[nycphp-talk] Ownership of Code
tedd at sperling.com
Sat Jan 13 14:31:49 EST 2007
At 12:46 PM -0500 1/12/07, Dell Sala wrote:
>Thanks everyone for your detailed responses. Great discussion!
>>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.
>In a case like this it sounds like the copyright would default to
>the developer, but the client would have a long-term license to
>modify and extend for their own use, as long as there is no resale.
>Obviously my client should consult a lawyer if things get hairy, but
>this seems like a good starting point.
>As for my own policy, I'm leaning towards Ken's suggestion of
>retaining all copyright over the code, but providing a perpetual
>license for the client to use, and copy/modify/extend without resale.
>While it appears there's lots of room for debate here, this sounds
>like the safest way to me, and I suspect that the client will be
>satisfied as long as their license doesn't restrict their own
>ability to use and extend. This appears to sidesteps most the murky
>waters where things can get unpleasant.
Dell et al:
Considering that many responded, so shall I.
For the last 30 years, I've always been a consultant, never an
employee. When I was hired to do application software development for
the Mac ( and before that Apple ][ ), there was no question that the
code I worked on was owned totally by my client, period! When I
finished a project, all my code and documentation was transferred to
my client and everything I had (except for business correspondences)
was destroyed. There were no exceptions.
However, since working on the net, my focus has been on solutions,
not software. I use software to solve problems, but solutions are
what I sell.
From my perspective, no client has any rights to resell any of my
software other than with their entire business. In other words, if
the client wants to sell their business, then everything goes with
it. I don't have any problems with that as long as the buyer is not
going to resell my contribution. However, my control over what the
client and buyer does is next to nil.
Do I care? Not really. Most of my efforts are specifically designed
for each client. Each client has their own special needs and "custom
work" is really the soup of the day. If another programmer is hired
to change my code, then that's fine. If he wants to rip-out some
technique that I discovered and use it for himself, then that's fine
as well -- for I have no control over it.
If I post something on this forum, or on my web site, or do something
for a client that is exposed in some fashion, then so be it --
because I have no control over it.
Do you see the common thread here? There are things you have control
over and there are things that you don't -- and, you don't have much
control over the net. So, if you're going to work on the net, then
stop worrying about your code, let clients do what they want (in most
cases they don't know anyway), and get on with your life.
Sure, you can (and should) address the ownership aspect of your work
product in your contracts, but realize that it's nearly a moot point
when it comes to enforceability.
Besides, I've lived long enough to see that no one really comes up
with a "new idea", it's just variations on a theme that started long
ago. The only reason you can do what you do now is because of the
people who came before you. And tomorrow people will be looking to
stand on your shoulders as well. The cycle continues -- it's best to
gracefully accept it.
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