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Code Copying Survey for Developers

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Software 389

Struan Robertson writes "With all the controversy surrounding SCO's allegations that its Unix code was copied into Linux, we're running a survey with ZD Net to gauge industry practice on code copying. Do you keep a code library? Do you take it from one employer to another? These are the questions we're asking. All answers will be anonymous. The results - with expert legal analysis - will be published free - we're not doing this to sell reports etc. If you're a developer and happy to help, see our questions on SurveyMonkey.com."

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389 comments

Loop (5, Funny)

andy666 (666062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805876)

I think the first person to write a loop should complain a lot!

Re:Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805941)

I guess the point is that most code is not really very original. Yeah, granted. But the market place determines its value. It may not always be original but if you want something you may need to pay for it - even if it has unoriginal "loops" in it.

Scalia censors the media (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806057)

Two reporters were ordered Wednesday to erase their tape recordings of a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a Mississippi high school.

Scalia has long barred television cameras from his speeches, but does not always forbid newspaper photographers and tape recorders. On Wednesday, he did not warn the audience at the high school that recording devices would be forbidden.

During the speech, a woman identifying herself as a deputy federal marshal demanded that a reporter for The Associated Press erase a tape recording of the justice's comments. She said the justice had asked that his appearance not be recorded.

The reporter initially resisted, but later showed the deputy how to erase the digital recording after the officer took the device from her hands. The exchange occurred in the front row of the auditorium while Scalia delivered his speech about the Constitution.

Re:Scalia censors the media (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806160)

In other news, parent gets modded -1 Imbecile, this post modded +5 Fricken' Accurate!

Film at 11.

Re:Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806076)

Yes, and then keep complaining... again and again.

Shared "Open" Porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806155)

What would make sense would be an Open Porn movement. All porn generated by the FPF would be free, but you would have to pay for actual sex with the depicted individuals.

Re:Shared "Open" Porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806198)

I like that. Then anyone could donate to the movement by donating porn featuring themselves. Do you think there would be any donated by horny housewives ?

Re:Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806306)

The loop isn't even that old - it is from the 1960's. Before that everything was recursion.

Re:Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806358)

Recursion is the tool of the devil and I will never ever use it. If I do, you have orders to shoot me.

well.. (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805889)


.. if all code was "free", then this wouldn't be an issue.

Re:well.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805936)

You mean the part about getting paid to write code?

Only if the result is closed-source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806347)

This practice is only safe to do if the resulting program is closed-source. If it's open-source someone will find out too easily.

For example:

  • Copying from Linux -> SCO Unix = Safe - noone can see SCO code to catch you.
  • Copying from SCO unix -> Linux = Unsafe - quality's not good enough and there are too many gatekeepers checking for bad code before it'll be merged in the main Linux tree.

Re:well.. (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805942)

"Free"? As in BEER? Someone's got to pay, we don't like in a Socialist world, people (even coders) have to eat...

Re:well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806239)

If they had to eat, they wouldn't advocate the use of open source, because that would mean noone would get paid to write code, which in turn means that I definitely picked the wrong major in college. Thanks a lot, punks. They're ruining it for us who actually wants to earn money on our skills, and I resent them.

Re:well.. (2, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805969)

Ah, good. One presumes then, that *you* will be writing and posting on the net a library of routines and snippets donated to posterity.

Didn't think so.

Re:well.. it is... or at least should be ? (1)

txviking (768200) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806301)

.. if all code was "free", then this wouldn't be an issue.

Congress is only authorized to grant monopolies in form of copyright and patents for things that give progress to sciences and useful arts.

Most written code does neither, therefore shouldn't it be free (as speech) ?

However, I am still waiting to see a business model that allows me to be as free as the code ... That would be nice, wouldn't it?

Yup, and I keep it... (5, Funny)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805897)

...right here [rubyforge.org] . And here [sf.net] , too.

And lots of other folks contribute too. Good times!

Do you keep a code library? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805906)

Hell no, I like rewriting conversion and formatting routines. That's like a paid vacation!

Sure, Why Not? (5, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805918)

Yes, it's standard to keep a code lib, and take it from job to job. Why reinvent the wheel?

This is one reason that software patents are just silly. At some point, virtually every technique will have been written, then software companies will indeed all become like SCO: A few developers and a fucking platoon of IP lawyers.

