Outsourcing

Do IT consultants have a right to reuse code?

Chip Camden discusses how he handles the issue of code reuse in his IT consulting work and describes why you need to be smart about how you structure contracts and incorporate open-source solutions.

Do you have the right to reuse code that you create for one IT consulting client in an engagement for another client? Naturally, you learn new techniques as you work on a problem that you can't help but apply to similar projects in the future. But how different does the algorithm have to be in order to be free of your first client's copyright or nondisclosure agreement?

Before I describe how I handle the issue of code reuse in my IT consulting work, I'll share a trip down memory lane; this experience made me sit up and take notice of the issues surrounding code reuse.

A story of massive code reuse

In 1992, I served as an expert witness in a civil case in Chicago. A consulting firm sued one of its clients for nonpayment, and the client filed a counterclaim for nonperformance. In the counterclaim, the client alleged that the consulting firm used "nonstandard programming practices," which made the client overly dependent on its services. I was called in to render an opinion on whether the code complied with "standard" practices because the application was written entirely in Synergy/DE (my specialty), which is a flavor of DIBOL.

As soon as I saw the first module, I said "Yes, this is extremely recognizable. It follows the standard MCBA style, which more than 90% of DIBOL applications have adopted." An examination of the rest of the 12-inch-thick printout of the source code, and a three-hour grilling by the client's attorneys didn't alter my opinion.

To verify what I said, the client's attorneys contacted MCBA, Inc. and showed them the code. MCBA responded, "Yes, that's our code -- and we want it back!" Indeed, many of the variables, routines, labels, and logic exactly matched those found in MCBA's source code. This raised the possibility that the client could claim the code provided to them under an unrestricted license might be encumbered with a copyright violation, supporting their claim of nonperformance. The case was never tried in court; the client settled with the consulting firm, and MCBA never pressed its rights, which might have been very difficult to defend.

In the 1970s, MCBA was the first highly successful vendor of accounting applications written in DIBOL for the DEC PDPs. MCBA sold its applications with a license to the source code included, and many of its customers went on to extend those applications and create new ones using very much the same style.

Back then, no one had heard of separating UI from business logic (sometimes the entire app had to run in 16 KB), so the parts that were copied and tweaked from one application to the next comprised what would today be called the presentation framework. The idea that MCBA might be able to claim a right to this code sent shivers down my spine because millions of installations could have been affected by a decision in the company's favor. Fortunately, MCBA now seems to embrace its early generosity to our industry.

Structure contracts wisely

The way IT consultants think about whether they have a right to reuse software has a lot to do with how they structure their contract. For instance, if you grant your client all rights to the software you produce, be extra careful not to replicate recognizable copies of the code for any of your other clients.

I find it useful to have two classifications for software rights in my contract: (1) rights to the "Work product," which is code created specifically for the client, and (2) "Background rights," which are rights to any generalized software that I might bring to the problem. My IT consulting clients get exclusive rights to the former and nonexclusive but unrestricted rights to the latter. My client should feel comfortable that I'm not going to reveal their secret sauce to their competitors and that nothing I put into their application will come back to bite them down the road (well, at least, legally). It also ensures that I can reasonably reuse anything in the "Background" category. (For an alternative approach, read #10 in this post about freelancing on creativebits.)

One of the many benefits to maintaining a site like Chip's Tips is that I am able to prove that a given algorithm was mine before it was a client's -- in case there should ever be any question. An algorithm that was shared with the world under an open-source license cannot reasonably be made proprietary later.

Think before incorporating open-source solutions

If you incorporate open-source solutions into client software, you may be invalidating your client's proprietary licenses (if the client has proprietary licenses). The GNU General Public License (GPL) requires that any software licensed under the GPL can only be reused within software having a compatible license.

Even if it's just a technique you learned by studying the code of an open-source application, how different does your implementation have to be in order to avoid license infringement? You might be better off looking for examples licensed under more generous terms, such as those found in the CCD CopyWrite (which I use), BSD, or Creative Commons licenses.

Fess up about code reuse

How often do you reuse software solutions for different clients? Do your IT consulting clients always know about the code reuse? If they know, do they seem to care?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever played one on TV. If you're uncertain about how to protect your code, be sure to talk to a lawyer.

