I would like to use a piece of software I wrote for my company in a private open source project. I have already talked to my manager about the possibilities of the company open sourcing that software. It is not decided yet, but it could well be that my company might just turn down my request, simply because all the legal issues might be too much of a hassle.

Now the thing is, it is really not much software, just about 100 lines of code, one class of a larger project I am working on in this company. So on the one hand, my company does not really lose much in terms of work donated to the public. On the other hand, I don't gain much, because it is just 100 lines of code, and I could just rewrite that class from scratch.

Now I was wondering how to go about that rewrite. Do I have any chance at all to rewrite that class without the possibility of facing charges of intellectual theft (I don't expect my company to sue me, we have a good relationship)? This probably also strongly depends on the country, which is Switzerland if that helps anyone with an answer.

Is it enough to just change names and comment text?

  • Surely you could say that you had already written that source, and donated it to the company whilst retaining rights to it yourself.... if it was a "private open source" project. You might as well rewrite from scratch, but recall how much grief Google got from 6 lines of identical Java runtime code (though, I think the $multi-billion "lottery win" for successful prosecution drove that more than anything)
    – gbjbaanb
    Jun 29, 2015 at 12:06
  • Hm, not really sure if that would work ... I wrote that class two years ago, with a bit of commit history in git - if that final version would show up two years later in my private github, it sure would look fishy. Besides, I feel its unethical. Which might not be the point here.
    – Isaac
    Jun 29, 2015 at 12:13
  • 3
    @gbjbaanb: your first sentence is misleading. In many cases, code written on company PCs during working hours belongs to the company. You can't just assert that you have donated the code to the company, because you have no rights in relation to this code in the first place. Jun 29, 2015 at 12:14
  • 2
    So by your logic, everything I ever wrote at work can't be written by me again, because it will look fishy(obviously not ripping off the whole system, but a class???)? I have an alternative idea: think of what you have done in the past, and design it again from scratch while improving. If I were to redo things again, I would always improve it. So you gain in 2 ways: you are writing a brand new class that you own, and you improve it because you already had experience writing one.
    – Alexus
    Jun 29, 2015 at 17:07


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