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Ask Slashdot: What To Do When Another Dev Steals Your Work and Adds Their Name?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the all-due-credit dept.

Programming 480

An anonymous reader writes "I have had an interesting situation arise where I built some web apps for a client about 2 years ago. I have no longer been working with the client and a new developer has taken over purely for maintenance work. Currently I have been looking for new work and have used the said apps as part of my portfolio. During one interview I was informed that I not telling the truth about building the apps and I was then shown the source of a few JS files. It seems the new developer had put a copyright header on them, removed my name as the author and put his own. Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer. It put me on my back foot and I had to start explaining to interviewers that the developer stole the work and branded it. I feel it makes me look like a fool, having to defend my position in an interview with a possible client and I feel I had lost the chance of directing the outcome of the interview. I have cut the apps from my portfolio, however they are some of my best work and a real testament to my skills. I decided to cut my loss and move on, I am not looking for a fight or any unnecessary heartache. So what you do in my situation?"

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Infidel defilers. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952399)

They shall all drown in lakes of blood. Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they will learn why they fear the night.

Re:Infidel defilers. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952485)

Damnit, this is not off-topic, it's a quote of Thulsa Doom from the original Conan the Barbarian, or are you kiddies all too young to remember that?

Oh Noes! (-1, Offtopic)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#43952635)

This is one round of "Magic: the Gathering" I'm going to steer well clear of!

Re:Infidel defilers. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952707)

:-) It really is Conan quote day today.

Earlier I played some Diablo III and found s special belt called "Lamentation".
The quote attached to it said:
"Crush your enemies and see them driven before you..."

Re:Infidel defilers. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952679)

Mod parent up. There should be no mercy for those who would steal your work.

version control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952403)

If the source is on version control (e.g. git) could you not easily prove your case?

Re:version control (5, Insightful)

emilper (826945) | about a year ago | (#43952427)

will not help with changing what already happened, but for the future put your work on github or some other similar service, keep the project private, then you can use that to prove precedence.

Re:version control (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43952523)

How would that work? Your new prospective clients have no way of knowing you didn't just download somebody else's work and put your name on it. To show precedence, you would need client-verifiable dates on the files.

Re:version control (2)

emilper (826945) | about a year ago | (#43952613)

you have commit dates, if the change copyright on your file is newer, there is your proof

you also have the commit history, better proof than anything, unless they suspect you faked hundreds of commits and bug fixes

Re:version control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952675)

You don't think it's trivial to spoof such things?

Re:version control (1)

emilper (826945) | about a year ago | (#43952833)

yes, you can set up your own private svn/git/whatever server and browser and fake the commit dates, but spoofing github or bitbucket or sourceforge would be a lot more difficult, and would not fool many

Re:version control (5, Informative)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43952695)

you have commit dates, if the change copyright on your file is newer, there is your proof

you also have the commit history, better proof than anything, unless they suspect you faked hundreds of commits and bug fixes

That would work, but it would be unethical for a developer to commit his code to a publicly-accessible server without client permission to do so.

Re:version control (1)

emilper (826945) | about a year ago | (#43952813)

not public, keep the project private and show the details only if there is need

Re:version control (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952801)

Don't put it in a public repo, that's likely to seriously piss off the client. Instead, do the work in a local git repo on your machine (committing from there to your client's repo, if they use one) so you can show the whole development process. When the project is complete, burn a copy of the repo to cd and get it notarised, or maybe use a CA's time-stamping service on the repo file.

Re:version control (1)

neonmonk (467567) | about a year ago | (#43952443)

This here. Refer people to the public repository that has commit dates etc.

Re:version control (2)

Anrego (830717) | about a year ago | (#43952461)

Assuming it's work for hire / a client.. it would seem unreasonable to make the work public unless the client specifically allowed it?