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

81 comments
DailyWTF
DailyWTF

Damn right I do have a right. I wrote it. I thought it up. So long as I didnt copy it or steal it from someone else, then its my brain that came up with it. I'd like to see someone tell me that my brain is of THEIR property. If I use my intellect to create something and if I go to the next client, then I am not going to bulk-erase my brain and begin the entire learning process + coding process over again. No way. No lawyer or judge or outside "expert" is going to tell me what intellectual property is or is not from my own brain. Funny how programmers are getting crapped on more and more in this world. I dont think we need a "guild", I think we need to "organize", as in UNIONS. No more 70 hour work-weeks and desks smaller than a toilet to produce "their code" with. We all sneer and union-jobs but my God, no one screws with them as they do with software developers.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Any good programmer can look at someone's code and write something that will do the job just as well most if not all the time. A consultant who steals code or doesn't plan well enough to do the re-write necessary should be working at the fast food counter or in jail.

Joe_R
Joe_R

PC-DOS written for IBM and PC-DOS used for Microsoft - not much difference.

drpruner
drpruner

Thanks for the reasoned post. My wife does landscape design on commission, and I've been concerned about her related problem of reusing design elements, especially when the client buys the plan as well as the work (from an affiliated company). We'll keep your paper, as well as the "Make sure your contract protects your intellectual property" blog, for reference. Regards, Doug;

Justin James
Justin James

Let's say that I do Web sites, and on my very first job, I do a nice design. For the next job, I take the HTML, change the image names to fit the new customer, change the colors in the CSS document to fit the new customer, and change the words. In other words, the HTML document remains nearly untouched in terms of the tags and their structure, but some of the tags' attributes change and nearly 100% of the content inside of tags changes. What's the "breaking point" that makes it sufficiently changed? My experience has been that most customers are pretty flexible with this. As long as you strip out any business-specific logic, or any other "secret sauce" in the code, they are usually pretty happy. It has also been my experience that the customers who insist or beleive that the "secret sauce" is the entire application because they thought of it (after all, the idea of making an icon cornflower blue instead of periwinkle is so important to a project) are usually the pain-in-the-neck customers anyways; it's an indicator of a particular attitude that rubs me wrong. That being said, a contract can say whatever it says on the topic, and if both sides sign it than both sides need to adhere to it. If the customer insists on no reuse and you want to reuse the code, don't sign the contract. Also note that this *can* potentially cut both ways. What if the code contains things (maybe an innovative technique or concepts that you would like to productize in some way), and the customer does something like release it as open source? I would imagine that a really good contract would account for these kinds of scenarios too, although they typically say something like "customers owns all code and can do whatever they want with it." J.Ja

reza_majumder
reza_majumder

If I reuse the same code like number conversion to display amount in word, will it violate copy right?

Fregeus
Fregeus

..nor do i pretend to be, but, how many ways is there to reinvent the wheel? I wouldn't see a problem if you copied a routine or a whole section of program. Shouldn't the intellectual property be restricted to what the program does and not how it does it? Just a thought TCB

qhartman
qhartman

Your interpretation of the GPL is a bit off. The "compatibility clause" only holds if you re-distribute the software. So long as it is used only internally (which much custom software is) there is no restriction in mixing licenses. See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#GPLRequireSourcePostedPublic Also note that GPL Open Source. There are a number of Open Source licenses which are less restrictive than GPL. Further, at a practical level, so long as you don't actually lift code the odds of an OSS author going after you (or your client) for license violation are tiny. The author has basically no economic incentive to pursue a case unless it is blatant code-lifting. Even then there's little economic incentive, unless you or your client are redistributing the software, which is already a violation of the license.

deepsand
deepsand

If your consultancy was legally classified as employment, then it would depend on whether or not your employer waived any claims to IP developed by you as part of your acting within the scope of your employment. If, on the other hand, you truly acted as a free agent, it would depend on what the contract between you and your client specified. Absent a written contract, it's open to litigation.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

