[nycphp-talk] Ownership of Code

Jon Baer jonbaer at
Thu Jan 11 21:51:04 EST 2007

There is an even harder part to this topic ... things that I have  
written have always stayed w/ the client and even when I was not  
freelance it was still really 'work for hire' ... *but* you can work  
yourself into a bind because some larger media companies (like a  
Viacom) will have really strict guidelines and when you spend say 2-3  
years working on backend CMS/Flash applications its hard to show your  
work when trying for another gig.  The real gem other companies seem  
to want to see is nice/clean "reusable" OO code, which is just that,  
"reused" from your previous experience.  Every developer has their  
own toolkit filled w/ libraries that do the job they are asked or  
they end up on PEAR, Zend, etc and reuse something else.  In open  
source I find it extremely hard to find things which another company  
can rightfully claim as the "owner".

It's probably more of an advantage to ask a company what their  
license really is and if they don't have one, go to http:// and pick one or come up with one  
*before* starting so you know where you stand.

Good topic/discussion though.

- Jon

On Jan 11, 2007, at 6:48 PM, Dell Sala wrote:

> Hi all,
> I have a client that has run into a conflict with a previous  
> developer over the ownership of some php code, and it's brought up  
> some pretty big questions for me.
> When I am under contract to develop some custom code for a client,  
> who owns the code after it is finished? I expect the quick answer  
> to be "It Depends".
> In the particular case I mentioned, my understanding is that there  
> was no prior discussion of code ownership, or even a contract --  
> only a brief, home-made copyright statement embedded in the source  
> code after it was completed. Can something like that really  
> determine ownership in a legal context?
> My own position on this as a freelance developer (never really  
> discussed or documented in contracts), has been that any code I  
> write, or open source code that I install for a client belongs to  
> the client -- as long as I can reuse the same code that I write for  
> other projects and clients. Thats a pretty loose position, but my  
> relationship with clients has always been good and I haven't run  
> into any trouble so far. Am I, or my clients as risk here somehow?
> What do the rest of you do? I'd be particularly interested in  
> hearing from other freelance developers. Any good resources out  
> there for learning about code ownership and licensing issues?
> -- Dell
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