Re:Sure, Why Not? (2, Funny)

Throtex (708974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805991)

And when that happens, I wanna be in that platoon!

Re:Sure, Why Not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806078)

Oh, I get it: It's a PORN VID: A Platoon of Fucking Lawyers...

Re:Sure, Why Not? (5, Interesting)

mrtrumbe (412155) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806247)

Because it's illegal?

Seriously, though, would you really trust a person who completely relied on copy/pasting legacy code into current projects? Do you know where that person got the code to begin with? Did he write it? Does he even understand the code?

While just about everyone I know keeps a personal code library containing *some* proprietary code, most don't actively use it. Those who are unscrupulous enough to copy/paste the code into current projects are not people you want around in the long term. I mean, did they even think about the best solution to the problem before doing that copy/paste?

Most people I know use their library as a reference for future development. This allows them to take the best features/ideas of their historical library and integrate those ideas in new and better ways into their current projects. And I don't see a problem with this behavior. Any person with a decent memory would remember their best ideas and features, anyway, so the illegality of this behavior is questionable.

Taft

Re:Sure, Why Not? (5, Insightful)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806321)

1) Not only that, I think programmers should share. We are, after all, computer scientists. What if every other scientist locked up all of their secrets and just said, "Yeah the Earth moves around the Sun. I won't tell you why or how I know, though."

2) In the beginning, people shared code to do common things (e.g. sorting algorithems). I wonder if they mean "Do you keep a copy of your sorting algorithems to use in other programs?" or "Do you keep a copy of your accounting software to recompile at your next job?"

3) I agree w/ the parent. It's just plain stupid to re-write some things when you have a perfectly good solution already written. Besides, if you write it over enough times, you'll remember how to write it... then you are ALWAYS carrying around code from job to job. You can't not take it.

Do this survey, help SCO's lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805920)

I don't think so.

If Darl was Japanese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805997)

"All your OS are belong to us" - D.M.

Re:Do this survey, help SCO's lawyers (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806149)

Only way to keep SCO lawyers away from you is keep your code private like M$.

I am so surprised SCO lawyers didn't try to trademark "you are fired."

Yeah, sure.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805925)

"All answers will be anonymous."

riiiiiigggggggghhhhhttttt...

You’d be surprised how much of a career… (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805932)

...you can build on view source followed by a cut-and-paste. I beg, borrow, or steal from wherever I can and I expect you to do the same from me. I am open to learning new techniques, code structure, and excellent documentation from the code I read and steal. I have never taken a core money making idea and used it as the central core of my own money making idea, but everything else is fair game as far as I am concerned.

Re:You’d be surprised how much of a career (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805965)

Well said, Mr. McBride!

Re:You’d be surprised how much of a career (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806005)

Sounds like you don't really understand much of the code you put out . . . I just hope you're not "writing" anything critical.

Quite the opposite for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806180)

Sounds like you don't really understand much of the code you put out . . . I just hope you're not "writing" anything critical.

I've done my share of business critical production manufacturing systems, with a predominate number of positive outcomes. I don't confine myself exclusively to ripping off code, but in times of tight economics and small budgets, a little theft can save the day and the project plan.

On understanding: We learn from what we read and what we code ourselves. We all steal code, if only from the textbooks we read. I use other's code as a learning experience. It is one level of experience to passively understand code by reading vs. decomposing and integrating into a production system. For me that is an active form of learning that is more likely to lead to understanding. You can learn and gain understanding from your thievery. I can at least.

Re:You’d be surprised how much of a career (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806118)

...you can build on view source followed by a cut-and-paste.

Wowzerz!!!! A web career! How nineties.

You'll be surprised by lawsuits soon... (1)

tallpole (723263) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806126)

I'd recommend you be careful with "beg, borrow, or steal" mentalities, sooner than later you may find yourself in a legal quandary, when you use some code that someone published academically, but is patented and protected against commercial use-

Such as:
1. Lempel-Ziv
2. RSA (in the past)
3. Need I really list more...?

Good reason... (4, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806185)

...not to document your own code?

Sorry, but a hack != programmer. You can toss together a bunch of stuff other people have written, but when it breaks you'll need to be able to fix it. If you never learn how to do that, you'll never be more than a cut-and-paste drone.

It's great to be able to use resources like View Source to learn new stuff, see new techniques, even find quick examples of how something's done. But if you can't understand how to do it on your own (which may take much longer, granted) then you're not going to last.