With many employers, you sign away your "rights" to your work product as a condition of employment. This usually means any code you write for them. In fact, many tech firms over the last few years have even gone as far as to suggest that the "knowledge and experience" you gain while working for them is their property as well, although fortunately for the most part, the courts have stopped short of enforcing that argument. As for organizing unions, I wouldn't suggest that unless you'd like to see the rest of America's programming jobs head overseas just like most of the manufacturing ones did. There's a good reason there is no longer such a thing as an "American" car.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Don't even need the code. How many different word processors are out there, or Doom derivatives etc. Copyright on software stops someone renaming the executable and saying it's theirs, little else.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yep - both sides can have the same problem. That's why I license the code that I own under the relatively lenient CCD CopyWrite License. It allows for reuse with proper attribution. If I thought I had a potential trade secret for a future product, I'd never give it to anyone.

oldjags
oldjags

when there's nothing spelled out in the contract? My understanding was that if it's not specifically spelled out, the copyright belongs to the programmer. Kind of like when you get your portrait done, the photographer owns the rights to the image, even though it's an image of you, and you paid for it. So much code is now 'cut and paste', that's it's nearly impossible to say what's unique and what's boilerplate. If I need a popup calendar on a form or a webpage, for example, do I have to write it from scratch every time? Once I've done that a few times, they're all going to be pretty much identical. What's unique in most code is not the individual snippets, but how they are all put together to work as a seamless application. If I were a client and had paid a programmer for a custom written, industry-specific application, I'd hate to see him then selling that application - that I paid for - to my competition. As long as that prohibition is spelled out in the contract, it really shouldn't matter to me what he does later with individual pieces of code.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

If you use a different compiler to generate the executable, is that the same code? Taking a higher level of abstraction, if I wrote the code from activity diagrams that I was paid to draw by a previous client, can I re-use those activity diagrams to rewrite the code (ln a different language say) without breaking the copyright? How about if a re-use a pattern in a class diagram that I developed for another client? What about re-use of an architectural design? Suppose I re-use the requirements from a previous solution? Hmm, where does it all end .. do I have to have a brainwash each time I leave the employ of a customer? Leslie.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

...and quite a few people think that present copyright laws as applied to software don't make much sense. But the current legal realities are what we have to deal with. Again, it depends a lot on the type of agreement you have with your client, and what their expectations are (hopefully the latter are fully spelled out in the former).

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Almost all the work I do is distributed by my clients under some form of license, so I missed that distinction. I did mention other open source licenses in the article. Are there some more I should have mentioned?

Jaqui
Jaqui

Though the way I promote the code reuse with clients is to point out that single client exclusive code takes longer to produce, and comes at a premium rate. re-usable code is a lower rate, and faster production time. [ since you don't have to write everything from scratch just for them, and verify that every line is significantly different from ANY other projects previously done. ]

Answerfactory
Answerfactory

We are told that unions are bad by Corporations ( who spin the news ) because they give power back to the workers. Remember, we are in a fear-based economy. Oh, don't fight for decent wages and benefits or we'll outsource your job to a country where that concept hasn't taken root yet. They say socializing medicine is bad because then the threat of losing your healthcare when you lose your job gives them power over you. Education costs are forced upon workers early on to ensure they appreciate their need for a job, and will be subservient in order to keep one. Socialized education is demonized in order to keep this system going. No matter that it works great in other countries, it won't work in the US, they tell us. Its been a long time since the feudal lords had their power usurped by the rise of the middle class. Many of the upper 20% income class are glad to see this middle class put reigned in so that they are no longer a threat. Finally we can have that insanely rich/dirt poor setup in society, the way it should be. As V said, the people should not be afraid of their government, the government should be afraid of its people.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I've had at least two clients who had large portions of their code reused without permission by a newly started competitor. The competitor in each case used the code base that had been developed over many years to save themselves the development time needed to create a product. Sure they improved upon it (at least in some opinions), but essentially every time they sold their new product they were also selling the work of my client without their permission. Both clients sued and won.

