Freeing my code... need some guidance

Michael Tiemann tiemann at
Thu Jan 15 15:47:13 UTC 2009

On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 10:53 AM, Dr. David Alan Gilbert <
gilbertd at> wrote:

> * Simon (turner25 at wrote:
> > I am very sorry, I have mislead you all.
> > Currently the code has been written entirely by me, at home without my
> > employer's knowledge.  Until now, I intended to use it as a closed source
> > for private or commercial projects.
> >
> > I would like to license the code _BEFORE_ it falls into the hands of my
> > employer.
> Just because your employer didn't know you wrote it doesn't mean they can't
> claim it was related to them. You will have to check your contract with
> them
> to ensure that there is nothing in there about the way IP ownership is
> transferred to them; different employers have different ways of writing
> this
> and some of them may surprise you.

When I was first working on GNU software, the way I handled this was to go
to my employer of the day and ask them to sign a copyright disclaimer (which
they did).  When I moved from that company to being a grad student at
Stanford, I found that I was also an employee of the University, because I
was accepted with a stipend.  Rather than forfeit my stipend and pay $$$$$
to attend grad school, I got the Dean to sign a copyright disclaimer.  I was
told by that Dean that this was the first such disclaimer they had ever
signed (back in 1988).

It's very important that if you release it under a free license and
> a zillion other people pick it up that we don't find out 10 years
> later that someone else has a claim over it.

Absolutely.  Don't depend at all on what the laws of CA say.  Get a
copyright disclaimer that says that the company waives all rights, title,
and interest to $SOFTWARE (where $SOFTWARE lists all the files you've
created, however you created them).  If you think there will be any trouble
getting such a disclaimer, be prepared for all manner of legal problems down
the road.

In my experience, a good company will not screw a good employee just because
they think they can.  Most companies will act honorably toward honorable
employees because most managers at that company know their interests extend
well beyond the here-and-now.

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