Re:Good reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806245)

I work with web guys that steal javascript all the time. I've noticed that 99% of it is intentionally obscured -- one letter variable names, no linebreaks, etc etc. You can tell the guy who origianlly wrote it knew it was going to get stolen and wants to make life difficult.

OTOH, trying to create something like a javascript menu system that works correctly on every stinking browser is a total pain in the ass. Especially when there's 'example code' all over the web that you can grab.

Re:Good reason... (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806324)

Sure - but there are lots of 'example code' snippets that are free to use, provided you give credit. There's usually a section commented out that explains your license to use it. How legally binding is that? I don't know.

For something as complex as a well-supported JS menu system, it's best to make sure you cover your ass. A couple lines here or there (or even a small function) aren't likely to be noticed, but a menu system is much more significant.

Anti-business? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805939)

we're not doing this to sell reports etc.

Not to troll, but why are so many people here opposed to business and money? The submitter probably knows (from experience) someone here will accuse him/her of greed in the first five posts if they didn't add that discaimer.

Re:Anti-business? (1)

Trespass (225077) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806017)

Assuming this was not a rhetorical question, but my guess is that this site (and Free Software in general) attracts a lot of idealists who tend to associate anything involving business and money with the corporate ogilopoly that most of us in the west have grown up under.

Untree, but not an uncommon mistake.

where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806168)

Untree? ogilopoly?

I've never seen a Scottish accent in print before...

Re:where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806305)

Well, this can't been the first time you've seen a dork on Sudafed try and type. Damn, I hate my allergies.

Re:Anti-business? (1)

wcbarksdale (621327) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806255)

Not necessarily anti-business; a lot of people simply don't see the point in doing a business's research work for them for free.

Code library. (5, Interesting)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805945)

I maintain a code library. But its written very generic. I usually copy that code and use modify it to fit the project i'm working on. I dont see a problem with that because the code is technically different in each project and used in a different way. For example (this one is a little far fetched) Lets say I wrote a function to format a date. In 1 program I may use that function to only output as mm/dd/yyyy. In another program I may use that same function to only output mm/yy.

Its technically the same code, but I remove the the parts that are not used.

Besides, even if I didn't have the database. I will write a function to do something very close to the exact same way 90% of the time. Most of the developers I know have very reconizable styles. I can usually tell who on my team wrote what parts by the code alone.

Sorry for my spelling errors, I dont have time to spellcheck.

Re:Code library. (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806174)

For example (this one is a little far fetched) Lets say I wrote a function to format a date. In 1 program I may use that function to only output as mm/dd/yyyy. In another program I may use that same function to only output mm/yy.

I don't see that as farfetched. Don't forget that most of the calendar using world formats its dates as dd/mm/yyyy, not our American system of mm/dd/yyyy.... So if you plan on writing software for use outside of the U.S., this would be a really useful piece of code to keep laying around.

Re:Code library. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806332)

The difference is that code libraries are good engineering, while copy-n-paste code is just the sign of a hack.

story: I got called in to this web project where the 'developers' copied tons of code and in most cases didn't even bother to change the name of the variables. So you got tons of spaghetti code that looked like this:

var stolenVar1 = myVar1;
var stolenVar2 = myVar2;
var stolenVar3 = myVar3; /*
copied code here
*/
myVar1 = stolenVar1;
myVar2 = stolenVar3; //!!

The same blocks of code were copied several times, and of course they were completely buggy. Total bitch to fix.

Code libraries aren't that helpful (4, Interesting)

Future Man 3000 (706329) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805951)

For the most part, when you go into a new job you're maintaining or cleaning somebody else's work. A library of programming and style books is probably worth more than a code library.

Besides, the parts of a code library that are most likely to be reusable are also most likely to be publically known algorithms (B-Tree, MD5 hash, etc.) and therefore published in some form already. It's probably wrong to take something that you were specifically paid to produce for one company along with you to another, so don't do it.

ack (3, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806328)

I completely agree with you on your first statement. Code libraries are often not helpful because you are most of the time maintaining something others have written.

I completely agree with you that the parts of a code library that are most likely to be reusable are known and published algorithms. That and other trivial things is pretty much all I have in my code library.

Then you went and drew two conclusions that were completely different from the ones I drew out of the same facts we both agree with.