Realvdude
Realvdude

The scenario of the having a portrait taken is a good exmaple. The usually written though sometimes implied rights are as follows. The photographer/studio grants you rights to obtain copies of the image only through them. You grant the p/s rights to your likeness only to produce copies for you. Variations of these rights could be that you gave them permission to use your like in advertisments in exchange for a discount. Likewise you may have received rights to create your own copies. My photographer offers a CD with all the photos he took; the price is usually the midline of the printed packages he offers. Now in the case of web design, if you contracted simply to create web content, it could be construed that you have not granted rights to use the underlying code. It could be likewise construed that the client did not grant you rights to re-use anything they contributed to the content. However if you contracted to produce code to allow for the creation of content, then the rights to that code become more blurred and I would construe that the rights to the code belong to the client. So as Chip as pointed out, the contract has to be carefully crafted to preserve the rights each party expects. For IP that is likely to be re-used by the developer, it would be good to define it so that it can be handled in the contract. This is where it would be great to have some public domain boiler plates to help with the legalize.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...where the prospective client would say, "You should do this project for real cheap, because you will be able to re-sell the code you develop here on future projects." Then I'd respond: "That's a good idea. So I will charge you $1,000 for the project. But I will also charge you an extra $25,000 for the code I will be re-using from previous projects." That usually put an end to that argument.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

...which is why I almost wished that MCBA had taken their claim to court. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have been able to secure a judgment in their favor, and it would have made great precedent for us coders. OTOH, if they could have won a case like that, then there would be a whole market for brain-erasers.

deepsand
deepsand

Don't you mean "patent" laws? Patents protect the process, i.e. the concept or idea. Copyright protects the expression of an idea. Different code is a different expression, though the process carried out by it may be the same. Where things went south was when the USPTO started handing out patents for "business processes," with software being included under that large and vague umbrella.

Lee T
Lee T

I am of the mind that code reuse shouldn't heavily influence my pricing - since tried and true code has to fetch a premium just like the stuff I grow new. I would begin to discount my pricing at the point where I had a commercially-viable build of my software where ALL of the code is tried and true and works out of the box with minimal support and fixing.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I bet most clients opt for the quicker, tested solution over exclusive rights.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

We just might find out: The more the government gets involved, the more enslaved we will become to politicians. Once the system is ?socialized?, then as a country we will literally be held hostage, just as the public school system now holds families hostage for education. Any attempt at reform will become impossible, as any candidate or politician who honestly would want to would be labeled as ?endangering the women and children?. The only option available would be to spend more and more money on it, until we?re all sucked down the black hole. But don?t just believe me; Look at what happens anytime someone tries to address Social Security. In the end, the only option is the same. Just spend more money. ?You?d better vote for me, or your benefits will be cut!? http://wcbstv.com/politics/obama.social.security.2.727322.html What better example of what will happen can you find than that? Right now, it?s just people who didn?t save enough for retirement who are slaves, totally owned by the politicians and lobbyists in Washington. When we have no choice but to rely upon the government for health care, (something that everybody needs) then almost every citizen in this country will be a slave. Probably the only people more scared that I am of this are the Canadians who are currently living the nightmare. At least right now, they can flee down here when they really need care. When we let our system go like theirs, where will they go?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I know that government-run health care would probably be more costly in the long run and provide less service. That's not what I want. I sincerely hope lmunday is correct in saying that free-market principles are going to drive down costs and improve service -- but I'm not optimistic. Too many people have their hands in the kitty already, and they don't want to give up their fistful of cash.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...how expensive health care really is. Most people really do not, since they are so far insulated from it beyond some line-item deduction on their paystub and a $20 co-pay. With the exception of a few years where I was on my wife's employer's plan, for the last 25 years or so I've always bought it on the open market. I know exactly how expensive it is because I actually write checks for it, several times a month. If more people did that, I have no doubt that the cost would come down. Sure, 30% of your budget is a lot to pay. But at least you now have some choice and control in the matter. How would you like it if you were paying that same 30% or more through taxes (direct and "hidden"), had little or no choice as to your vendors, and the system was run by the same people who run our public schools, the post office, and DMV?

