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QUESTION: Can the programmer steal my idea?

P: n/a
Hello.

I work in the paper industry and we recently had someone (the original
author) from within the company make a program for preventive maintenance.
However, it had some bugs and we wanted to add stuff to it, bu tthe original
author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a free agent programmer.

The free agent spoke with the original programmer and myself for a day. He
fixed afew bugs. For the other bugs and the many improvements we had
listed, he waid that he would need to see the original code, that he would
charge us 2 hours time for looking at the code and studying the list of
improvements. He had already charged us for 8 hours, but his rate was
cheap, so we emailed him the code.

Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire program on
his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite the whole thing?)
He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's doing it without a
contract, that we can buy it from him... but that he owns the copyrights.
(Later on, he would say that because it is an access application and not a
true program, that it iis in a grey area of copy right and that we cannot
claim it as our own and he doubts that he could do claim it for himself...

BS.

I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is stealing the
idea (who knows about the code?)

I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas not a
programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The original
programmer also limited the design very much by not using relationships.

However, this guy (in his 40s or 50s) so interested in writing it, I'm
scared.

What can I do?

-------------------------------

I won't be in town for long, so please reply to daniel_cad at hotmail dot
com . Otherwise, I won't see the message. Thanks.
Jul 17 '05 #1
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14 Replies


P: n/a
Tell him to send the code back, pay him for the 10 hours, and say goodbye.
Or tell him you'll only do it with a contract, that stipulates you own the
original and all derivative code he might write, including all new
procedures, methods and algorithms, for the agreed fee. And get your lawyer
to send the letter.

--

Randy Birch
MVP Visual Basic
http://www.mvps.org/vbnet/
Please respond only to the newsgroups so all can benefit.
"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote in message
news:3fcc0c78_2@aeinews....
: Hello.
:
: I work in the paper industry and we recently had someone (the original
: author) from within the company make a program for preventive maintenance.
: However, it had some bugs and we wanted to add stuff to it, bu tthe
original
: author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a free agent programmer.
:
: The free agent spoke with the original programmer and myself for a day.
He
: fixed afew bugs. For the other bugs and the many improvements we had
: listed, he waid that he would need to see the original code, that he would
: charge us 2 hours time for looking at the code and studying the list of
: improvements. He had already charged us for 8 hours, but his rate was
: cheap, so we emailed him the code.
:
: Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire program on
: his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite the whole
thing?)
: He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's doing it without a
: contract, that we can buy it from him... but that he owns the copyrights.
: (Later on, he would say that because it is an access application and not a
: true program, that it iis in a grey area of copy right and that we cannot
: claim it as our own and he doubts that he could do claim it for himself...
:
: BS.
:
: I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is stealing
the
: idea (who knows about the code?)
:
: I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas not
a
: programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The original
: programmer also limited the design very much by not using relationships.
:
: However, this guy (in his 40s or 50s) so interested in writing it, I'm
: scared.
:
: What can I do?
:
: -------------------------------
:
: I won't be in town for long, so please reply to daniel_cad at hotmail dot
: com . Otherwise, I won't see the message. Thanks.
:
:
Jul 17 '05 #2

P: n/a
> it, bu tthe original author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a
free agent programmer.
...
improvements we had listed, he waid that he would need to see the
original code, that he would charge us 2 hours time for looking at the
code and studying the list of improvements. He had already charged us
for 8 hours, but his rate was cheap, so we emailed him the code.
Watch out for "cheap" programmers...
Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire
program on his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite
the whole thing?)
Rewriting the whole thing is often a better answer than putting endless
patches on a bad program.
He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's
He stresses that he did not steal your design...
doing it without a contract, that we can buy it from him... but that
he owns the copyrights. (Later on, he would say that because it is an
access application and not a true program, that it iis in a grey area
of copy right and that we cannot claim it as our own and he doubts
that he could do claim it for himself...
BS.
This stuff is negotiable. If he writes a progam on his own and sells it
(but not the copyright) to you, then he's right. If you have contracted
to pay him by the hour, for your design, then the copyright is yours.
I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is
stealing the idea (who knows about the code?)
Ideas are not copyrightable, but designs are.
I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas
not a programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The
Another cheap programmer... A pattern emerges.
What can I do?


Use contracts with programmers, and don't always pick the cheapest
programmer.