First you say "code libraries aren't that helpful" in the title. No, they won't be a significant portion of the code you right for the new company, but they're helpful enough in preventing you from reinventing the wheel every single time. Do I really want to rewrite everything I use again and again everytime I need it? Heck, I find them very helpful in preventing me from doing that.

Second, you say "it's probably wrong to take something you were specifically paid to produce for one company along with you to another, so don't do it." It's not that black and white, and it really depends on what exactly is in that code library (ethically at least. IANAL so I couldn't tell you legally). Without question, only code you wrote yourself is ethical for you to take with you. Other than that, in my opinion anything not directly related to the project you were working on is fair game. How likely is it that you're not going to be using certain primitives in your new job? How likely is it that if you write it again from scratch it will be different? You're just saving time, not giving away company secrets (which would be unethical)

My answer might shock you... (-1)

BurKaZoiD (611246) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805959)

...just kidding LOL.

Do you keep a code library?
Dern straight.

Do you take it from one employer to another?
Dang skippy I would, but I haven't had to change jobs for a long, long, long time (yet).

*crosses fingers*

Question 6 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805966)

Is unreasonable. You are assuming I would reuse code but not saying if its in house or between companies. In my stats class this question would be deemed unethical and slanted. Thus, the results of the survey would be thrown out.

Kind of a stupid survey. (5, Insightful)

Queuetue (156269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805967)

It asks

3. By law, who do you think owns the rights in a piece of software that you develop or in code that you write?

Me
My employer
The client who commissioned and is paying for the development

But never asks where I developed it, nor what legal documents exist to protect various parties.

Obviously, if I'm working on code under a work for hire agreement, it belongs to the guy with the cash. If not, It's copyright me. If it's OSS code that I need to improve for a client's benefit, of course it doesn't belong to either of us - it belongs to the original author.

Did I do it at home? Did I start it before or after getting involved with the company or client? Does the client mind freeing the source? Does it contain proprietary information?

This survey is worthless so far, except to publish articles.

Re:Kind of a stupid survey. (2, Interesting)

Bob(TM) (104510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806250)

I agree - that was a question similar to "have you stopped beating your wife?"

I worked for a contracting company that 1) wrote and marketed its own software, 2) developed software at the request and for other companies, and 3) developed software for its own use to accomplish work tasks for other companies. Depending on the nature of work, either the client owned it (also, we contracted with the Federal gov - which, by law, requires software developed by them to pass in the public domain) or the company retained ownership. Also, the terms of my employment agreement stipulated (at my insistance) that software I develop not directly related to accomplishing a specific project function is mine.

So ... where is the "ALL OF THE ABOVE" selection?

Re:Kind of a stupid survey. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806314)

Is it just me or does it seem that the survey is bias towards making developers look like they are unlawful?

The results of this survey are going to be in favor of the SCO supporters. I dont think its common that programmers take chunks of code to other employers.

this is a terrible survey! I hope its a joke.

Re:Kind of a stupid survey. (1)

gooser23 (113782) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806318)

Logically, the correct answer is always (or nearly-always) 3. "The client who commissioned and is paying for the development".

If you're an employee, then the client is your employeer.
If you're contract, then the client is... erm... the client.
If you're doing it for yourself, the then client is you.
If its for GPL'ed (or similar) code, then the client is the license.

I guess for those last two clients aren't paying in cash, and therein lies the problem with the question.

grep \brief\backup\*.c* (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8805974)

After fifteen years of C/C++ coding, I'm pretty sure the answer to life, the universe, and everything is in there somewhere.

Dumbshit moderators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806181)

Don't you need to understand the topic of the story before going around marking posts "offtopic"?

most definately (1)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805982)

its in many products. and since the IP history is so insanely tainted, no one can really complain, because they themselves aren't really allowed to use it.

there are other ways to subvert the nonsense..feed it back on itself

Choice? (5, Interesting)

sploxx (622853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8805996)

Emmm. Just got this question in the survey:

6. Would you re-use blocks of code written elsewhere

a) ( ) Only if you were confident that nobody would find out

b) ( ) Whether it would be found out or not

Where is 'c) I won't'?

Re:Choice? (2, Insightful)

woodhouse (625329) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806136)

Wow, this survey will produce helpful results. For some reason I'm guessing it'll conclude that 100% of programmers would copy code. Genius.

