My opinion, FWIW ... and its not worth much.
First, we have only one side of the story. And it'll be almost certainly a slanted and biased view, of course. I'm not criticizing the author of the email, its quite normal human behavior, we all do it.
Next, I have no clue about the contractual agreements and terms of employment that person is operating under. But as a general rule, most times in a court in the U.S. the IP rights for the software are gonna be found to be owned by the company if that guy was assigned by the company to work on the project, worked on the project during "company time, and was paid by them while doing said work.
This is a discussion which comes up now and again where I work. And which has come up in the past when I worked for previous employers.
In the kind of job I and my peers do, we routinely develop new, unique software applications which are in turn sold to customers and "hopefully" make a profit for the company. It's part of our routine work, what we're paid to do. In short, its THEIR products ... the company's. Theirs to use, sell, modify, etc. And in fact it is routine for one of us to develop a new or significantly modified and improved application, which is then turned over to someone else to maintain, further enhance and improve, or whatever.
That's just the way it is. We all, where I work, understand this.
The only particular "claim to fame" we make is that buried within all code generated, we not only include the name of our company as the "owner", we each ensure that the actual developer's name, or each name for a team of developers who worked on the item, is included. i.e. "Programmed by John Smith, 9 May 09".
The company for whom I work is fine with this. And quite understands that each of us wants our little claim to fame. Not to mention, each of us keeps a little "portfolio", personal copy, of such accomplishments for use in the event of future job hunting activities.
However, we have signed an acknowledgment that in fact the final software belongs to the company. And while we have NOT got a "non-compete" clause in our contracts, it is implicitly understood that if we go to work for someone else we may not use, in that future employment, code that our current employer claims to be their property. And they do make every reasonable effort to check on this.
Now there are times when one of us sees an opportunity to develop a little something of use and value in our particular specialty area, which we do not want to "share freely". Has happened before, will happen again.
In such cases the programmer strictly avoids working on such a project during company hours, or using company owned software or hardware.
Case in point. One of our programmers developed a utility that is very useful in certain lines of work we engage in, saves enormous amounts of time and effort. He presented the company with some demo copies, final compiled code, and let various members use it to see what they thought. But he did NOT release the source code, and there was an initial splash screen declaring his ownership of the app.
It was declared useful and wanted by those of us who tested it. And the company made a side deal with him to by legitimate copies. But he never has released the source code.
Same fellow made another piece of software that was useful to our customers, but likewise did all the work on his own time, and has sold copies of that to our customers.
At a previous place of employment, I developed a database app, on my own time. The company for whom I worked used a specialized database app for a certain purpose. That app was developed by an independent company and bought from them. It was okay, but IMHO had several flaws and lacks that I thought I could improve upon. So I developed my own version. Using a totally different programming language (Clipper), totally different user interface, and with substantial "usability" changes. I didn't have access to the original source code, so if any of mine copied the original it was strictly coincidence.
Locally, within my region (I worked for an international corporation at the time) I released copies to local management to try as they wished. I'd included the facility for it to import all the data from that other database (and to export to it), and to even synch with it at user selectable times. Folks tried it, liked it, and started using it in preference to the corporate owned application.
I did NOT release the source code. That was mine. I did however encourage folks I'd given copies to to send copies to their peers to try.
Eventually "corporate" sat up and noticed. And I was asked to give them the source code. I pointed out that the app was done by me, on my own time, and that source code was NOT free.
Finally they made an official offer to buy it. And I took the offer. Not something that made me either rich or famous. They paid $50,000. Which, honestly, was more than I expected to get. Was a welcome and nice bit of sideline income. I figured at the time that I probably had ~1,000 hours invested in it. Not counting time I'd spent on developing several subroutines and functions originally used in other apps I'd made, and reused in this new app.
OTOH what I was paid was a small pittance as compared to what corporate had originally paid for a corporate wide license to use that other application (the price of that was well over 6 digits).
But I was neither sorry nor disappointed with the check I got. I had my moment of fame. I learned a lot, which I later used to my advantage, while developing that app. The extra money came in real handy, I still own a property I bought using that extra cash. I got the personal satisfaction of knowing I'd bested a software house with a team of programmers who specialized in the sort of software I'd developed all by myself. At a later time, when layoffs were occurring at that place where I was employed, I know that my development of that app was used by my boss as one of the arguments for retaining me.
And the fact is I didn't have the time, skills, contacts, or resources to really market that app on my own. Many a good product has flopped on the market place due to little more than poor marketing/business skills on the part if the product developer.
So I was happy ... even if I didn't get rich or famous.