Ah Slashdot: Reap what you sow (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952409)

Most of the people here don't give a rats about intellectual property unless they are ranting about how Hollywood and proprietary software's model is broken. When it's one of our own though, it's pitchforks and torches. Without some sort of intellectual property law enforcement, any intellectual property can be misappropriated. You can't have "anything goes, except programmers always get properly credited, because programmers are cool while recording artists, movie makers, novelists and all other non-programmers need a new business model"

Re:Ah Slashdot: Reap what you sow (5, Insightful)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year ago | (#43952465)

Most of the people here don't give a rats about intellectual property unless they are ranting about how Hollywood and proprietary software's model is broken. When it's one of our own though, it's pitchforks and torches.

Have you considered that the people who argue the former aren't always the people who are upset by things such as this?

Re:Ah Slashdot: Reap what you sow (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952593)

Yeah, because when I download a movie, I replace all of the credits with my name and try to pass off to potential employers that I was wholly responsible for the film. Unless it's an Abrams film... he can keep those.

Re:Ah Slashdot: Reap what you sow (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952719)

You spelled "Uwe Boll" wrong...

Re:Ah Slashdot: Reap what you sow (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#43952637)

I cannot remember anyone claiming that artist should not be credited. There have been arguments that you should be allowed to copy their stuff for free, but I've never ever seen anyone claiming that you should be allowed to claim you had written that stuff if you haven't.

Or in short: There's a difference between copying and plagiarism.

What the submitter complains about is plagiarism, not copying. From his submission, there's no indication about how he thinks about copying.

linus? is that you? (5, Funny)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#43952413)

the sco trial is over man. you just had a bad dream, that's all.

Get a letter from your original client (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952423)

summarizing the work you did, and identifying you as the original author of the code.

This isn't hard. Yahoo career advice stuff.

Re: Get a letter from your original client (3, Funny)

_xanthus_47 (2612937) | about a year ago | (#43952459)

You mean "Google" career advice stuff?

Out Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952429)

Out them anywhere and everywhere that is an appropriate forum (no pun intended).

As long as you can prove it, then teach them a lesson the only way they will learn: a shark with the laser of truth and exposure from outer space.

I got nothing (5, Funny)

Anrego (830717) | about a year ago | (#43952437)

That sounds like a shitty situation, my condolences :(

I suspect the lawyer route is probably a bad idea, but I'd be really curious what a lawyer would have to say on the subject (at least here in Canada we have "moral" rights that dictate among other things an authors ownership of his work (even when it's "work for hire").

Re:I got nothing (4, Informative)

similar_name (1164087) | about a year ago | (#43952671)

In the U.S. [copyright.gov]

In cases of works made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author

Re:I got nothing (4, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43952697)

Well, there's only one answer then. He needs to have him killed. It's probably cheaper than hiring a lawyer anyway.

Re:I got nothing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952767)

Interestingly enough, the new developer is technically stealing from the client. If he is taking the code and claiming it is his own, that is copyright infringement too. If anything I would let the client's legal or other department know that their new guy is stealing from them. If it works, its the best of both worlds, thief gets punished and you aren't the one who has to get him.

Re:I got nothing (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43952889)

No, he's not stealing. At worst, he's infringing the copyright. At best, he asked for permission to retain a copy of the code for his portfolio or his employment contract stipulated similar.

Re:I got nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952773)

this is the ultimate final situation because original client company is too herp derp to look at the code in the first place or have backups to check.

Also if my company is paying a contractor for source code all that shit is mine, copyright would be considered theft.

Re:I got nothing (2)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year ago | (#43952757)

If whomever hired him is the copyright owner, then the new maintanier should not place his own name on the work; it's not his intelectual property.

His best shot is contacting the person who hired him to do the job in the first place, and informing him of the situation.

Contact your former client. (5, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43952439)

...and inform them of the unethical behavior of the new developer, the situation it put you in and how shocked you were to find that they had deprived you of the opportunity to take credit for your work. Somebody at that company hired you and knows what truly happened. Hopefully that person is in a position to put the situation right and give you the credit you are due.

