I believe it shows that I never worked on any major closed-source project so sorry for any misconceptions on my part.

Say a company is developing some software and needs to hire a contractor to help out. The contractor obviously has no right to take that software and start to compete with his employer as well as no right to redistribute the source code. Such a thing could be stated in a LICENSE file. What would that file contain so that a contributor has essentially no rights to the codebase and the company has complete legal ownership of all committed code?

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    usually an agreement is signed which states the ownership of the what is produced. I don't think any public available licences apply here.
    – Gntem
    Apr 29, 2017 at 20:28
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    "The contractor obviously has no right to take that software and start to compete with his employer as well as no right to redistribute the source code", surprisingly, in the US the contractor actually might, unless proper agreements were place prior to beginning work. It's rather complicated and I voted to close because it will depend on jurisdiction and is beyond the scope of allowable licensing questions for this site. Apr 29, 2017 at 21:09
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    The contractor's work is usually copyrighted by the business. No license is required: permission is given though licenses, not limited by them.
    – svidgen
    Apr 29, 2017 at 21:52
  • I'm confused, you say the contractor obviously has no rights, then you ask what license one need to so that the contractor has no rights. Well, if the contractor obviously has no rights, then no license is needed. Apr 29, 2017 at 22:00
  • The way I was thinking it worked was he obviously has no rights because it was explicitly arranged that way. I was asking about how it would be arranged. Apr 29, 2017 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


Note that I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice. But here are some things that I have been asked to sign in the past as a contractor:

  • Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) - This is an agreement that you won't disclose how the software works to other people or businesses. This usually includes other people in the contractor's business, too.
  • Non Compete Agreement - A contractor may be asked to sign an agreement saying that they will not produce or work on other software which may compete with the software they're currently working on.
  • Work for Hire - Usually there is a section that specifies that the work you are doing under contract is produces for hire and that you retain no rights to the software you produce.

Whether you want to sign any of these agreements comes down to whether you think they're reasonable given the compensation you're receiving. I generally don't have a problem with NDAs or Work For Hire, though I may charge more for Work For Hire agreements. Non-compete agreements may be limited by local laws, and may be a big turn-off for developers as they can be interpreted very broadly if not worded very carefully.

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