These days my "on the clock" programming efforts are bought and paid for by my current employer, as are the results thereof. I still, occasionally turn out a sideline product. Usually a handy little utility. Highly specialized, single purpose. Meant to save time and effort in certain tasks. (I work in a very specialized programming field) I distribute and give away copies plainly stating that they're free to be used as the user sees fit. But I don't release the source code. Most of this stuff is only of use to specialists, my peers or our customers.
Haven't made a dime off any of these. But several have been found to be very helpful and useful by those concerned.
I do know that my peers and my boss have noted this. And I think that the results are that my activities along this line are one more check mark in the "pros" column of decision making to keep me around and working for this company. In the current economic situation, we have had to do some layoffs and position elimination. So every little bit of extra effort and contribution helps one employed.
As concerns the original email poster. I don't know all the facts. Perhaps he has a legitimate concern.
But I'm not sure that getting confrontational or paranoid about the situation helps. My inclination would be to just keep plugging away, doing the best job I could, being cooperative and a "team player", and hope for the best.
He might still get shafted, but if that happens then it is likely he'd get shafted anyway. One way or another decision had already been made to eliminate him.
You can not force someone to like you or to want to keep you around. They either will or they won't. All you can do is put forth your best efforts.
As concerns that guy's manager and the action of not sharing the contents of emails being sent. That could be viewed as a hint that the guy is being set up for a shafting.
But, OTOH, I know that where I work my boss does not share all of his email communications with his superiors with me for various reasons. For one, some of them are none of my darned business. Two, some are routine chatter back and forth about a subject which I might have interest in, BUT its the type of stuff where there is no resolution made yet and the type of things being discussed are aspects of consideration which I wouldn't really have any interest in. Likewise, he does not fill me in about certain numbers being discussed. Discussions of exact budgetary figures, costs, man hour estimates, calculated profits to be made, and so forth are not considered something I "need to know". Understandably. BTDT, have been "The Boss". And at times when I passed word on to those who worked for me, I did not give them the REAL NUMBERS. I gave them numbers I wanted them to work with and within. Didn't tell them for instance that a certain budget allocated for Project A included NN amount that I told them about, plus ... 15% that I definitely wasn't gonna tell them about. That extra 15% was MY business, not theirs. It was my hedge against unexpected expenses. I didn't want to have to spend it unless necessary. I knew about it, my bosses knew about it, but those people who worked for me definitely were never told. If I'd told em, odds were they'd take actions that would result in my having to spend it. It's human nature.
It's like a previous position I held. Where I was, among other duties, a budget manager for an organization with ~ 600 employees. Each year all the various departments would submit to me their projected budget needs. Now, I knew those were inflated.
How? EVERY receipt for actual expenditures in a year passed through my office. I can read adequately, and can manage to add 1 plus 1 and arrive at the correct answer most of the time. And knew what those people did, and what were nice-to-have items, and what were must-have items. In cases where I did not know this, it wasn't extremely difficult to do some investigation to find out.
My job, my duty to MY boss, was to make the budgets and funds work. To manage them. So I'd compile the whole sum of requests, and knowing that things go wrong and that that it is typical that one never gets "full funding" as compared to what you actually request, I'd add a bit. A hedge against possible problems. And against the inevitable "that's too much" cut that the powers that be would make.
When we received our approved budget, for each column/class of fund, I'd remove N% from the real numbers before passing the info along to the department heads. They never got to see the real numbers. The ONLY person privy to the real numbers I was working with was MY boss. The guy I worked directly for. He received an entirely different spreadsheet summary from what anyone else saw. Oh, he'd see what both those under him, and those over him saw. But on the side, privately, get got an additional printout that showed the funds I'd held aside, hidden. His contingency money. To be used if something went wrong. Or, if there were remaining funds towards the end of the fiscal year, it was money he could use to fund special projects, or release to his department heads for purchasing "nice-to-have" items, etc.
All this is ordinary practice done by a lot of folks in all sorts of businesses and organizations.
Where I work now, upper management, salesmen and project managers don't reveal ALL the true facts or numbers to the workers. They'd be fools to do so. IMO. It's just human nature. Reveal the fact that you've got an extra $50,000 squirreled away for this project ... just in case ... and let it be known. Somebody is gonna decide they absolutely, positively NEED this or that extra item they'd have otherwise done without. Reveal that you actually projected, and budgeted for 1200 man hours for a project vice the 1,000 hours you told the workers ... and someone is gonna drag his feet just a little more than he otherwise might have.
My point is that a manager might well have, usually does, certain discussions with his bosses that are not any business of a programmer that works for him. That he does so, bodes neither well nor ill for the programmer ... necessarily or automatically.
Might, or might not. We don't know. Haven't enough facts.
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