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

...for the most part you are not the customer for insurance and health care. This is what I am discovering to be true. I have been working in the health insurance industry (in the US) for about 9 months and what I can tell you is that we are in the process of giving power to the people in an effort to fix the health system. The customers will be made aware of their choices, will be encouraged to keep their health costs down, by enjoying a healthy lifestyle. Customers are going to be given the power to control almost everything about their healthcare. It is coming, but it is not going to happen overnight. Les.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... from the insurance company. I can tell you, I was better off for the five years that I had no insurance whatsoever. But I was single then. I was willing to take the chance that I could get toasted financially by some catastrophe. I can't roll those dice for my wife and children. But seriously, it costs way too much. Health insurance is about 5% of our budget, and unreimbursed medical expenses are about 25% of our budget. Putting the two together, we spend more on health care than on any other line item. And I don't believe we're getting our money's worth.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...for the most part you are not the customer for insurance and health care. For most people, their employer is. Providers are not responsive to the end consumer because they not the customer. Whoever writes the final check is the customer, and most people have been far removed from that. As far as most insurance companies and providers are concerned, employers are the real ?customer?, and they respond to their needs, not yours. That usually means containing administrative headaches and costs to them. Since they are so far removed from writing checks to vendors, most consumers of health have no idea whatsoever their health care really costs. So they have no incentive to shop for it or consume it wisely. Could you imagine how you might run your IT consulting business if consumers bought your time in such a way? My solution is to get people out of the mindset that it?s someone else?s responsibility to provide their health care. They also have to learn the difference between ?insurance? and a ?payment plan?. What most people think of ?insurance? in terms of health care is really a ?payment plan?. ?Insurance? is for covering unexpected and catastrophic events, like accidents and diseases. Most people now expect their ?health insurance? to cover things expected things that happen to everybody anyway, like colds and flues. For example, could you imagine how much your auto insurance might cost if it also covered tires and oil changes? And if your auto insurance covered tires and oil changes, would you bother to shop for tires and oil changes, or would you simply go and get whatever was easiest or the best you could obtain? People should have to buy their health care like they buy anything else, like food, housing, or transportation. Only then will the industry be responsive to the needs of consumers, and costs will be rational. The above also applies to "public education". Parents and students are not the customer, and the system clearly shows it. Our "public" schools exist exclusively for the administrators and unions. There is absolutely no accountability to the end user, again, because they do not write the checks, and they, usually by law, have absolutely no choice as to who their educational "vendor" might be. Public primary and secondary education in this country is a monopoly in its worst possible incarnation. My solution? End the monopoly. Allow children to go to any school they wish. "Vouchers" are probably the simplest way to achieve this.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. and reward them for doing a good job. Replace them if they screw up. I do not see why it cannot be that simple. I have lived with a national health service (NHS) and now live with private health care insurance. You don't need to compare a US NHS with other industries run by the government .. just look to other countries where the health system is run by the government. It's been a long time, but last time I was there, the UK health system was more screwed up than the current system that we have in the US. Another industry that I have had first hand experience with is the space program, in particular the International Space station. When I started on that program, it was run by NASA, a government institution, and their main contractor was IBM. IBM had their fingers entwined in so much of the computer systems, they thought they were untouchable. After several years of wasted time and money the program was taken away from NASA, handed to a private company and IBM were sacked. Only then did the project start making progress. A lesson that can be paralleled in any industry .. if the government is running it there is less incentive to be efficient. Give it to the private sector and let the government fund it, where necessary. Les.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... the existing system is also broken. We pay out the nose for insurance that covers almost nothing. The insurance companies are making a killing off the fear engendered by the rare cases of extreme medical costs -- and even in those cases they often wiggle out of paying. Something has to be done. I agree with you that socialized medicine is likely to be even worse, so how do we fix it?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

The other day, I said that "50% of those who do graduate are functionally illiterate". Well, I apologize; I was wrong. In some districts, it's closer to 75%: http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/wfaa/latestnews/stories/wfaa080509_jh_disdcollege.e5ca60c9.html And yet while their schools are failing miserably, the only option citizens get to fix the problem is to give the same incompetent system billions more of taxpayer dollars: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/politics/local/stories/051108dnmetdisdbond.ea346419.html You never have to look far to see how well "socialized education" is working. New Jersey isn't doing any better: http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-13/1210480577292020.xml&coll=1 I just can't wait until these same people are running my health care. Can you? Just once, I'd like to see a debate moderator ask a candidate this question: "If government cannot make existing tasks such as the Post Office, DMVs, or public schools work effectively and efficiently, why should any intelligent voter think that they should be any better at running an entire health care system?"

