this is the hurdle that software developers have to get over. As long as people buy your software, that's all you should care about. Let them modify it to their hearts content as long as they're not selling it for profit. In fact, possibly learn a lesson and integrate some of these features in your next version to appeal to a larger market. I think this is mutually beneficial in the long run. EULA are trash and need to go away.

Plate those boilers. . ? (3, Insightful)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380640)

You might ask why I didn't make a contract with this client in the first place. It's because I've found, over the years, that insisting on a contract before development starts will result either in a delayed start or even a project being shelved.

Not having a contract in place before you start does speed things up, but it's kind of like running a heavy industries company without insurance.

Why not have two general contracts drawn up in advance; one which points out that the client gets what is essentially first publishing rights, or whatever comes closest to emulating the copyright system, and another where you sell the code outright. Explain the difference up front and then pull out the pen. "Option A is cheap, but I can sell the same code to other clients and you can't change it, and Option B will cost you several orders of magnitude more, but it's all yours forever and you can do whatever you want with it. This is standard copyright practice. We can start work as soon as you sign!"

People like clear options and little check boxes, and this would avoid weeks of legal dickering. Yes, you may lose some work in the short term because people realize that you're not selling what they actually want for the price they can afford, but this way is more honest and your headaches will be fewer.

Just my opinion.

-FL

A (very) brief primer (5, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380644)

IAAL, but the issues here are complex so this is NOT advice for any particular person in any particular situation:
      If what you are interested in is owning a copyright to source code there are two ways for a "customer" to get the copyright:
      1. If the software is a work made for hire. "Work for hire" is a legal definition (see 17 U.S.C. 101), with two different paths. The first path is for the software to be written by an employee within the scope of employment of the organization claiming copyright. Employee specifically does NOT mean an independent contractor, and code written by a contractor is NOT a work for hire! The definition of an employee goes into all sorts of common-law factors a court will look at, but the shorthand is the tax status of an employee with the IRS.... merely calling a contractor an employee is not enough. Also, the work has to be made within the normal scope of employment, so no, the employer cannot claim copyright as a work for hire for something the employee did outside of work. In fact, even if the employee works for the organization as a regular employee, if writing code is not within the normal scope of employment it still might not be a work for hire (up to the courts to decide if things go south). While some works for hire can be done by an independent contractors along with a specific written agreement, software code generally does not fall into any of the specifically enumerated categories where these written agreements work (see 17 U.S.C. 101 for more details).
          Interesting: Technically, code written for a big company like MS or IBM by the armies of independent contractors are NOT works made for hire. See point 2 for how the companies can still get rights.

    2. Assignment of Copyright: This is much more common for any work not directly made by an employee. There is a written agreement assigning ownership of the copyright to the contracting organization. The usual rules of contract law cover what is and is not within the scope of the assignment. Assignments can be non-exclusive (we can do what we want with the code, but the developer is also free to do what he wants), or more commonly, exclusive (the assignee getting rights to the code has full control, the original developer loses his rights to that specific work). So is there any difference from a work made for hire? YES! In a work made for hire, the organization OWNS the copyright for the entire length of the copyright term. However, in an assignment, Copyright law specifically splits the copyright term into two parts. An assignment made when the work is created transfers rights to the assignee (usually the company) for about 1/2 the term (the time varies depending upon whether the author dies and some other factors, but it is usually a long time > 30 years). The copyright automatically reverts back to the original author, and the assignment agreement cannot override this rule. The law is written this way to give the authors a "second bite at the apple" in case a work they assign away for peanuts becomes very valuable later. The author can extend the copyright to the second half of its term by paying a nominal fee, and can then go out and the assignee loses all previously held rights.

        The upshot for the software industry: Any assigned copyrights will eventually revert to the authors. Now, by the time the reversion occurs most software will be long out of date, but as we all know there is plenty of software out there that lingers for a LONG time, and non-employees DO get there rights to the underlying code back.

    One other point: Binary code gets a separate copyright from the underyling source code. But binary code is a derivative work of the underyling source code, so even if the developer never compiles code he writes, the binary distribution using that code would violate the copyright of the original code if there was no valid assignment or it is not a work for hire. (that's a whole separate topic I ain't gonna go into)

      Other issues with both works for hire and assignments can include copyright rules in different countries (everything above is US law), although international treaties harmonize the law somewhat. An assignment of copyright in one jurisdiction might not be valid in another, so the assignee might not have exclusive rights globally without the correct agreements.

