Questions about legal problems which may arise during software development or questions about software law, patents and copyrights in general.

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181
votes
23answers
29k views

Should you keep a copy of all the code you write?

I know the company you work for owns the code and obviously you will get arrested if you try to sell it. But is it uncommon for developers to keep a personal copy of the code they wrote (for future ...
86
votes
16answers
5k views

Regulation of the software industry [closed]

Every few years someone proposes tighter regulation for the software industry. This IEEE article has been getting some attention lately on the subject. If software engineers who write programs ...
84
votes
14answers
8k views

Is it illegal to rewrite every line of an open source project in a slightly different way, and use it in a closed source project?

There is some code which is GPL or LGPL that I am considering using for an iPhone project. If I took that code (JavaScript) and rewrote it in a different language for use on the iPhone would that be ...
48
votes
13answers
2k views

Is it legal to recreate/opensource a program that you previously coded for another company

At my previous job I created a generic dashboard for automating tasks and it that turned out to be quite useful - and of course my previous employer owns all the code I wrote while I worked there. Now ...
47
votes
10answers
5k views

Legal issues with an NDA that I do not want to sign

I've been given a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to sign by my current employer that I do not want to sign. It is incredibly open ended and I feel that it should have been a condition of my initial ...
43
votes
19answers
4k views

Form screenshot for legal proof of clicking one of the checkboxes?

We got a request from one of our customers, and since I've never encountered such a request before, I don't even know where to start looking. Our customer is a network of colleges, and we're building ...
30
votes
5answers
6k views

Is it a bad idea to sell Android apps in the Android Market under your real name?

I'm just getting started in Android development and am working on a few small "practice" apps. As an example, one is a live wallpaper. The others are similar in terms of development effort. When ...
29
votes
6answers
2k views

What are the Pros and Cons of the GPL? [closed]

I'm looking at licensing some open source software and am looking at the GPL. What are the pros and cons of using this license?
28
votes
4answers
2k views

Do I have to remove my app from app store? (Copyright infringement)

I just got an copyright infringement notice that says my app infringes on the usage policies of the services my app uses. However, this mail does not come directly from the company that runs the ...
26
votes
8answers
3k views

What is the “default” software license?

If I release some code and binaries, but I don't include any license at all with it, what are the legal terms that apply by default (in the US, where I am). I know that I automatically have copyright ...
24
votes
8answers
810 views

How would you decline to have your name put on a software patent?

Your company wants to patent something you implemented. You do not agree with the concept of patenting software. How do you proceed? Would it be acceptable to file the patent, but keep your name off ...
23
votes
14answers
2k views

I'm a contract developer and I think I'm about to get screwed [closed]

I do contract development on the side. You could say that I'm a contract developer? Considering I've only ever had one client I'd say that's not exactly the truth - more like I took a side job and ...
23
votes
4answers
1k views

When can I publish a software tool written at work?

I'm working on a software problem at work that is fairly generic, but I can't find a library I like to solve it, so I'm considering writing one myself (at least a bare-bones version). I'll be writing ...
23
votes
11answers
1k views

Should I accept to write unsecure code if my employer requests me to do so?

My employer asked me to implement a feature that would require storing passwords in clear text in a database (or using an obscure encrypt/decrypt function stored in a binary, which is a bit better, ...
23
votes
6answers
10k views

Can an algorithm be patented?

So can an algorithm be patented? I saw this statement which made me think: Everybody would abstain from patenting the improvements of contour dot algorithm for at least several years, say ...
22
votes
8answers
666 views

Are IT and software industry getting more and more litigious?

The last couple of years I've been observing an exponential growth in the news related IT companies and individuals taking their cases to court, on one side, and the questions concerning legal matters ...
20
votes
6answers
2k views

Is it legal to reuse code in other customers' projects?

I'm working as a independent software developer for mobile applications. A customer asks me to develop a mobile app. So at the moment I'm calculating the time and effort to write an offer for this ...
18
votes
7answers
694 views

Does making source code available affect your ability to generate revenue?

We’re working on a .Net framework which ultimately amounts to a single DLL. We intend to charge for commercial use of the framework, but make it free for open source/non-commercial use. The rough ...
18
votes
5answers
656 views

Found a better solution to a problem at work - should I deter from posting the code snippet online?

I think most of us, programmers, used Stack Overflow to solve every day problems: looked for an efficient algorithm to do something. Now imagine a situation: you have a problem to solve. Googled a ...
18
votes
5answers
1k views

Is it legal for me to contribute to open source software while employed?

I work for a large corporation and I want to keep my skills fresh. I think contributing to an open source project would help, especially if I ever want a job at a startup. I have heard that large ...
17
votes
6answers
2k views

Is it okay to rollback code if your client refuses to pay you? [closed]

A friend of mine did some contracting work to add localization support to an existing mobile app. He was not contracted to add any other features or fix any already existing bugs. He has finished his ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

Hobbyist programmer releasing software with a donate button

I'd like to start this with a disclaimer that I realize that a full, clear-cut answer should be sought out by a lawyer. I am more so curious about what other users of this community have done Say ...
16
votes
3answers
6k views

Copyright statements in source code [closed]

Ever since I started programming I've seen a header at the top of most code files indicating some sort of copyright: e.g. /* Copyright (c) 1998 Innotech */ or /* Copyright (c) 1998-2008 Innotech ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Do I need to contact a lawyer to report a GPL violation in software distributed on Apple's App Store?

Some company is selling software through Apple's App Store which uses portions of code that I released publicly under the GPL. The company is violating the licensing terms in two ways, by (1) not ...
16
votes
1answer
617 views

Is C#-4.0 an open standard?