That said, relying on your code being still accessible after you have left it for a while is not a situation you want to be in. Your former clients can take that code down and replace it any time they want, with anything they want. You should have checked to see the status of that code yourself shortly before you tried to present it as an example of your work.

Re:Contact your former client. (5, Insightful)

multimediavt (965608) | about a year ago | (#43952525)

...and inform them of the unethical behavior of the new developer, the situation it put you in and how shocked you were to find that they had deprived you of the opportunity to take credit for your work. Somebody at that company hired you and knows what truly happened. Hopefully that person is in a position to put the situation right and give you the credit you are due.

That said, relying on your code being still accessible after you have left it for a while is not a situation you want to be in. Your former clients can take that code down and replace it any time they want, with anything they want. You should have checked to see the status of that code yourself shortly before you tried to present it as an example of your work.

I agree with most of what you said and I would add that I would explain to the client that the actions of their new developer have put them in an actionable (take you to court) position as well as the new developer that is clearly in deep to the count of fraud and copyright violation. You need to speak with a copyright lawyer, pronto, to understand what your options actually are. I know you're not looking for a fight, but it seems one that's worth fighting has found you. As a developer the most important thing to you is your code. If someone is stealing that and claiming it as their own they are burying you if you don't fight. I assure you if the places were reversed you'd be hearing from a lawyer.

Re:Contact your former client. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952577)

Unless this guy's contract specifically stated that he retains the copyright, he's got no case. Otherwise, the company who contracts always owns the copyright in a work-for-hire and thus can do with it however they want.

Re:Contact your former client. (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43952741)

If copyright law is anything like patent law, then he has a case. I have my name on several patents, even though they are owned by my former employer. If they didn't put my name on there, then I could get a lawyer and get the patent thrown out.

Re:Contact your former client. (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#43952771)

If copyright law is anything like patent law, then he has a case.

Its not.

Re: Contact your former client. (1)

iamhassi (659463) | about a year ago | (#43952623)

This. Imagine if it was a painting, photo or movie someone created and sold, just because it's sold does not mean new owner can erase the name of the painter, director, photographer, etc and put whatever name they want on there.

Re: Contact your former client. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43952645)

They can if they own the code:

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

Re:Contact your former client. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43952649)

No, the client owns the code unless the original developer had an agreement with them that stated otherwise. They can do what they want with it, including removing credits to the original developer and crediting it to their new maintainer. To do so is unethical. IMO, but it isn't illegal.

Re: Contact your former client. (2)

CodeReign (2426810) | about a year ago | (#43952689)

That is incorrect. You always own the source unless you are providing work for hire. Eg. a photographer owns the photos even if the were shot for a company.

Re: Contact your former client. (4, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43952705)

Did you bother to read the summary?

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

Sounds like a pretty typical work-for-hire.

Re: Contact your former client. (1)

Splab (574204) | about a year ago | (#43952871)

Photographer is a bad example as they are often freelance and sell imprints to publishers.

Unless you happen to be programming for yourself, the code is owned by however payed you to make it - what happens with it after you are gone is none of your concern. In fact, I'd be pissed if code maintained by someone other than me had my name as a developer - I have no idea how competent the programmer is or how well the product now behaves, sure as hell don't want to be associated with it.

Re:Contact your former client. (1)

Livius (318358) | about a year ago | (#43952895)

"I know you're not looking for a fight, but it seems one that's worth fighting has found you."

I thought that merited repeating.

Remember, though, as another post pointed, the issue here is plagiarism, not copyright.

Wayback machine? (5, Interesting)

johnnys (592333) | about a year ago | (#43952451)

Would the wayback machine or something similar be able to retrieve the originals? Or, could you get a signed letter from the original client that this was your work? Then you could talk to a lawyer about copyright infringement.

If the original client won't cooperate, perhaps you could send a DMCA takedown notice asserting your ownership of the copyright for the original digital content.

Re:Wayback machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952575)

If the original client won't cooperate, perhaps you could send a DMCA takedown notice asserting your ownership of the copyright for the original digital content.