Re:Choice? (1)

SpaceBadger (556685) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806145)

You don't have to answer Q6 (no asterisk). Question 10 is the worst one - you have to answer even though the question is loaded.

Re:Choice? (3, Insightful)

bolverk (31238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806202)

How about c) If the license permitted it? I've written code for employers under the GPL and the BSD licenses. (My current project is to work on BSD-licensed code). I've even worked under contract where part of the terms were my retaining copyright on the code I wrote. Of course, I'd re-use any of this code in a heartbeat. Just yesterday, I got special permission to use code I wrote on contract three years ago. I'll re-use that code too. This is an extremely poor survey. I can't answer honestly with this survey since there is no option for me to do so.

Re:Choice? (1)

sbrown123 (229895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806210)

I had the same problem. I stopped doing the survey right there. This appears to me to be a trick question to always get the desired result. Its like asking a question like:

Q) Do you enjoy killing people?

A) Yes
b) Some of the time
C) never

No matter how you answer it you can only guage that you have had some experience here (killing people) that would allow you to pick the answer.

Re:Choice? (1)

Hobbex (41473) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806222)

Also:

10. How much code would you take from the source of a single program without permission?
Blocks of code comprising up to 5% of the program
Blocks of code comprising up to 10% of the program
Blocks of code comprising up to 25% of the program
Blocks of code comprising up to 50% of the program
Blocks of code comprising more than 50% of the program


Where is I wouldn't copy a single line without permission? (I would be nuts to, if everything you write is open source, you can loose the entire program that way!)

Re:Choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806331)

Well, 0% is "up to" 5% ... it's just that you're not actually taking any ...

I do wish that they would use better methodology here, however!

I fear that this will be for some article on SCO-like business practices, and it may well come (via the bad methodology) to an unreasonable conclusion... :/

I fear that I may already see where it is going and I do not like it at all.

Re:Choice? (1)

R_Growler (84235) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806244)

Yes, This one struck me as well.

And I had to write something to that effect at the end.
I don't know if it is just me, but the entire survey felt.. Leading somehow. Like I was led in one direction.

But then again, I'm a Sysadmin. I'm paranoid, bitter and evil by definition.

R.G.

Re:Choice? (1)

cpmte (537490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806275)

Don't check either one

Re:Choice? (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806326)

I think it's a grammatical error, b) should be:

"No, Whether it would be found out or not"

Re:Choice? (2, Interesting)

Ben Hutchings (4651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806346)

d) Only with permission

I've worked on Boehm's garbage collector [hp.com] at two employers, with their blessing. The changes I contributed back while at Roundpoint [roundpoint.com] , are also usable in the code I'm working on at Business Web Software [businesswebsoftware.com] . A former colleague at Roundpoint also sent me some incomplete changes I made there that hadn't yet been contributed back. Since my managers had a clue about FLOSS, this reuse was all perfectly OK with them.

hi kids (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806003)

Does anyone know how to convert WordStar 3.x files to anything else?

Having a little trouble here.

Will OpenOffice do it?

Underground Economy (1)

stand (126023) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806020)

Every collection of people has its underground economies. They often perform an important function so long as:

  1. The consumers don't abuse the system
  2. busybodies don't start poking around and trying to hold people accountable for what everybody is doing.
Balance the two and nobody really gets hurt.

Re:Underground Economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806299)

Unfortuanaly all american business culture knows is "Mine, Mine, Mine!", and "Me, Me, Me!".

Seeing as it is a culture, it perpetuates itself, and feeds back onto itself, and will continue to do so until something dramatic breaks the cycle.

Website Development (0)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806021)

On a personal level, I use code I've written on multiple websites, such as a simple popup script for images, though I'm sure this isn't what this article is asking, and probably isn't talking about interpreted languages, either.

bad questions (4, Interesting)

Sharth (621005) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806022)

Alot of these questions are very badly written. First off, I'm wandering through it, and I'm wondering if this question is referring to code that I have written, or is it code that I've just found along the way. This "survey" really needed to be beta tested (even in an irc forum or something) before being posted to slashdot. Heck, the mods coulda helped out a little and looked at the survey first...