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...so why shouldn't they be in charge of my health as well? ?Kind of. Pharmaceutical and Insurance companies oppose it. Others oppose paying for it.? Of course they oppose it. They see little future for themselves in a world where the government will be in a position to tell them what they can make, and what they can charge for it. Would you stay in business under such a system? I seriously doubt it. ?My previous employer cut health care benefits in 2007 and 2008, making so that it didn't make sense to use them at all ( most employees either dropped it or got 3rd party coverage ).? So, why do you think it appropriate that your employer provide you with your health care? Do they, or should they provide you with things you need even more, like food and housing? ?I am supporting socializing services where it makes sense and can be made to work.? Can you supply an example where socialism has ever ?made sense? and has been ?made to work?? ?There are groups of educated, motivated, capable people in the US that are mostly socially isolated from the rest of the population, but I would rather raise the bar for the majority than have the luxury of belonging to this exclusive group.? Historically, socialism has only done the opposite; it is only able to ?lower the bar? to the lowest common denominator, except perhaps for the ?elite class?. (Of all the ?socialists? I knew when I was in school, I can?t remember a single one who pictured him/her-self as becoming one of the ?workers?) In fact, the average ?poor? person in the US (as defined by the US Census Bureau) actually has a better standard of living than the ?middle class? in most of Western Europe. Next time you are stuck in an endless line at the DMV or the Post Office, just think of what it would be like if the same people who run those agencies were also in charge of your health care. I frequently do.

Answerfactory
Answerfactory

"Your comment over socialized medicine makes no sense" Kind of. Pharmaceutical and Insurance companies oppose it. Others oppose paying for it. My previous employer cut health care benefits in 2007 and 2008, making so that it didn't make sense to use them at all ( most employees either dropped it or got 3rd party coverage ). "Your last comment is completely contradictory." If you take it as an all or nothing statement, yes, it would be. I am supporting socializing services where it makes sense and can be made to work. This is a similar idea to the economic idea that monopolies are necessary in some cases, and in others are a bad idea. I agree that the majority of US citizens are not being taught to think or take care of themselves, or to be responsible, for that matter. I don't watch television, but I do listen to the radio on occasion, and the image is being presented is that dumb is cool, being health = losing weight without exercise, and that there is a pill that cures any of your ailments ( like restless knee syndrome, lol! ) instead of the individual applying common and sense and doing some good old fashioned work to solve the percieved problem. There are groups of educated, motivated, capable people in the US that are mostly socially isolated from the rest of the population, but I would rather raise the bar for the majority than have the luxury of belonging to this exclusive group. I admit that I cannot speak to the education issue as I am out of touch with public education ( except for public college, which I am attending ), though I know several public school teachers from whom the most frequent complaint is that they have to learn Spanish to be competitive in the English speaking country. That the subject of a completely different tirade that I will avoid for now.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... you did such a good job, John. I'll add one more thought. Yes, private enterprise will screw you over in any way they can to make money. But does anyone believe that government or union control can do any better?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Do you honestly think that you'd be any more "free" under a purely socialist system than you are now? At least now you can quit your corporate job if you are feeling oppressed. You can?t ?quit? the government. Or is ?freedom? a concept that you are even interested in?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It?s not as though unions in this country have not been playing the same game. For examples, they?ve been very effective at getting the media to parrot their line against non-union companies such as Wal-Mart. You think public education in this country is well run? You might thank a NEA or AFT member who is educating our kids. They rarely hear anything that is outside the party line. Um, and we already have socialized education in this country. In fact, the majority of my state taxes goes to pay for it! For the thousands of dollars a year that I pay towards that, I get a system that doesn?t even graduate 50% of the kids who start, and of the 50% that actually do graduate, roughly half are functionally illiterate. And of the half of those who are not functionally illiterate, less than half are prepared for college-level work. So tell me again how great ?socialized education? is working. Your comment over socialized medicine makes no sense. Many, if not most large corporations in America SUPPORT IT simply because providing health insurance as a benefit has become their highest single cost item for retaining employees. Employers would simply love to have taxpayers foot that bill instead of themselves! That millions of employees are literally trapped by their employers due to their providing of health insurance is a result of 65 years of bad tax code that subsidizes it. Your last comment is completely contradictory: On one hand, you appear to advocate socialism, a system where all decisions are made and controlled by the state. And then you comment about how the ?middle class? is losing its power? Which do you want? You honestly think that the ?middle class? will have any power under socialism? The ?feudal lords? only have power of the middle class, because the middle class as become fat and lazy, allowing the political class to claim responsibility for their personal lives and to make their big decisions for them. The government should be afraid of the people. But it hasn?t been for a long time, mainly because so many of ?the people? not only have abdicated personal responsibility to the government, but actually demand that the government take over more of it. But don?t just believe me. Turn on your TV this evening and watch any of the presidential candidates promise what they are going to do for you if they get elected. Free health care! They?ll punish the oil companies for you! They?ll even feed your children for you! And it won?t cost you a thing! Well, except maybe what little is left of your freedom.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