Jul 17 '05 #3

P: n/a
On Tue, 02 Dec 2003 04:00:17 GMT, "Randy Birch"
<rg************@mvps.org> wrote:
<snip>
With reference to Bert Byfield's comments
:
: I work in the paper industry and we recently had someone (the original
: author) from within the company make a program for preventive maintenance.
: However, it had some bugs and we wanted to add stuff to it, bu tthe
original
: author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a free agent programmer.
:
: The free agent spoke with the original programmer and myself for a day.
He
: fixed afew bugs. For the other bugs and the many improvements we had
: listed, he waid that he would need to see the original code, that he would
: charge us 2 hours time for looking at the code and studying the list of
: improvements. He had already charged us for 8 hours, but his rate was
: cheap, so we emailed him the code.
:
: Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire program on
: his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite the whole
thing?)
Because the original was un-maintainable
- written I reckon in Access
It is often 'cheaper' to re-write ones own code, than hack it
- other people's rubbish, one simply reverse engineers
: He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's doing it without a
: contract, that we can buy it from him... but that he owns the copyrights.
: (Later on, he would say that because it is an access application and not a
: true program, that it iis in a grey area of copy right and that we cannot
: claim it as our own and he doubts that he could do claim it for himself...
Have you considered that a few simple ideas can quickly become public
domain.
: I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is stealing
the
: idea (who knows about the code?)
If the 'idea' was genuinely something new then you might have a case
- however there is little new under the Sun
:
: I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas not
a
: programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The original
: programmer also limited the design very much by not using relationships.
:
: However, this guy (in his 40s or 50s) so interested in writing it, I'm
: scared.
:
: What can I do?
Probably your best bet is to make friends with him
- I have often found that a bottle of Scotch works wonders

- also the chances are that he has seen something in your 'idea' that
extends well beyond the Paper Industry
- knowing programmers he has probably spotted something generic
- which you would never have thought of

Personally, I and a few others here are in our 40's to 50's (some even
older), and ... well I would be inclined to suggest that experience
can help avoiding the obvious pitfalls.
:
: -------------------------------
:
: I won't be in town for long, so please reply to daniel_cad at hotmail dot
: com . Otherwise, I won't see the message. Thanks.


Never ask a NG to reply by Email
Never publish your Email address (even naively disguised)
- it is asking for Spam .... and I am still suffering 100+ per day

If you are lucky, you have stumbled on a canny programmer who can
provide a really viable system

However, my gut instinct is that you were the guy who was charged with
knocking up a system in Access, got stuck, the bosses called in a pro,
and you are worried about your 'rice bowl' (as they say in China)

If coding is not your forte, then get on with life
- if you want to be a coder then learn from the 'old git'

In your case (I suspect) you would be far better off picking his
brains and staying in your own area
- he is unlikely to want your job
- and could be a useful resource
- Evil old b*stards sometimes assist upstarts - evolution etc
Jul 17 '05 #4

P: n/a

"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote in message
news:3fcc0c78_2@aeinews....
Hello.

I work in the paper industry and we recently had someone (the original
author) from within the company make a program for preventive maintenance.
However, it had some bugs and we wanted to add stuff to it, bu tthe original author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a free agent programmer.

The free agent spoke with the original programmer and myself for a day. He fixed afew bugs. For the other bugs and the many improvements we had
listed, he waid that he would need to see the original code, that he would
charge us 2 hours time for looking at the code and studying the list of
improvements. He had already charged us for 8 hours, but his rate was
cheap, so we emailed him the code.

Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire program on
his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite the whole thing?) He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's doing it without a
contract, that we can buy it from him... but that he owns the copyrights.
(Later on, he would say that because it is an access application and not a
true program, that it iis in a grey area of copy right and that we cannot
claim it as our own and he doubts that he could do claim it for himself...

BS.

I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is stealing the idea (who knows about the code?)

I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas not a programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The original
programmer also limited the design very much by not using relationships.

However, this guy (in his 40s or 50s) so interested in writing it, I'm
scared.

What can I do?


I am with Randy on this one. Send him away.

If you're paying him for looking at the code and him designing and recoding
then the code is yours. Having someone grab a hold of your product and
possibly making money commercially using all the hours that you will be
paying him is ridiculous.

Although I agree, many times, rewriting the code would be faster than
debugging and understanding someone else's code.
Jul 17 '05 #5

P: n/a
Hello.

I saw your message just before leaving town. I won't be able to read your
future replies until Saturday.

So, you say that IF we decide to have him program it, and if we decide that
reprogramming it will be less time consuming, we can only claim the
copyright if he keeps the same design, even if there are some small changes.
Yes, the eal was to pay him by the hour.