Everything above only includes copyrights, obviously patentable inventions made during development and trademarks for products are also involved, but I've typed too much already. Short answer: If you're in a business where you need to actually "own" the code, get a lawyer.

Work For Hire (5, Informative)

nato10 (600871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380650)

It's pretty simple. If you are an employee, your employer owns your code. If you are a contractor you own your code unless your contract or agreement states that the work is a "work for hire" (or uses equivalent language). Requisite Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] reference.

Re:Work For Hire (1)

nato10 (600871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380696)

Relevant excerpt from the United States Copyright Act of 1976:

A "work made for hire" is— (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. (17 U.S.C. 101)

False dichotomy of Microsoft/Linux (3, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380654)

Back before Linux was popular, source code licenses were common and understood. Especially common for software development libraries, you could pay one price for the binaries, or a higher price for both binaries and source, but it no case was it ever understood that the product was not proprietary.

Then Linux came along and somehow "closed source" became a synonym for "proprietary", and "open source" a synonym for "free" (gratis). Microsoft feeds into this by not releasing the source code to Windows. Windows would be an even stronger (proprietary) product, IMO, if the source code were available.

Lawrence Lessig tried to rectify this false dichotomy by founding the Creative Commons. But the public has little knowledge of the existence of the Creative Commons, let alone the particulars of any of the licenses it offers.

The Linux community shares some of the blame by touting libre, gratis, and "open source" in the same breath. This lawsuit is a consequence of that.

Work for Hire (2, Insightful)

zysus (123604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380664)

I deal with this frequently with sub-contractors (and firms) doing development.

It's actually very simple.
The understanding starts out as: This is a work-for-hire. All work product is property of the company.

Which eventually leads to a contract containing:
All source-code, build scripts, documentation, keys, any other materials required to use or reproduce the deliverable item are exclusive property and proprietary information of the company.
The contractor shall not release, reuse or redistribute any component of this work in any other business. This includes any custom libraries, headers or other application work-product.
This does not apply to off-the-shelf open-source tools and libraries, however such items shall be documented and approved in advance to avoid GPL contamination.

I don't see a problem here.
I expect to pay through the nose if i want exclusive rights and ownership to someone's special library, for exactly the reasons the article dictates.
Otherwise a non-exclusive source-code license that I may do with as I please is cheaper. A binary-only license might be cheaper still.

They devs have to make a living and if it wasn't cheaper/faster to use them in the first place I'd just write it myself.

Just try explaining these legal subtleties to someone who doesn't understand software.

Reality (Legal is different) (1)

trust_jmh (651322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380682)

work itself

Has a cost once. (Extra work adding extra cost.)
The work that has already been done has no extra cost. It is only greed wanting to gain without giving.

leave his toolbox

Plumber looses what he has but with IP a copy isn't a loss.

The client has paid only for the results of the labour

Source code is a result of labour.

ownership of the code has a value

Greed has value.

pre-existing libraries

Cost has already been paid for.

Give them license to modify the code (3, Insightful)

Cheburator-2 (260358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380690)

First of all, client expects to be able to use and MODIFY code you've done for them, both physically and legally. Who owns the code - is the second question. They don't want to own your library - they just want THE LICENSE allowing them to see, modify and use that modified code. It is the same thing as open source, except that they don't get the right to redistribute your library.

Don't be a dick, just give them that license.

Seems like as usual people didn't RTFA (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380692)

The arguments he's posing actually have merit - his main argument seems to be that if a customer buys something that he developed, they on occasion believe they own his self-written custom libraries - essentially his tools. The plumber analogy begins to make more sense at this point. They paid for the finished product and can do whatever they want with it (unless contractually obligated not to, but that's another can of worms) but they did NOT pay for the tools he used to develop it. Perhaps the best analogy would be to say that if a customer pays for software they should not expect to own the development platform which was used to create that software.

I call "bullshit" (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380706)

In the article, he states "One problem is that if you’re working in an interpreted language such as PHP then your code isn’t compiled, so in practice your client does receive source code and can do what they like to it, even though they have no legal right to."

It's your responsibility to elucidate what's accceptible and what's not. Moreover, if someone updates your code to fix say a spelling error, then that's not copyright infringenment, it's just updating.