If the contract specifically stated that the IP belongs to the client, that would be a very bad idea. At least it'd be an invalid DMCA claim and therefore subject to a fine, plus it would do your image a lot of harm. Especially if prospective clients ever speak to that client.

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer

Re:Wayback machine? (1)

54mc (897170) | about a year ago | (#43952579)

If the original client won't cooperate, perhaps you could send a DMCA takedown notice asserting your ownership of the copyright for the original digital content.

Unfortunately, this is almost certainly not an option. From TFS:

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

Re:Wayback machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952641)

original creater own moral right on the code. moral right can not be given or sold off, it is permanent.
Moral rights include the right to be known as the creater of the code, it also allows you to veto in case of etical issues in how the code is used.

Re:Wayback machine? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43952605)

Did you even bother to read the summary?

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

If the client owns the code then they own the copyright and they can do as they like.

Get a referral ... (5, Informative)

MacTO (1161105) | about a year ago | (#43952453)

Get a referral from the company.

If the copyright message is pointing to the maintainer rather than the company, you may want to point it out to the company since the new developer may be trying to claim ownership of the code (or may simply be naive).

Re:Get a referral ... (1)

skyraker (1977528) | about a year ago | (#43952555)

I agree. The OP stated that the company owned the code to the app, which must have been part of the work contract. So the copyright should be listed as belonging to them. And he can always ask that the code be modified to add his name back in as the author of the code.

Re:Get a referral ... (2)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | about a year ago | (#43952627)

Get a referral from the company.

If the copyright message is pointing to the maintainer rather than the company, you may want to point it out to the company since the new developer may be trying to claim ownership of the code (or may simply be naive).

Yeah, that's the right path but it's probably too late.

What the OP should have done - ethically and legally - is obtain permission from the previous client before applying for new jobs. That way he's done the right thing to start with. And if an unforeseen circumstance like this one or any other snag comes up, he can simply say "no problem, I can give you a contact name at the client I write this for. I've already spoken to them an have permission to use this code as a reference so I'm sure they'll be able to satisfy your concern."

Did I mention it's too late? Because he didn't bother to do the right thing in the first place.

Do you have documents from the original work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952455)

You do have some documents when you started working for them right? Is its not possible to show those and prove it?

Smart move (4, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#43952471)

I have cut the apps from my portfolio

Smart move. Because that doesn't look like an admission of guilt at all.

Seriously, how difficult is it to prove that you were there before him?

Contact the original client (4, Insightful)

neonmonk (467567) | about a year ago | (#43952479)

Inform them of what's happened. Get them to send you a written & signed confirmation that you are the original author.

Verify using code backup repository? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952483)

Should have told them to lookup their backup repos. Verified (with kudos).

You disappointed me! You conceded early on! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#43952489)

I decided to cut my loss and move on, I am not looking for a fight or any unnecessary heartache.

That's where you lost the battle. If this work is truly yours, there's usually a way to prove. I mean, I can read code and tell who dveloped it -- from the style. I mean, you could even point to older work you've done.

I just don't understand how you can let a fella claim ownership to work that's truly yours. You could at least do half a SCO...I mean, at least attempt to sue the fella.

This is Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952491)

Don't remove the apps from your resume and contact your previous employer. Try to explain the situation. I'm sure this is some kind of fraud. If you can prove that you designed the system, you should insist that your name is in the source.

Re:This is Fraud (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43952589)

Don't remove the apps from your resume and contact your previous employer. Try to explain the situation. I'm sure this is some kind of fraud. If you can prove that you designed the system, you should insist that your name is in the source.

If the company owns the code and its copyright how exactly is it fraud? They can change the code however they want due to being the copyright owners.

Re:This is Fraud (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#43952743)

I don't know about American law, but I'm pretty sure that according to German law while they are certainly allowed to change the code however they like, they are not allowed to lie about who wrote it. Note that, according to the submission the copyright header named the maintenance developer. Things would be different if it just named the company.

