Forum OpenACS Q&A: Non-OpenACS question -- Anybody ever have their code "stolen"?

I gotta admit that I just learned that there is an egregious practice
among some companies of trying to "own" the open source projects that
hackers build or work on in their own time. My naivete has led me to

Has this every happened to anybody in these boards?

My curiosity is part gossip (just to have another story about
fascists to throw out) but also to learn more about OSS issues. Know
thy enemy kind of thing. Helps when trying to convince the
unenlightened about OSS.


Well, the BSD license model explicitly allows others to take your code  and bundle it and release it however they see fit.  There's nothing to stop someone from taking Postgres, for instance, and bundling it up  into a licensed, close-source product.

The GPL prevents that, but there has never been a definitive court test.  You keep hearing rumors of companies attempting to do this.  The FSF solicits such reports and follows up with the supposed perpetrator.  So far nothing's gone to court, presumably the stories are largely red-herrings or the company involved responds reasonably once the situation is explained to them (you'd be amazed how many license violations, in all worlds, not just the open source world, result from ignorance rather than intent).

All software will be stolen, you can depend on it.  There's no reason why this shouldn't happen with GPL'd software just as it does with software distributed under closed licenses.  Photos are stolen, books are stolen, music is stolen ... on and on and on.

Well, what I mean is an employee contract that stipulates that all the software that you develop for the company *and* for yourself in your spare time belongs to the company.

Code can be stolen, but sometimes people try to steal it before it exists. That's what I'm asking about.


I think it depends on what you sign when you are hired.  I make sure the company knows that I will do projects on the side and they will not have a share in those projects but that everything I do for the company will belong to the company.
Talli, the only answer is not to sign a contract granting a company right to your private-time work.  The practise is IMO immoral anyway, and it would be best to tell the company to stick it.  Unless, of course, you enjoy serfdom.
I believe you need to be more precise about "spare time".  Another issue might be "spare resources."

I believe it's the case (and law(?)) that in many places, if you don't sign a contract explicitly granting you the rights to your "off hours" work, than any work you do that uses any of your employers resources (the offices, the computers on site, the computers that he has loaned you that you have in your home office, the DSL line that the employer picks up the tab for, etc.) can be construed as the property of your employer.  If you do plan on working on your own time and for yourself while employed, you should consider using all your own resources, including connectivity.  And that's almost getting to be common practice these days, I know of many people with two lines into their home.  One paid from corporate, the other paid for from their own pocketbook.  Ditto with email of course.  Make sure all your own work is clearly separable from what your employer is paying you to do.

As David suggests, it's better to let your employer know that you intend to work on non-competitive projects in your spare time.  (Perhaps in your written acceptance of their offer?).  Best if you can get them to sign a contract granting you rights back to your own time.  What a crazy f'n world, eh?

This crops up on /. periodically, and though few of them are lawyers, you might get some wider views what to expect and what to do there.

In some countries (e.g. Australia), if you are an independent contractor, you own the copyright of the code, for which you give a perpetual license to the people hiring you.

If you are an employee,  the code produced by you is owned by them, it is usually very hard to show what you do on your "own" time. But this is the reason they often wnat to have you as an employee and not an external source.

I am not sure about the US, but I believe is the same. Probably to reinforce this is that most companies ask you to sign those lengthy contracts...