Re:I call "bullshit" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380748)

And, pray tell, do you enforce it? How would you even know?

Hypocrites (1, Insightful)

JDevers (83155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380718)

It is funny watching everyone on here discuss how ignorant all their users are for thinking they own the code simply for paying for it...and later today there will be a post discussing the RIAA and why they are an evil organization for trying to force their users who purchased their works to recognize that they don't now own that music.

Re:Hypocrites (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380900)

With a work for hire, like TFA, there is a discussion before hand. when I buy a CD i expect to listen to that music however i like. Now sendding it to 30000000 people on the internet is clearly not allowed, do i need to buy 3 coppies if i want one in each car and one at home? how about my home(4+ devices), 2 cars, 2 places of work(mine and the wifes), the kids devices(2 atm). so a bit of math says that as a family if we purchase a CD we'd like ~10 copies of each song, seeing as i bought it and i'm not handing it out outside of the imediate family unit i don't see a problem. The RIAA/MPAA on the other hand would like to see me buy 10 copies of the song(ignoring the fact that not all the devices are CD players.). Who is morally right? do we compromise and buy 3 copies under the assumption that no more than that are likely to be listened to at the same time?

Whaaaaaaaat? (5, Insightful)

Ransak (548582) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380728)

FTA:

"if I pay a plumber to fix my tap, I don’t ask him to leave his toolbox so I can fix it myself next time"

"You might ask why I didn’t make a contract with this client in the first place. It’s because I’ve found, over the years, that insisting on a contract before development starts will result either in a delayed start or even a project being shelved."

So, this developer doesn't disclose this to customers who aren't aware that they are screwed when the developer walks away? His tortured analogy of the plumber and his tools is only correct if the plumber is installing pipes, valves, etc. that are 100% proprietary to the plumber and can't be purchased anywhere else. The word slimy leaps to mind for his business ethics (and plumbing in general).

don't forget sales tax, too (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380732)

In California, at least, there's also some tricky sales tax issues to be aware of. If you hand that client a CD-ROM with the product, for them to keep, of your $100K worth of toil, you have made "a transfer of tangible personal property", and sales tax is due on the whole $100K. On the other hand, if you FTP it to their machine, it's just non-taxable services. Or, if they provide you with a blank CD-ROM and you burn your software onto it as a service.

This is why architects retain ownership of the drawings they produce, for instance.

Re:don't forget sales tax, too (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380780)

Bullshit. You just itemize the bill:
CD-ROM $0.05
Copying service $0.95
Labor $999,999.00

You are equally guilty it appears. (1)

barfy (256323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380742)

Failing to have a clear contract, means that the one buying, may not be getting what they think. But equally true, is that the seller may be giving up more than they think.

There are basic principles here. And that is "work for hire".

The conflicting stuff, is development of "skills", competition, and squelching a persons ability to make a living.

Fundamentally, one should see a lawyer about this, these two sentences should keep you google happy long enough to grasp the things that you should expect from your lawyer.

Re:You are equally guilty it appears. (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380786)

Excellent point - If we WANT to have ownership of source we clearly spell it out in the contract - sometimes it is a deal breaker, but we have been hosed too many times by programmers who won't stand up and support their work....

This is why people simple outsource to India (1)

ScaredOfTheMan (1063788) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380770)

Not to start a flame war here, but to give my opinion as IT person who doesn't code (scripts don't count right ;) I read 8 different versions of who owns the codes, depending on state, and contracts, even sales tax got in there. Reading all this made me think, wow I would go to elance, find a shop in India tell them I own the code and let them at it. Knowing full well they will probably keep it for themselves over there, while I have full rights over here. Done Simple. Yes it would probably not be as good and would take 2X longer to write (I read slashdot you know), but I don't have the headache that apparently accompanies hiring a local subcontractor.

transfer clarification (2, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380790)

But, put simply, code is owned by its developer even once the client has paid, unless that developer is legally employed by the client or a contract exists that transfers full ownership (and even then it's far from clear-cut).

Just a point of clarification: You can't write a contract that transfers ownership of a copyright that doesn't (yet) exist. Well, you can but it's unenforceable in the US. You can write a contract to the effect that you *will* transfer ownership of the code you build, but you still own the code until you sign a subsequent document transferring it.

