Currently I do a lot of development on my free time to improve my productivity at work. I've got around 50 man hours of unpaid work into a few pieces of software, but I'd rather not have them end up on work computers until they're licensed to prevent redistribution without my permission. Of course, I'm not charging them or anything. I just want to make sure I'm protected legally in the event they decide to try and package it and sell it as their own. I made sure before starting that I didn't sign any agreement that they own everything I work on for the remainder of the time I spend at this company.

I would like an in-house licensing solution. IANAL, so writing a license wouldn't be the best thing I could do. Are there any free, copy-pastable, licensing solutions (copy-pastable in the way the GPL is copy-pastable) that explicitly prevent redistribution without my permission?

  • 4
    Chances are, if you made something on your own time to improve your producivitiy at work, they own it regardless. And honestly, 50 hours of unpaid work is... a typical month for a lot of our industry!
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 20:49
  • Agreed to the previous comment- and also even if you put such license, you will be in trouble future as the idea/problem was generated in your paid work hours- thus the ownership goes to your employers.
    – tanjir
    Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 20:53
  • So there is no way I could even prove that I generated this idea outside of my work and just brought it in? It seems the legal system is never for the employee.
    – Dr.McNinja
    Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 21:26
  • 1
    Did you develop this software on your own machine at home or the company machine "after hours". If it's the latter then the company more than likely owns it. And yes, the legal system is hardly ever for the employee - that's why unions were formed and still exist.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jun 12, 2011 at 21:44

3 Answers 3


As the other commenters said, your work may actually be owned by your boss. In case it's not and to answer your question about the licence, take a look at the Creative Common Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

Also, take a look at the list of non reusable licenses on this page: opensource.org/licenses/category


Nolo Press, "Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements". I haven't looked at it for about 15 years, but it helped me when I first started doing consulting. It outlines what to look for in a contract, and it includes (or included) a couple of examples of the case where a consultant brings in software to a company.

The question of who owns the code depends on where you are located, the laws of that state, and your contract. Without knowing more details, no one here can say if your company has legal ownership in the work. But if what you said is true, likely not.

You have a few things to be concerned with: will the company be annoyed at you for trying to sell them something which should properly be considered part of your job? If the company starts using this software, then in 5 years when they are part of another company, then will the new company be able to use the software?

Will this be the only sale, or is there enough of a market for you to sell this work? Would the company like to help fund a spinoff, knowing that improvements you do for others will likely help them?

To resolve those means knowing a lot more about your relationship with the company and how they are likely to respond. To resolve the legal issues which might come up may require more than 50 programmer-hours worth of legal time.

Do bear all these in mind as you think about how to approach the company.


Every large company I've worked for has put an intellectual property rights clause in my contract. In all cases this has said that any IP I create is automatically owned by them if it's made during my time at work, or outside of work but solves problems for their business. This is usually in addition to time-limited non-compete clauses.

Depending on where you live this may also be a part of your local employment law. I live in the UK and have never checked the local law, but it's been in all my contracts all the same.

So check both your contract and your local laws before proceeding.

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