The Ecma-334 (ISO/IEC 23270:2006) standard corresponds to the version 2.0 of the language. Specification of version 4.0 is freely available from Microsoft, but Microsoft's open specifications list ...
16
votes
3answers
839 views

How do I comply with the EU Cookie Directive?

On 26 May 2011, a new EU directive comes into force that users accessing websites should now be asked for permission to allow the website to store cookies containing information about them and their ...
14
votes
8answers
482 views

Do licenses matter if there's nobody around to enforce them?

Suppose that the original creators can't (or won't) enforce a license on their software/code, but that work is still popular. I guess if you want to visualize it, I'll throw out a convoluted ...
13
votes
11answers
868 views

Are these company terms good for a programmer or should I move?

Here are some of the terms and conditions set forward by my employer. Does these make sense for a job like programming? No freelancing in any way even in your free time outside company work ...
13
votes
3answers
800 views

As a contractor, am I liable for bugs? (Do I need Liability Insurance?) [closed]

I've got a neighbor who has been trying to sell me insurance for my side business. His claim is that I could be sued by my clients if the software I produce does not perform properly or has bugs in ...
13
votes
1answer
839 views

What exactly does the condition in the MIT license imply?

To quote the license itself: Copyright (C) [year] [copyright holders] Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated ...
12
votes
9answers
2k views

Legality/Ethics of crawling a site to basically copy its database? [closed]

A potential freelance client wants a copy of all the phone numbers in an entire country of several million people in CSV format for their telemarketing system. They have sent me a link to an online ...
12
votes
11answers
1k views

Do I own copyright of program I made in own time? [closed]

I created a software package that aids electrical engineers with common calculations used on site (substations to be specific). I created the package in my own time, without being asked and without ...
12
votes
4answers
561 views

How can I justify my disclaimer of warranties license to a customer?

I'm selling a software that lets users manipulate critical information. In my licence contract (redacted by a lawyer specialized in this field), I've got a standard clause reading : THIS SOFTWARE ...
11
votes
6answers
531 views

Turning in code you developed in your company as homework assignments

I'm currently running a start-up with a buddy and I noticed that some of my university assignments could be finished by simply copying some code from some of the programs we've developed. Are there ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Starting consulting while employed - conflict of interest

First of all I am not after legal advice. This is a bit TL;DR but I have a summary at the bottom, I'm explaining it all so people can offer insightful advise. Situation I need to explain my present ...
11
votes
4answers
591 views

I have a previous invention (software / framework) that I plan to use on my new job. What happens to my copyright if I improve it during the job?

I have filled that standard form where you list your previous inventions before starting your new job so the employer is legally aware you have the copyright over them. But if I want to use this ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

License for freeware but closed source application

I have developed a simple application which I want to put release for free but I'm not planning releasing the source code. I want the application to be freely available but I do not want anyone to ...
10
votes
11answers
1k views

How serious is losing the source code?

If a software company loses the source code to one of the products they are selling, how serious would that be, in terms you could explain to a layman? Would the term "gross negligence" be too ...
10
votes
5answers
736 views

Would copyrights drop if I re-write open source project into another language?

I have re-written an open source project from java to haxe, then from haxe compiled to javascript, with totally different UI So, the question is, is the code considered to be mine after rewriting it ...
10
votes
10answers
1k views

Giving employer power of attorney to obtain your inventions

Is it normal/just for a software company to ask for power of attorney to ensure they obtain patents on anything you invent while you are employed as a programmer? Update: In my case, I went back ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

Is it legal to disassemble a Microsoft dll and post the result on my blog?

I'm writing an article for my blog about undocumented functions which exist in the dwmapi.dll library. I want to post the result of the disassembled code to explain how the names and parameters of ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Taking an open source project to closed source

How is it legally possible to take a project initially released as open source back to closed source? Especially one licensed with the GPL any version.
10
votes
6answers
838 views

What legal considerations do I need to have when programming? [closed]

Recently I worked with a group to create a logging system for tutoring labs to track Tutor hours, and usage of the labs. We had to change the design a fair amount to be in compliance with FERPA. My ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

What is wrong with the Unlicense?

I have often heard that I should not use the Unlicense because of issues regarding putting things into the public domain. However, I do not understand why this would be an issue for the Unlicense. The ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Can I (reasonably) refuse to sign an NDA for pro bono work? [closed]

A friend of mine (let's call him Joe) is working on a promising project, and has asked me for help. As a matter of friendship I agreed (orally) not to discuss the details, but now he has a potential ...
9
votes
4answers
384 views

On the frontier between work and home

I think we've all been there: You hear of someone say "hey, wouldn't it be nice if platform X had feature Y?" You look around (on SO!), the feature really doesn't exist, even though it probably would ...
9
votes
5answers
703 views

How to protect yourself from being sued by patents?

I've had a few software ideas before that could probably be patented.(decided not to pursue any of them, however). Basically, I don't want these ideas patented though. I don't care if someone else ...
9
votes
1answer
295 views

License requirements for including open source software

In an open source project, a number of other open source libraries have been included to implement needed functionality, some as libraries (LGPL), and some as source code (non-LGPL). The new BSD ...
8
votes
10answers
736 views

Legal proof of when a feature been implemented

For various reasons I need to supply "proof" my company's lawyer that I implemented a feature by a certain date. I have used source control since the late 90s and even the oldest databases are still ...
8
votes
7answers
4k views

Dangers of two Jobs? Violating Company Policy? [closed]

I'm working for a company full-time and myself part-time. I started learning the Mac OS/Cocoa/Objective-C at work, and then I got the "Brilliant Idea" that I'd like to program for the iPhone. The ...