However, I find it too coincidental that he would suddenly want to write
this program so soon after our meeting and seeing our code. I do know that
he is available for about one and a half weeks, so he probably anticipates a
sale to us and is using his free time to speed up the process.

So, what if he advances too far in the program before (and if) we do call
him? He will say that he did it on his own time, and that if we change the
design then ne will have to restart. The new design will be ours, but he
might try to black mail us into paying his time for the intermediate version
if he did not keep our design (which he can't do because of copyright).

Blackmail. He's blackmailing me.

I really don't know what to tell my boss...

... Can I ask the company lawyers to scare him into submission/giving up all
copyrights because he saw our program and code?

It should be mentionned that this programmer specialises in programs for
industry. In fact, the name of his company translates into "Mechanical
management". He has 25 years experience doing management of inventories,
and I suppose preventive maintenance.

"Bert Byfield" <Be*********@nospam.not> wrote in message
news:Xn**********************************@127.0.0. 1...
it, bu tthe original author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a
free agent programmer.
...
improvements we had listed, he waid that he would need to see the
original code, that he would charge us 2 hours time for looking at the
code and studying the list of improvements. He had already charged us
for 8 hours, but his rate was cheap, so we emailed him the code.


Watch out for "cheap" programmers...
Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire
program on his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite
the whole thing?)


Rewriting the whole thing is often a better answer than putting endless
patches on a bad program.
He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's


He stresses that he did not steal your design...
doing it without a contract, that we can buy it from him... but that
he owns the copyrights. (Later on, he would say that because it is an
access application and not a true program, that it iis in a grey area
of copy right and that we cannot claim it as our own and he doubts
that he could do claim it for himself...
BS.


This stuff is negotiable. If he writes a progam on his own and sells it
(but not the copyright) to you, then he's right. If you have contracted
to pay him by the hour, for your design, then the copyright is yours.
I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is
stealing the idea (who knows about the code?)


Ideas are not copyrightable, but designs are.
I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas
not a programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The


Another cheap programmer... A pattern emerges.
What can I do?


Use contracts with programmers, and don't always pick the cheapest
programmer.

Jul 17 '05 #6

P: n/a
Hello, Raoul.

That is exactly what I am afraid of. That we will pay his hours, then he
will sell the code to other companies.

So, either we get him to write it and force him to sign a contract saying
that he will not sell the program or ideas... but I don't know if that is
going to work. After all, who doesn't recycle good ideas that they see
elsewhere?

Or, we have our lawyers tear him to bits and pieces. And, of course, my
boss is going to treat me similary. Oh hell.

If you're paying him for looking at the code and him designing and recoding then the code is yours. Having someone grab a hold of your product and
possibly making money commercially using all the hours that you will be
paying him is ridiculous.

Although I agree, many times, rewriting the code would be faster than
debugging and understanding someone else's code.

Jul 17 '05 #7

P: n/a
SFB
Talk to your lawyer about a) who owns what and b) a standard intellectual
property and confidentiality release next time you hire somebody to screw
you.

"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote in message
news:3fcc0c78_2@aeinews....
Hello.

I work in the paper industry and we recently had someone (the original
author) from within the company make a program for preventive maintenance.
However, it had some bugs and we wanted to add stuff to it, bu tthe original author/programmer was leaving, so we called in a free agent programmer.

The free agent spoke with the original programmer and myself for a day. He fixed afew bugs. For the other bugs and the many improvements we had
listed, he waid that he would need to see the original code, that he would
charge us 2 hours time for looking at the code and studying the list of
improvements. He had already charged us for 8 hours, but his rate was
cheap, so we emailed him the code.

Today, he calls me back, saying that he will rewrite the entire program on
his own time. (Why do programmers always want to rewrite the whole thing?) He stresses that it will be all new code, that he's doing it without a
contract, that we can buy it from him... but that he owns the copyrights.
(Later on, he would say that because it is an access application and not a
true program, that it iis in a grey area of copy right and that we cannot
claim it as our own and he doubts that he could do claim it for himself...

BS.

I'm afraid that this guy liked our own idea so much that he is stealing the idea (who knows about the code?)

I agree that the old code was probably pretty messy. The author iwas not a programmer by trade, he merely learned as he went along. The original
programmer also limited the design very much by not using relationships.

However, this guy (in his 40s or 50s) so interested in writing it, I'm
scared.