Sure, why not? (3, Insightful)

PlatinumInitiate (768660) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806023)

Unless you specifically sign an NDA or it's in your contract that you are not allowed to do this, I don't see what the problem is. Writing everything from scratch every time you go onto a new project at a new company when you have code snippets that could be used would be ridiculous - it would be a waste of time and money for your employer. On the other hand, taking work that was done by you (and probably other programmers) and using it at another employer is certainly underhanded, especially if you've signed an NDA stating that you will not do it. If you haven't signed an NDA, check your contract. If nothing about code is mentioned, you are probably safe. Even a lot of "intellectual property" paragraphs can be invalid - people falsely assume that if the y have "intellectual property" protection, they are safe. Actually, the terms have to be very verbose and descriptive, incorporating either copyright rules or patent rules. A lot of NDA contracts that I've seen from prospective employees from their former companies (in the gaming arena, where NDAs are almost universal) were invalid!

Re:Sure, why not? (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806246)

Depends on the country. IIRC in the UK the default position is that code you develop at work belongs to the company.

Re:Sure, why not? (1)

PlatinumInitiate (768660) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806297)

Depends on the country. IIRC in the UK the default position is that code you develop at work belongs to the company.

Good point. I should have mentioned that I am talking from a South African perspective.

Game Creation (2, Insightful)

PaloDeQueso (769669) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806037)

Let's take a look at the game industry, the same code is often used over and over, or at least the same algorithms because you can't afford to loose efficiency in your engine. Especially with modern game engines where the best cards on the market still choke... FarCry? Doom3?. Sharing of code in games is not required, but as an earlier post said, why reinvent the wheel?

Just to be safe... (3, Insightful)

tallpole (723263) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806050)

... I make sure that I write in a different programming language every time I change jobs.

Sriously though, the problem with coding, is that it is still more of an art than a science, and therefore the endproduct tends to reflect the style of the developers. It creates legal issues, but it's like asking Da Vinci to paint in a different style for a patron, "because we don't want those Sistine fellas complaining on infringement of copyright"- Ridiculous yes, but very real (IMHO).

I get paid hourly (5, Funny)

BillFarber (641417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806054)

Why would I keep a library of code to help me get the job done faster and for less money?

you must have a state job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806223)

typical government worker mentality

Questionnaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806056)

1.Are you
Freelance / independent developer
Corporate / in-house developer
Software house developer
Other (please specify)

2.Where are you based?
UK
Rest of EU
USA
Elsewhere

3.By law, who do you think owns the rights in a piece of software that you develop or in code that you write?
Me
My employer
The client who commissioned and is paying for the development

4.How often do you or would you re-use blocks of code that you wrote when working elsewhere?
Regularly
Sometimes
Never

5.Whether you do or do not re-use blocks of code written elsewhere, do you think it is OK to do so?
Yes
No
Don't know

6.Would you re-use blocks of code written elsewhere
Only if you were confident that nobody would find out
Whether it would be found out or not

7.If you ever use blocks of code in your development that were written by someone else, do you check that you have permission?
Always
Usually
Rarely
Never

8.Do you think you need permission to use code that was written outside your company?
Yes, always
Not always
Never

9.Which if any of the following statements is true
It's standard practice to use another's code without permission - and it's usually lawful
It's standard practice to use another's code without permission - but it's usually unlawful
It's not standard practice to use another's code without permission

11.Do you have your own code library?
Yes
No

12.Did you write all the code in that library?
Yes
No

13.Would you take your code library with you, if switching from one employer to another?
Yes
No

14.Do you ever try to reproduce the way another piece of software functions, but without copying any code?
Yes
No

15.Have you or would you ever reverse-engineer an application and then reuse that code?
Yes
No

16.Do you have any other comments?

In Smalltalk, you get source... (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806070)

And you REuse the code. If I had to I'd reimplement it but in the end it would be the same way. (How many ways can you think to write a parser?)

In Smalltalk, you get... [egg rolls] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806280)

Actually Smalltalk and Java ARE their libraries. Just try doing something without them. The harder part I've found is of course library managment once you get beyound a certain point (The Large HD effect). Maybe a source control that has the code, the documentation (Text and UML), and the ability to pull out what exactly's needed (Now which kind of parser did you need?)

Sad News, Kurt Cobain dead at 27 (-1)

Muda69 (718162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806075)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - 'grunge' rocker Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Washington home 10-years ago this week. I'm sure we all miss him, even if you weren't a fan of his music there's no denying his contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

I work for a University and... (3, Interesting)

jcrash (516507) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806077)

This question:
3. By law, who do you think owns the rights in a piece of software that you develop or in code that you write?