Indeed, the company might be very interested to learn about this case, because as the submitter wrote it, it sounds as if the maintenance programmer actually defrauded the company by effectively claiming he owns the copyright.

Re:This is Fraud (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#43952789)

Huh? That's like saying you can't commit fraud because you own the paper that the fraudulent document is printed on.

It isn't your code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952499)

And it isn't the other developers' either, if what you say about the client owning the code is true.

Did you originally own the copyright and then transfer it to the client?

Or was your employment such that the first owner of the copyright was the client and not you?

If the former (you transferred the copyright to its new owner, the client), you can simply explain that, and also say that you believe the other developer's claims of copyright are incorrect, since the client owns the copyright.

If the latter (you were never the copyright owner of the work), then you can explain that you didn't claim to own copyright to the work, only that you had created it. Perhaps a letter of reference from the client would be sufficient to show this.

Was it an offshore programmer? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952501)

Just asking. This has happened several times to me, and in each and every case it was done by someone in india, usually contracted via rent a coder or similar.

Re:Was it an offshore programmer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952669)

Just asking. This has happened several times to me, and in each and every case it was done by someone in india, usually contracted via rent a coder or similar.

It happened to me too and every time it was an american employee to tried to claim our work as his own. // Apu

Re:Was it an offshore programmer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952755)

That is a bit unfair... there are crooks in all countries and good people all over the world.

Get in touch with that former client (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952507)

Get in touch with that former client, and tell them what their new developer did. It's easy to prove you're the author, and not him, by checking the dates when he started working with the client and the date of creation of those JS file
Good luck

I am not looking for a fight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952527)

Well, if you are not looking for a fight you already did your best, move on and forget about it. Unless you stand for the right thing being done you will keep being trampled all over by others.

thoughts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952533)

While I can only speculate on the situation...

> I might include some of the initial design information (wireframes/etc) as evidence. This can also aid in the portfolio, as it speaks to the entire process from idea to creation, as well as PROVE that you were involved. As another reader mentioned, you could use source code / version history as well.

> you may at times need to explain that any CURRENT dev can simply make it look like they want. As an example, place a copy of jQuery (minified or not) on your site... add your own header ("look at me, it's easy to falsely claim someone elses' works").

> The other thing you may be able to do, is contact the client about the work that has been "claimed", and ask them to have the developer include your name. While obviously they may not need to comply, a good relationship with clients will usually result in their willingness to do so (at least as long as it still mostly resembles your work).

Clear your name, don't give up! (2)

Tasha26 (1613349) | about a year ago | (#43952535)

Have you seen the movie "Flash of Genius"? Seems like you are in that same situation. The real inventor of the code can explain every nook and crannies of the code, why they did what, and the circumstances that made them program something in a certain way rather than another. The fake programmer will say he/she has amnesia. They won't be explain the thing from ground up or the particulars (exciting moments) of the programming adventure.

Re:Clear your name, don't give up! (1)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#43952703)

Actually, it was "Working Girl" [imdb.com] (Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver). Apparently Abraham stole it and put his name on it.

Permission (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43952543)

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

The original contract should have specified who owns the source code. If it specified the company, then while your name could be on it as the original author, it belongs to the company and they have the right to modify it and the copyright. If no ownership was specified, then the developer owns it and their changing of the copyright was improper.

If indeed the company owns the copyright, did you have permission to retain a copy of it for use in your portfolio? If so, it's easily explained as the code was work performed under contract which you have the original source however the company subsequently modified it. Volunteer to walk through the code or otherwise show your expertise with it. Show them documentation that you worked for whatever company now owns the copyright, or even better documentation from the company that you have permission to include it in your portfolio.

The company you're hiring into has a right to question the claim that you wrote it in light of conflicting information and investigate further. And you have a right to defend yourself and explain the situation. If that does not satisfy the company, do you really want to work for a company that doesn't trust and believe you from the start of employment?