What can I do?

-------------------------------

I won't be in town for long, so please reply to daniel_cad at hotmail dot
com . Otherwise, I won't see the message. Thanks.

Jul 17 '05 #8

P: n/a

"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote in message
news:3fcd2f5f_3@aeinews....
Hello, Raoul.

That is exactly what I am afraid of. That we will pay his hours, then he
will sell the code to other companies.

So, either we get him to write it and force him to sign a contract saying
that he will not sell the program or ideas... but I don't know if that is
going to work. After all, who doesn't recycle good ideas that they see
elsewhere?

Or, we have our lawyers tear him to bits and pieces. And, of course, my
boss is going to treat me similary. Oh hell.


Your best bet is to do a contract. It may be a little more expensive but to
pay by the hour is very, very expensive. He can milk you dry.

I used to be the head of a development team at a commercial software house
and have programmed over 40 software titles and I can assure you that in the
10 years that we have released hundreds of products, the contract always end
up the most cost efficient.

The nice things about contracts is the ability to specify deadlines for
deliveries (in steps, e.g. different sections every two weeks or so). You
can also include so that the source code is submitted. Most importantly the
schedule of payment is incremental. The contract I used even would reduce
the amount if the delivery is beyond 20 days late. Most importantly please
have the code quality controlled and tested by an independent / unbiased
individual who is experienced in software testing (platform compatibility,
user interface consistencies, bugs, etc.)

Jul 17 '05 #9

P: n/a

"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote in message
news:3fcd2f5f_3@aeinews....
Hello, Raoul.

That is exactly what I am afraid of. That we will pay his hours, then he will sell the code to other companies.

So, either we get him to write it and force him to sign a contract saying that he will not sell the program or ideas... but I don't know if that is going to work. After all, who doesn't recycle good ideas that they see elsewhere?

Or, we have our lawyers tear him to bits and pieces. And, of course, my boss is going to treat me similary. Oh hell.


First, you should relax a little. Consider these points:

1. Your company has not invested much in this program so far.
2. Your company has no plans to enter into the software business (I
assume).
3. Your current design did not even use database relationships - its a
very basic implementation.
4. Preventive maintenance has been done. I once did a database project
for a paper company just for UT inspection of dryer bolts to detect
corrosion induced cracks.

The guy is probably interested in selling you the program instead of
just charging for time because he knows it will take quite a bit of time
to do it up right, and he thinks you would balk at the total hours he
would charge. So instead, he figures he will sell it to you for less,
and try to sell it to a few other companies as well - spread out the
cost a little, in other words.

Let him take a shot at it. If you don't like the program he produces, or
the cost, you are under no obligation to buy it. (Be sure to point that
out to him the next time you chat, his tune may change a little). And if
it turns out
to be a great program for you at a reasonable cost, and he makes some
money on it as well, we call that a win-win situation.

The chances that you are letting highly valuable intellectual property
slip through your hands are actually very small. He is not named Bill
Gates, and your program is not DOS.

Meanwhile, if you want, you can hire someone else to do the changes you
are seeking.

Steve
Jul 17 '05 #10

P: n/a
SFB
The program is only the sizzle. The steak is the algorithms for running the
business embodied in the program. Suppose this company produces high quality
products with the lowest equipment maintenance costs in the business.
Wouldn't competitors want to know how they do it. Often, business secrets
are buried in the code.

There was a time and place when the powers to be would not let us put the
most trivial of constants in the code. Everything had to be in data sets.
There were a few interesting conversations about PI.

"Steve Gerrard" <no*************@comcast.net> wrote in message
news:9I********************@comcast.com...

The chances that you are letting highly valuable intellectual property
slip through your hands are actually very small. He is not named Bill
Gates, and your program is not DOS.

Jul 17 '05 #11

P: n/a

"SFB" <sf*@spam.net> wrote in message
news:vK******************@bignews5.bellsouth.net.. .
The program is only the sizzle. The steak is the algorithms for running the business embodied in the program. Suppose this company produces high quality products with the lowest equipment maintenance costs in the business.
Wouldn't competitors want to know how they do it. Often, business secrets are buried in the code.

There was a time and place when the powers to be would not let us put the most trivial of constants in the code. Everything had to be in data sets. There were a few interesting conversations about PI.

"Steve Gerrard" <no*************@comcast.net> wrote in message
news:9I********************@comcast.com...

The chances that you are letting highly valuable intellectual property slip through your hands are actually very small. He is not named Bill Gates, and your program is not DOS.



