I'm currently employed by a business to do website development in Wordpress. I've written a number of custom plugins specifically for a number of clients over the time of my employment.

Today, I asked my boss what I would be allowed to use as code samples because I'm quitting. My boss has forbidden me from taking any of the custom plugins I coded (which is all of the programming work I've done). However, all of those custom plugins I coded are currently licensed under the the GPL (though they were never released or shared).

If I was to take this custom code that I wrote under the GPL (but never released) and provide it as code samples anyway, would my current employer be able to take any kind of legal action against me?

1 Answer 1


Insert normal lawyeresqe disclaimer here.

With that out of the way, your current employer would have a case against you. The GPL, or any copyright license for that matter, comes into play only when the work is redistributed. As your plugins have not yet been distributed, they are not really subject to the GPL, or any other license for that matter.

Until your employer authorizes the work to be released under the terms of the GPL, it's not written "under" anything, and so you do not yet have permission to release it.

Even if your plugins were utilizing GPL software, and being a derivative work, had to be released under the GPL if they were to be released at all, it is still up to the copyright owner of the derivative work whether or not to redistribute.

There is no requirement in the GPL that derivate works utilizing GPL software have to be redistributed, it only dictates terms that must be adhered to in the event that it is.

  • That's what I thought, but I wanted to ask anyway because I really want some code samples. Thanks for the input.
    – user100619
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 5:21
  • 1
    That's a very good explanation.
    – user120925
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 8:30
  • 2
    +1 for "it's not written "under" anything", because that's always true - code is released under one or more licenses, not written under it. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 11:13

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