Me

My employer

The client who commissioned and is paying for the development

Is missing: Me AND My employer - as I share the ownership 50/50 due to our inhouse rules.

Re:I work for a University and... (2, Interesting)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806284)

You're lucky. At my University, the school owns the rights to any and all intellectual property you create while an employee (unless it meets very strict rules of how you did it, when, etc.).... there are a couple of exceptions, but they are upfront contracts stating otherwise.

It's pretty standard for your employer to own the work they pay you to do for them... so even if there's no outright agreement, they can still make a strong case that it is implied/understood. Gotta cover your own ass these days.

Coding is like painting. (3, Insightful)

4/3PI*R^3 (102276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806090)

Overly simplisticly, coding is like painting. All painters use the same colors over and over again. What differentiates a painting is the order and placement of the colors.

Patenting or copyrighting an individual block of code is like patenting or copyrighting the color red. A painter would never be able to patent or copyright the color red and demand a royalty for all artists who use red. Painters copyright their entire image -- even a large enough sub section is copyrightable.

Coding should be the same. How many ways can somebody write a decimal to currency string formatting routine? How many ways can somebody write an RGP go greyscale conversion routine?


note: for those who say "what about Pantone?". Pantone does not copyright the color itself only the name and the Pantone color number is copyrightable. You are always free to use any RGB combination you want but Pantone will guarantee that their color system will always generate the same color on any printer that supports Pantone -- this is the value of Pantone.

Re: Bogus (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806093)

The survey is ill-written. The questions are too shallow to answer.

Implicit assumptions (2, Insightful)

flossie (135232) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806115)

There are many implicit assumptions evident in the survey questions.

The question that asks whether or not you think it is legal to re-use code for different employers needs another option: "it depends". For instance, code released under the GPL with a former employer's permission is free to be used elsewhere. However, the survey doesn't ask whether or not the code was supposed to be kept confidential.

Taught in College (3, Interesting)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806133)

In college in one class they taught you how to do this well. The thought was that if someone else wrote it well then use that instead of rewriting your own. There was a project where you had to do the whole thing from "borrowed" code.

Give me copied code anytime (2, Insightful)

Chromodromic (668389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806148)

It's pretty ridiculous to lament the current state of average software quality and then require developers to reinvent the wheel every time they're on a new job or working for a new client. It may not be lawful, in all instances, to copy code between projects and clients, but in order to meet requirements, especially time requirments, while ensuring a quality project that's as bug free as possible, copying is not only a necessity but a common practice.

Besides, what are we really talking about most of the time? Code libraries? What's the difference, really, if I copy code from my library or use routines from memory, things that I've been required to code over and over again, like validation routines, or basic algorithms?

No one is going to say that they go from client to client and write brand new code each time. Furthermore, if I were a client I would have to seriously question whether I'd even want that. If I were on a tight time constraint I wouldn't get it even if I did want it.

It would be like commissioning someone to build a bridge and then requiring that they only use brand new formulas anc techniques. Okay, but I'm not gonna be the first guy to test it ...

It's all the same to me (4, Insightful)

Hockney Twang (769594) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806177)

If I write a program that performs a particular function, and then later want to write a program to do the same thing, I end up producing an almost exact replica of what I coded previously. Maybe it's just me, but my coding style is basically set in stone.

So, in that key, I'm not physically keeping a code library, but I am reproducing code that may have become the property of another party.

This is not a can of worms you want to open (5, Interesting)

Featureless (599963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806179)

...unless you really know what you're in for, and are ready to talk about reforming our laws.

Our intellectual property laws, when interpreted strictly, are a bit of a farce. Especially when it comes to thinks like patents, work for hire, the nebulous concept of derived works, "clean rooms..." all the way down to the embattled idea of fair use, backups, lending versus copying, onerous and unenforcable NDAs and employment contracts, and the end fact that, as a society, we have never ever, even for a day, played by the basic copyright rules "100%."