Source control history (3, Insightful)

digitalhermit (113459) | about a year ago | (#43952551)

Pull the logs and other supporting information including client notes, change orders, SOWs, source code revision history, etc. and present it. . You can explain that it's a matter of principle that you're doing it because you value your good name. I think it's unlikely that you'll be retained by that company, but clearing it up may give the thief a bit of heat.

It has happened to me while working at UPS. One of the admins there stole my training guides and put his name on them.

two things: (3, Informative)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year ago | (#43952553)

1) Write to the client and to the developer explaining that it's pretty shitty to remove the original author's name (and in some cases, in some places, illegal) from a work. Explain that you'd appreciate it if your name was put back as the original author.
2) Keep the project in your profile, and if you get a negative or no response from the client and other dev, include a note saying that the other dev removed your name. And because you kept all the development files (you did, didn't you?), you can write in your profile that that in an interview you can show the progression of this project from start to end.

In the future:
* Always keep copies of files you have worked on (in a version control setup). (Especially useful if you keep the copyright. Reuse.)
* Never sign over copyright if you can help it (give clients a license instead, make it BSD-like and they can still do whatever they want, except remove your name).
* Include a clause in your contract (and you do have a contract before commencing work, don't you?) saying that the work can be included in your profile, along with a comment (praise or whatever) from the client. Link this comment to the client's website or contact details.
* And in the rare situation that the client wants you to both hand over copyright, and not retain any of the code, then demand triple or more of your usual rate. Explain that this is to offset future loses from not being able to demonstrate your awesomeness. If they don't blink, you should have asked for ten times or more.

SCM anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952563)

Well, do they have an SCM system there to keep the source code?
If yes, you've got your answer. If not, the code is probably not worth getting authorship anyway.

It's no longer your problem (5, Insightful)

pongo000 (97357) | about a year ago | (#43952581)

The code you developed for your client was most likely never yours to begin with. Despite well-meaning suggestions made here, you really have no right to go back to the client and demand anything. Present the code as your own to prospective clients, explain the situation, and leave it at that.

We all have fantasies of getting back at assholes like the one you described, but in the real world, you just need to take the high road and let it go. From the description you gave, it sounds like you're new to the game. Focus your creative energies on your work, not on vengeance. Your integrity and professionalism will remain intact, which is much more important than striking back at some perceived slight.

Re:It's no longer your problem (2)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#43952821)

The code you developed for your client was most likely never yours to begin with. Despite well-meaning suggestions made here, you really have no right to go back to the client and demand anything. Present the code as your own to prospective clients, explain the situation, and leave it at that.

Thank you for saving me the time to create a response like yours and doing it better than I could have. I've sat on both sides of the table and if the situation was presented to me as you describe I wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

Better solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952585)

Find other work created by the new dev...

Change the copyright to your name and start distributing/hosting it yourself.

I'm wondering if your old client (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year ago | (#43952599)

Owns that code since you did it for them. You could point out that if this new client uses that code they'd be in deep shit since it's basically stolen and you'd have no problem letting the old client know.(Since hopefully they could sick a pack of lawyers on people.)

Re:I'm wondering if your old client (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#43952657)

They do:

Now this is grey territory as it the client who owns the source, not the contracting developer.

version control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952615)

If you bothered to use version control, you could show development of the code from beginning to end to show that it was your creation.

Re:version control (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43952867)

OP probably can't get back into his old client's version control system to demonstrate the code's history.

Stupid hiring mind game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952651)

Why did the client just happen to have those re-branded files lying about?

Was the client just seeing how you'd react? Wouldn't be the most twisted hiring mind game I've heard about.

Re:Stupid hiring mind game? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43952837)

+1 Interesting

Could be that the old client is trying to fsck OP over. In which case, there's not much he can do, as the client/owner of the code isn't likely going to provide evidence of his authorship.