make good neighbors, as they saying goes. Some clients have been put off a bit when I hand them a two-page contract to sign before I start working. "But...we're nice!" They say. "Yes, so am I. Let's keep it that way."

Jaqui
Jaqui

why I make sure it is explicit in the contract if re-use is allowed or not. protects all parties if it is clearly stated.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... if each of us didn;t have to hire our own lawyer to get it right. I think there's a potential market there for an on-line service. Something legalzoom.com could provide, for instance. I looked. They don't.

Realvdude
Realvdude

If you think this idea is at all feasible, you'll love the movie Paycheck. Basically the consultant has a flag pushed onto their memory stack, then when the job is done the stack is erased back to the flag. The plot thickens when the consultant isn't paid what he was expecting because of something he signed after the flag was pushed but before he was erased.

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Sterling chip Camden

...and I bet it would be difficult to come up with a definitive answer, whether you talk to someone who's an IP lawyer, software development expert, or both. Anyone know any precedent?

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I am a business process consultant. I helped develop a software process, based on RUP, for a company some years back. I am now working for a different company and helping them to introduce a software development process based on RUP. I am reusing a lot of the ideas I documented at that previous company. How much difference does there have to be between the 2 processes before I start infringing on the on the agreement I signed with the previous company? Leslie.

Answerfactory
Answerfactory

Now that I have patented the For Loop, all software companies shall feel my lawsuits! Btw, I thin patenting or copyrighting anything that isn't physical is just downright silly. There is nothing to prevent 2 people from having the same idea at the same time, and as the population and information sharing continue to increase, so do the odds of that happenening.

deepsand
deepsand

Determining whether or not a given work is a duplicate of another, or merely deriviative, is relatively straight forward. Patents, on the other hand, require that, in addition to being new and novel, they not be obvious. To make such determination requires that one be well versed in both the relevant prior art and the skills of those so versed. The USPTO is so ill equipped for making such determinations that one can get a sotware patent that is so vaguely worded that it can be interpreted to mean just about anything that the claims holds; this despite the fact that patent filings are required to be sufficiently detailed re. the claims that one skilled in the art can [b]duplicate[/b] the device or process. As a result we end up with the infamous "one click" patent and many more like it.

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Sterling chip Camden

Companies usually copyright their source code to discourage unauthorized... copying. But yes, software patents can get equally ridiculous, if not more so.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Code that's been developed over a long period of time and is well tested and tried in the market is often more valuable than code developed new. Yet custom code almost always costs more. The client has to weigh the additional cost and risk versus the value of those additional features that aren't included in the canned solution. Or they may just not even know about the canned solution.

Jaqui
Jaqui

as a consultant / developer, you have to accept that most code you have for reuse is only generic. A specific implementation of something for a client, unless it's license prohibits, is always the client's call on proprietary or open source and on you having rights for re-use. I was thinking more along the lines of a custom app for a business, rather than a custom app for resale with my earlier comment.

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Sterling chip Camden

Most of mine are software vendors who compete with other software vendors. So it's very important to them that their "secret sauce" be exclusive -- but none of them have any problem with me reusing generic algorithms.

Jaqui
Jaqui

when it's a lower cost for the quicker solution. I'm not saying go cheap just to have code re-use, just go even more costly for exclusive, and the 5 times longer delivery date. :D it's not just the time factor, they get it faster, cheaper, and with lots of heavily tested code known to be solid. a "triple play" or, slower, more expensive, with tested, but not proven code. I do not see many corporate executives picking the latter option, unless it's as deepsand said above, a significant financial gain.

deepsand
deepsand

in their holding exclusive rights. It is the rare application that is both new and novel, such that it confers upon its user a benefit which gives him a competitive edge over his rivals. Even then, if such effect can be easily and quickly duplicated by others, that benefit will be short lived.