Our whole industry functions by ignoring the rules most of the time. I have never worked anyplace where all the rules (licenses, for instance) were followed. I always follow them myself to the best of my abilities - but it's impossible. I've probably unintentionally violated a license by now, and I've almost certainly infringed thousands of patents. I have never brought code from one client to another without permission or license, not even once, not even when it would have saved untold time and money and was simply the most obvious, easy thing to do... but over the years I received quite a bit of pressure under various circumstances to do it, and I'm certain that quite a few other people do.

That said, because the SCO issue (or non-issue, to be frank) is raised, let me say that it's a different thought process when you're going between the commercial and the free software world - both because the pressures to cheat don't exist (or hardly to any similar extent) in OSS, and because it is almost certain in OSS you'll be caught out. It's like parking a stolen car on the street in front of your house.

But commercial project to commercial project, yes, I bet it happens quite often. And also from OSS to commercial - I would be shocked if there were many large commercial projects that don't have stolen OSS code in them...

I have a code library... (2, Insightful)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806186)

...in my brain.

I'm amazed (-1, Flamebait)

lkaos (187507) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806209)

I can believe people are answering yes here. If I ever saw in a code review or evaluation what looked like code that can from a personal code library I'd freak and ask management to let the person go.

This is serious stuff. Copying code without permission is stealing. Period.

#ir3.trollt4lk.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8806215)

ME! It's official The last night of brilliant plan addresses will Paranoid conspiracy consider that right To the crowd in users. BSD/OS committerbase and Niggers everywhere Which gathers BSD managed to make Creek, abysmal Again. There are guests. Some people are a few good that comprise lizard - In other faster, cheaper, and was taken over have the energy knows for sure what clear she couldn't Recent article put for successful the goodwill Base for FreeBSD7 Rival distribution, is the ultimate Why not? It's quick would like to the project to Join in. It can be to have to decide anything can Baby take my the project to

BSD License (1)

crimoid (27373) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806228)


If you maintain a library that you take from job to job just make sure that your core code is under a BSD-style license (and that your employer is aware of this). That way, a few jobs down the line your past employers can't come screaming that you or your present employer are using "stolen" code.

Amateurs or Weasles? (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806243)

Seems like a lot of these questions are traps.

I use code which is written by others and distributed for use ALL THE TIME. Things on news groups "here's how you ..." things on web-pages and in books which are done as tutorials. Furthermore you have the issue of fair use -- if you use three lines of a 200 lines program, and even those you adapt to your environment, do you answer on this survey "I never copy code" even though you do, or "I do copy code without the author's permission" when you'r not copying from a legal standpoint?

Virtually all questions in this survey have a resemblance to a "Have you stopped beating your wife?"-style trap.

If it's unintentional, they're pretty crappy survey writers, and should withdraw this and rewrite it. If it's not unintentional, then they're weasles.

code arsenal (2, Insightful)

gfody (514448) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806261)

myself and every other developer I know it's common to build up an arsenal of code (written or otherwise collected/customized) for various things. more importantly there's the problems and how you solved them that you'll never forget but the problem may come up frequently regardless of where you work.

it's pretty rare that you find code that you can copy paste and compile. usually you need to read the code to understand the algorithm, then rewrite it to suite your application/variable names/coding style.

one-off hacks and throw away code probably all looks the same company to company programmer to programmer. it's the overall system design and high level architecture that I would consider the meat of the IP anyways.. and it would typically take more than a single developer to pickup and rebuild it somewhere else

CODE LIBRARY (1)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806285)

Yes I keep a code Library, and yes I do re-use it

Yes I have had several employers since I started the library.

It is I I is it is it I?

all of these sentences have appeared in books, since I just typed them am I now guilty of copyright infringement?

And whose gonna reign in those infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters?

Maybe we should create a program to generate all possible combinations of the ascii code symbols then copyright anything that could possibly be written either as an e-mail address, webpage, novel, etc. Then patent each one and get royalties from anyone who ever uses ascii...

How much would it be for us to put up our own satellite communications netork?

I'd suggest no one take this survey. (4, Interesting)

Queuetue (156269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806300)

It's written by someone who either doesn't understand the issues involved, or is interested in 'interesting news' not a legitimate survey.

Most questions don't take into account the varying ways that code gets licensed and work gets done. They assume you're either giving the code to your employer or stealing it, when there is a whole universe of licensing paths in between those two nodes.

They may own the source and the binaries .... (1)

j_cavera (758777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8806339)

.... but the comments are all mine! HAHAHAHA!
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