Its possible that the old client is also trying to screw over the new client, by scaring off talent. Either way, if I were OP, I'd just walk away. Any potential employer that gets involved in these kinds of games, or isn't aware of their existence isn't going to be around for much longer.

Any of these activities could have severe legal or reputational consequences. So anyone who plays them must either be expecting a big payoff (ask the question: what's the motivation). Or they are sociopaths.

Enhance & Refactor (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about a year ago | (#43952653)

You could enhance and refactor them so they not only differentiate from your earlier purloined version but also provide a better example. Then if the question comes up you can easily say he swiped an earlier version of my work.

Are you talking about Dwellable by chance? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952659)

I just read about this case [geekwire.com] yesterday. Funny.

One of the undercurrents in this whole thread is that we have no idea whether OP is telling the truth or not. There's a signficant chance s/he's jerking everyone around so s/he can forward this link to a hiring employer. How can we tell the difference? I think OP, if he's telling the truth, has to figure out what can prove they were the real author, besides the obvious of calling the client they did the work for (Duh!). That's something that can't be thought of from a one (long) paragraph summary.

Put a positive twist to the story (2)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#43952667)

It is what it is. You developed it.
The software was that good that the company you worked for then finds your work good enough to continue developing it.
You could ask that company for a testimonial to add to your resume.

Your own copies. And you're screwed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952699)

Did you keep your originals?

Show your originals. The originals should show the differences.

Which doesn't mean much because you could just have easily downloaded the other guy's code and modified it yourself.

Which means you're screwed. You cannot use that particular code - other than to say that you originated.

Also, if the work is TRULY work for hire, then neither of you have a right to put a Copyright notice on it. The copyright notice should be in the name of the company. Like back in my OS/2 days, non of us put our own name on the source and neither id IBM. The source still said "Copyright 1987 Microsoft Corporation" - even on the modules that were ported to PPC.

Soooooo, the new developer is also in the wrong.

Copyright of the code (2)

maroberts (15852) | about a year ago | (#43952709)

Normally belongs to the company you work for, not the person who wrote it. It's not grey territory at all. If you find the author has been changed then the reason for change could be as simple as providing a means to get in touch with the person who is now maintaining it. If I'm amending code produced by someone else I normally add myself to any authors in the documentation, but occasionally the previous dev has not put any documentation in the code, so my boilerplate documentation may not mention the previous developer if I'm in a hurry.

A lot of companies are increasingly unwilling to produce references beyond "so and so worked here". Nowadays, I try to get a technical reference letter before I leave a company detailing the work I did, in a form that does not give away any company secrets.

Some tracing can be achieved without much compromise to company security by having Subversion or whatever version control system you're using send emails to you whenever you update code. That way you have a personal audit trail of work you've done.

Relying on a former client's webservers: bad juju (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#43952747)

Instead, replicate the work as best you can on your own servers. Heck, while you're at it, make those improvements you would have made after you wrote it originally.

If it's not on my own infrastructure, it doesn't go on my resume.

Are you developer itself ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952761)

Most developer will hate their source code in old days and most refactor it again and again when seeing new client.
Yes i see myself once a company contract a developer and the developer reuse the code to make him profit ? since there no
encryption of the php code. everyone will assume it was open source and everybody can copy and make it profitable .

My suggestion. It is worth to argue it ?

Several Approaches (1)

DERoss (1919496) | about a year ago | (#43952783)

1. If you were an employee of the former company, show paystubs or Forms W2 showing dates prior to the copyright date.

2. If you were an independent contractor on that work, show invoices.

3. In the future, make copies of the source files. ZIP, Gzip, or otherwise combine them into a single file. Use an OpenPGP application to create a detached digital signature of that single file. Send the digital signature file to a time-stamping service such as pgp@stamper.itconsult.co.uk and save the result. All this will provide proof of the prior nature of your work and also invalidate and later claim of copyright or patent.

It happened and will keep happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952811)

Albeit the fact that this is some of your best work, get over it if there is nobody backing up your claim in that company.