Can steal what you can't own. (1)

Dukenukemx (1342047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380796)

So, if I take a copy of it, then I obviously didn't pirate it. Since I can never own it, I can never steal it.

Re:Can steal what you can't own. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380920)

Sorry, flawed logic.

First, you can own it. You just have to get the copyright owner sell you the copyright.

Second, if you steal something, you don't own it. The owner is still the one from whom you've stolen it. And that's not unique to stealing; if you rent a car, you don't own that car either. Only if you buy it, you own it.

constructing code is proprietary.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380824)

I've been coding for about 22 years. In that time, I've worked on proprietary code for customers and employers. customers usually understand that they are paying for the final product, not the inner workings to give them the final results. you can use the concept of building a house. they are paying for the house, not my workers, not my tools, not my materials. i do not leave a copy of my dev tools for the customers, nor will i leave them a copy of my proprietary code libraries which i employ regularly to make my coding job easier. if i write a a library which creates a unique object type and use this object in many of my projects, clients are not entitled to this code. although it helps make their final product work, the concept is the same. they are not paying for the code, just the finished product.

if a chef is hired to cook someone a special dish, they are paying for the finished dish, not the recipe.

Interesting when hiring contract artists (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380850)

Many successful contract computer graphics artists 'have' libraries and scripts that they have developed over the years. These are often created or written as 'work for hire' for their previous employers.

When I hire them (as does everybody in the business) they are required to sign an employment agreement that says that anything created on the job is a work for hire. They're working at our facility, under our supervision, with our equipment and toolset -- it could not be more clear what the arrangement is.

Especially among younger artists, though, these rules do not seem clear. They think that the tools they write benefit the company, but that they should be able to take them to their next gig.

My License for Web Dev (3, Interesting)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380864)

License

Generally speaking the graphic design and of course the content (textual content, photographs you have licensed, etc.) of the site is yours to do with as you please, but the underlying source code (PHP and JavaScript) remain the intellectual property of Company, LLC. You may modify them as needed, but you may not duplicate the software for use on other websites, and you may not distribute derivative works. This license is transferrable as long as Company, LLC is notified in writing of the transfer, and may verify that the transfer has taken place.

I've never had a problem.

Yuo faiL 1t. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380902)

just yet, but I'm give BSD credit turd-suckingly SLASHDOT'S offe8ded some notorious Ope8BSD the above is far NIGGER ASSOCIATION

hrm, so how does ANY coding work ever get done? (1)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380910)

So I have prior knowledge of X highly efficient algorithms to do various things that I have come up with in the past, If I happen to have need of them then I instinctively will use that method, to fluff it up with placebo code to make it unique in some way would be wrong, and any half decent coder coming after me would remove placebo code spotting it's uselessness anyway so my original algorithm would be left.

Everyone knows 'new' code is highly rare as it is unless working with a very specific problem.

So how the heck do you explain to ANY company you work for that due to this you can work for them, and give them a product they own they have entirely paid for, but tons of the methods within it you can simply never give them any rights to, as you've used them countless times before for yourself and other paying and non paying clients. And it would be impossible for you to continue to work in the field if you were to not use them elsewhere also.

silly (1)

Zecheus (1072058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380938)

A business owner owns the domain knowledge: the business domain, e.g. process model, business concepts. Its unlikely the ownership would give these to a software contractor.

Also, a software contractor merely plays a part in the social process. Claiming ownership of any component of that process, I'd say, is antisocial.

We have a young Bill Gates writing now? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381016)

If I paid someone to make a cake for me, I own the cake. If I paid someone to paint a painting for me, I own the painting. Why do people want to change the rules for software?

Work for Hire (1)

Sortova (922179) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381032)

As a person who runs an open source company, the first sentence "Why do people think they own code just because they've paid for it?" caught my eye. The reason most companies think they own code is that 99% of the contracts I read have a "work for hire" clause. This means that as a contractor you sign away the same rights that employees do. You come up with a patentable idea on company time? They own it. You write code? They own it. Open source presents an interesting problem. Quite often in the same contracts they have clauses against distribution of the work for hire. I spend quite a bit of time lining out those paragraphs before I sign such a contract. There are no inalienable "developer rights" that need to be asserted. Quite simply this is a case of contract law. If you want to retain the ownership of your code, don't sign a contract that gives it away. Heck, it worked for Bill Gates.
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  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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