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Like almost everyone here, I have a handfull of scripts and software that I have developed and am enthused about. I will be looking for my first job as a software designer / coder. It seems natural that I will be eager to please my employer and use scripts or similar methods that I have developed and worked for me in the past to please my employer. It seems certain that many things that I code will look very similar to things I have coded in the past.

I don't understand how to document and articulate to an employer that this code base was mine before I got here and this will continue to be mine when I leave. Surely, this is a common issue, but none of the various searches I've done on the net have produced an answer to this question. How is this situation commonly dealt with in the industry?

I feel like there should be a digital version of sending myself a 'certified letter' with my code/software/scripts contained. I'm not trying to protect my code from others using it; I am trying to protect my right to continue using my code base that I have developed prior to to gaining employment with an employer.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 13 '11 at 21:32

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3 Answers

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For tools I suggest creating a personal repository on github and licensing with a suitable open source license. Only the most ill informed employers refuse to utilize open source tools. This keeps the copywrite in your name and allows you to use it whenever.

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Write code for your employer from scratch, utilizing platforms, frameworks and libraries written by others. That's what you get paid to do.

Do not use any code you wrote on your own time for your employer's work, unless you want the employer to own it. If your employer has any scruples, they will either negotiate a price to license your existing code, or will direct you not to use it.

In theory, your past code could be valuable to your employer. In practice, there's seldom any overlap between what you've already written and what the employer wants you to write now, unless you've written some über library like jQuery, in which case you will be licensing it to him.

So if you still want to give your code to your employer for free, license it in a way that provides unrestricted use to your employer, and to everyone else (including yourself).

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"Write code for your employer from scratch. That's what you get paid to do." - No it is not. You get paid to provide business value software developers simply write code as their primary value add. NIH (Not Invented Here) Syndrome, i.e. re-writing something just because is doing the exact opposite. –  jbondeson Mar 13 '11 at 22:18
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@jbondeson: I have edited my answer to clarify. "Primary business value added" is just marketing speak for writing code (and all of the other ancillary activities that go with it). –  Robert Harvey Mar 13 '11 at 22:37
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You are the copyright holder for what you wrote, so your safe. This is an issue you'd best resolve with your employer's legal department, because you both need to address how to integrate your intellectual property within their business, which I'm sure they'd be happy to do.

If you release it in the public domain, then everyone, including yourself, can freely use it. Because these are scripts, another good option would be to license it so that everyone can freely produce derivative works, so what custom modifications you do under your employers contract belongs to the employer, but you still retain intellectual property of what you developed initially and can continue to use and develop it on your own accord outside of your employment contract.

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