I grant you that it is possible, and if so, protection is needed. I
guess my take on this particular situation is that it is unlikely. But
who knows, maybe they have found the secret to lubrication schedules...

So, what was the conclusion on PI? Did you have a proprietary value for
it?

Jul 17 '05 #12

P: n/a
"Daniel Chartier" <daniel_cat at hotmail dot com> wrote
Hello, Raoul.

That is exactly what I am afraid of. That we will pay his hours, then he
will sell the code to other companies.

So, either we get him to write it and force him to sign a contract saying
that he will not sell the program or ideas... but I don't know if that is
going to work. After all, who doesn't recycle good ideas that they see
elsewhere?

Or, we have our lawyers tear him to bits and pieces. And, of course, my
boss is going to treat me similary. Oh hell.


If you put all your cards on the table, and he puts all his, you may get what
you want, at a reduced rate. Since he was willing to work on it on his own
dime, I'd venture to think that he might be looking to profit from that
application at other companies, just as you said. He is in the business of
writing/selling software, that is his livelyhood. If you've shown him a need
he can fill, the cat is already out of the bag, regaurdless of what you do.

I am no lawyer, but I would think he wants to sell you his own code so that
he can retain the copyrights and sell the software to others. If you pay him
to write the code then it becomes a 'work for hire', where you retain the
copyrights, (which is why he has to do it himself, if he wants the copyrights).

What you need to make clear is that you do not want to loose the right to
modify, or re-write the code, just as you are having him do. If he has all
rights to the source code, you would loose that ability.

I'd say you should sit down and have a talk with him and find out why he
wants to write it on his own time, or why he wants the copyrights, at the
same time letting him know you don't want to loose the control you currently
have over making modifications. If you show you are willing to let him profit
from his work (selling to other companies) you can raise your concerns
about any trade secrets or other IP that you do not want to be included
in his package, as well as the modification rights mentioned earlier.

Either way, you will need to get your lawyers involved to draw up the
contract stipulating the rights and permissions you both are willing to
share. Schedule a face to face meeting, and tell him you don't mind
building a win-win relationship, and that there are concerns that you have
about him walking away with the code and all its ownership rights, when
you may need to modifiy it yet again, at some later date.

I am just suggesting you be open, and honest, until he shows reason for
you to be otherwise. Your job is in the paper industry, his job is supplying
software, if helping you can translate to helping others, he may be able to
profit from it. If you both agree that might happen, you may be able to
reduce your costs. If you try to hard line him, forcing him to give up the
rights to sell the software to others, he may want to overcharge you to
the point of not being hired to finish the project. (too expensive) At that
time he can go write the software anyway, and possibly still profit from it!

If you help him discover how you both can win, there is a good chance
you both will.... But the lawyers are still needed to be sure all the i's
are dotted, and t's are crossed, in a legally binding way, etc....

Good luck!
LFS



-----= Posted via Newsfeeds.Com, Uncensored Usenet News =-----
http://www.newsfeeds.com - The #1 Newsgroup Service in the World!
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Jul 17 '05 #13

P: n/a
> Talk to your lawyer about a) who owns what and b) a standard
intellectual property and confidentiality release next time you hire
somebody to screw you.


I would cut my losses and run (with the run method set by my lawyer as
recommended above), rather than continue to jostle around with someone who
is playing games with your head. Most professional contract programmers
(but certainly not all) will deal with you in good faith.

Jul 17 '05 #14

P: n/a
I have to agree with this here.

I like to think with instincts alot of the time, so my advice is that if you
get a bad vibe, bolt. Insist that what he has is yours, and that if he
would like to contract it out and put in there that he cant sell it, then in
that case, give him a second chance.

Honestly it sounds to me like he's just trying to highball you. Typical
sales thing. You offer your best product at an unreal price and then that
midsize standard old car doesnt look so expensive.

Just my two bits.

Ryan McBride
programmer wanabe

"Bert Byfield" <Be*********@nospam.not> wrote in message
news:Xn**********************************@127.0.0. 1...
Talk to your lawyer about a) who owns what and b) a standard
intellectual property and confidentiality release next time you hire
somebody to screw you.


I would cut my losses and run (with the run method set by my lawyer as
recommended above), rather than continue to jostle around with someone who
is playing games with your head. Most professional contract programmers
(but certainly not all) will deal with you in good faith.

Jul 17 '05 #15

This discussion thread is closed

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