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Normally, the company where a programmer works has corporate licensed tools which are useful for programmer (ex: proprietary IDEs, reflectors, diagramming tools, office tools and PDF makers, etc.)

Can I :

  • Install it at home and use it for company projects?
  • Install it at home and use it for personal projects (possibly commercial)?
  • Use it at office for personal project (e.g. after office hours)?

I am not strictly asking for legal advise here (though some legal point of view would be nice, too). But is it a right thing to do in general?

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I asked my first employer if I could install company tools at home. "Dear God no!" says he, "No company director would ever allow such a thing! Now, I'm off for the rest of the afternoon, the installation disks are on the second shelf of that unlocked cabinet" :) – Binary Worrier May 30 '11 at 19:00
I don't like thinking about these sort of stuffs, that's why I made sure my toolbox is open source, it just cuts the hassles with licensing. – Lie Ryan May 30 '11 at 19:39
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

  • Install it at home and use it for company projects?

This would depend on the license (whether the license is a per-user license or a site-based license), and also whether the employer allows the use of company resources (the license and any other associated items) at home.

  • Install it at home and use it for personal projects (possibly commercial)?

This would depend on the license indirectly (if the software decides to phone home to a license server). More importantly, work created on personal time using company resources (the license to the software, in this case) might be owned by the employer. Check your employment agreement and the laws in your jurisdiction.

  • Use it at office for personal project (e.g. after office hours)?

This is almost the same as the previous, except that only the employment agreement comes into the picture. Again, it is unlikely that you would own any creations made in this case.

PS: If you are in California, there are laws specifically targeting bans on 'moonlighting' by employers. You might want to consult with a lawyer on this. But if you really must create your own inventions on personal time, that you feel will carry a lot of monetary value, consult a lawyer for advice to stay in the clear, and inform your employer.

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But is it a right thing to do in general?

No unless:

  1. Your employer has explicitly granted you the right to do so, better at his own initiative

  2. The tool license does not object against 1

If !(1 && 2), please do not.

Having said that, there are tools which allow for such shared use. I for instance have an electronic dictionary license which allows for two installations, once at a workplace and once at home. Therefore such licenses exist in the nature, which is good but does not guarantee that your favorite tool's license will be that benevolent. As usual, read what it says.

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Just ask your employer about it. If you can't ask them about such matters, I would guess that the answer is 'no'.

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what logic is that? If you can't ask then it's wrong? – Louis Rhys May 30 '11 at 16:58
@Louis Rhys: I believe he means that a boss that you can't ask questions to about such things is very likely to say no. – Anto May 30 '11 at 18:32
@Louis: assume you can't use it unless you have explicit approval to use it. So if there's no way to get such approval, assume you don't have it. – jwenting May 31 '11 at 6:14
@Anto, yes, that's what I meant. Some bosses companies are big sticklers about such things. If you aren't comfortable asking about it, then most likely it isn't something your employer will see as acceptable. @jwenting makes a good point as well. – GSto May 31 '11 at 15:43

First, you need the permission of the employer.

Second, you and your employer need to check the license of the software in question. As an example, if you buy software from the App Store, the license allows you to use it in different ways; if you use it commercially then you may install it on any number of computers in the company that are exclusively used by the same person, or on one computer in the company that is used by any number of people, but not on any computers outside the company. So what you want to do would be illegal.

There are companies giving you cheap home user licenses, for example at some point I paid £14 for Microsoft Office with a license that required me to delete the software when I left the company I worked for.

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