Once I were asked to look over a OsCommerce installation. Before fixing anything I backed up all relevant files (after informing the client) and begun to work. Turned out the whole server had been compromised, it had a root kit installed and running. I advised the client that it would be the only thing left to do start with a fresh and clean installation but I were turned down and refused to do any work on contaminated OS and moved on.

Fast forward a few weeks: The owner of the site contacts me via Facebook, asking me if I still had the full backup. Nope, I told him, I wiped it off the disk because there were a few too many files containing malicious code. He then accused me to be at fault according to the "new guy" that is "much cheaper" that took over. Well, according to "the new guy", the disks were kaputt and I were at fault.

Useless to say I did explain him that disks do not break down that easily and that in most cases data can be restored but that should be no problem for "the new guy" that is "much cheaper".

If there is someone that is being (en)trusted more than you, just let go.

should you link a a version of the site anyway? (2)

mlk (18543) | about a year ago | (#43952815)

Via say the wayback machine or if the client allows it key elements on a owned server. Otherwise the site will move on from what you developed.

What's the problem again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952829)

You were contracted for work. You performed the work. You were paid for the work. If a potential employer is questioning your prior work on the sole basis of someone else's name on code base that you abandoned two years ago, then it sounds like time to look at another employer.

What happens to code you write under someone else's name (the company that paid you) is their decision. Unless your contract specifically held that you own the rights to the code it's time to move on; this issue doesn't exist.

You know that client that accused you of lying? (1)

TwineLogic (1679802) | about a year ago | (#43952835)

It really sounds like they tried to confront you in a "Now I've Got You, You SOB!" style of transaction. If that is what happened, avoid doing business with that client, ever.

If the client asked you what they should make of the copyright notices, that's one thing. If they immediately called you a "liar," that's another. If the latter is what happened, again, set them straight as to what happened, then don't ever talk to them again.

GitHub (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#43952843)

Get yourself a GitHub account and ensure that you keep your work there, When all else fails, the timestamps should prove to be your proof.

Sue him? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952857)

Sue this "developer"?
Both for taking authorship of your code and lost possibilities in the interview. Make sure he remembers well not to do this again. /thread

In the HR department nobody can tell your work is (2)

SpasticMutant (748828) | about a year ago | (#43952861)

The main retort is to challenge the assertion and offer to answer low-level detailed questions about the design and the code. His main defense will be to claim the software is "confidential" so he doesn't have to talk about it in-depth. It is up to the interviewer to decide who s/he is more comfortable hiring. I once had the pure luxury of reading a resume from a contractor whom I had worked with briefly at a previous company. His resume took credit for MY WORK. Because the code is at the old place there was no way to check the source. I showed that resume to my coworkers, many of whom worked with me previously on that same project, and they all agreed emphatically that this guy totally lied. The result was his resume got a giant DO NOT HIRE mark, he was never interviewed, and of course he never worked with us again. But I'm sure subsequent places very likely hired him on the basis of MY WORK. Getting back to my point, there is absolutely no way he could have described my work in the same detail that I could, so though I can't prevent him from using my work to get contract gigs, if it ever comes up I can certainly go into extremely low level gory detail on every aspect, enough I think to convince anybody that this guy is a poser and I'm not. The reality is in the contracting world though that this guy will live and die by his reputation. I guarantee if I ever see him again I will remember his deceit, and will make every effort to block him from being hired. And will be happy to tell anyone calling for an outside reference what to look for on the resume, and if it's there, refute its accuracy. At that point the hiring manager can decide if anything else is true, and decide accordingly. After all, maybe what their team really needs is a good liar, who knows.

Easy (1)

jon3k (691256) | about a year ago | (#43952883)

http://web.archive.org/ [archive.org]

Have them lookup the site and view the original JS file's source.

Key is "for a client" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43952887)

If it was a normal contract, its not your code anymore anyway. Sure, it's uncool to take credit for something that isn't yours, but really its the clients code to do with as they please.

Welcome to the real world.

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