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tomhudson's Journal: Who owns the code? 31

Journal by tomhudson
Update: Since the dummy has continued to refuse to acknowledge that he owes anything for the work I did on the lastest code revision, I've replied that I'm removing that claim. That makes the code mine free and clear, no questions asked. Of course, in reviewing my situation, I also noticed that since he obtained my services via fraudulent inducement to employment, I'm adding a claim for that, as well as for personal injury.

He's also saying I'm damaging his reputation with his clients. Especially the same client who was eady to sue him into bankruptcy a few weeks ago, until I did the 70-hour stint he now refuses to even admit he owes. And I'm not happy with him putting the blame on me for his mess-ups.

Good thing we don't have a non-disclosure or a non-compete agreement. I just reminded him of that. Bounce my paychecks, endanger my health, lie to clients, no judge is going to say I owe you continued loyalty. Shove it, Alex.

My now-former boss refused to pay for the extra hours I spent fixing up code last week - code that is based on my GPL'd web framework.

This, of course, is on top of his failure to pay anything for 4 weeks previous (a nice bounced paycheck, etc),

Now, if he had at least made a pretense of paying for last week's coding, he *might* have a claim to it, but it seems to me that obtaining something under false pretenses is pretty much outright fraud. He simply has no claim to an interest in it, since he denies he has to pay for it.

Which leaves me with a "situation." My code is being run, unlicensed. Large portions are not GPL (since I'm the author, I have the right to do this, and many of the modifications wouldn't be of interest to the community anyway, since they're customizations for that one client).

What a mess. I don't believe the customer has the right to use the code, since I placed it on the server under false pretenses - but it's not the customers' fault, and they shouldn't have to suffer because of it. At the same time, my former boss has no right to profit from it, either by billing for it, or by charging a monthly maintenance fee.

I'm going to have to think a bit about this one ... but not too long. By the time I go to bed for the evening, I'll know what my next steps are, though any advice in the meantime is appreciated.

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Who owns the code?

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  • by RM6f9 (825298)

    Fraud, fraud by check, hostile work environment, physical and emotional damages - the customer is an unfortunate victim of your former bosses' actions, but you've stated it: As you've not been paid for it, they have no right to it. Possession of stolen property is about as close as I can define it.
    Glad you're finally going into business for yourself, although I like mine better: I never have to worry about (literal!) bleeding eyeballs. ;-)

    • by kimvette (919543)

      I'll add to that:

      * breach of contract
      * theft of services
      * hostile work environment (as you mentioned)
      * copyright infringement
      * intent to defraud

      Sue the bastard into oblivion, then take a well-deserved break and focus on your health.

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Thanks for the input. We're almost on the same wavelength.

        I want to differentiate between my former boss and the customer.

        The way I see it, my former boss simply doesn't have any legal right to the changes to the code made in the last week, because he has refused outright to pay for the full time worked to produce them. This is aside from the previous 4 weeks (2 pay periods).

        Obviously I've been very patient, trying to make sure the customers' needs were met despite how my former boss was treating me

        • I fyou decide you're going to sue for ownership of the code, I would write up the complaint, file it, and then contact the customer atatching the filed complaint. True, they're the ones who will be hosed, but it's also leverage. You can also let them know that you want to work things out with your previous employer as soon as possible so they are not left in the lurch, but your boss left you no choice. It would, I think, force a settlement in your favor sooner rather than later.

          Good luck! Also, it has
          • by tomhudson (43916)

            Thanks, and you're absolutely right. I'm sending a takedown notice to him, and bcc'ing the company.

            Subject: Notice of copyright violation and cease and desist of same

            To: [redacted],
            [redacted]

            February 3rd, 2011

            WITHOUT PREJUDICE

            Sir:

            WHEREAS: You are hosting files that collectively are known as the [redacted] Loyalty Program at http://redactedloyalty.com/ [redactedloyalty.com]

            WHEREAS: I am the exclusive creator and author of those files, with the exception of graphics.php. I am also the exclusive creato

            • by pythorlh (236755)

              Insufficient redaction... Your last WHEREAS wasn't redacted.

              • by tomhudson (43916)
                Oops - you're right. Oh well. C'est la vie. It doesn't portray them in a bad light - they're as much victims of a "bad actor" as I am.

                Too bad slashdot doesn't allow me to edit posts. I guess that's what happens when you post at 4 am because the dog puked on your bed ...

                It's times like that that make me kind of wish I had "normal-sized" dogs and not the "xtra-large" model.

  • I don't think you own any of the code that you've written while under the auspices of your now ex-employer. The contract that might be void is between you and employer, and that's for you two to work out, and doesn't involved the employer's customer. The contract between your employer and their customer is between them, and doesn't involve you, and furthermore you didn't have a contract with their customer. So I don't think you have a leg to stand on (or in your case maybe it should be "an eye to see with"!

    • by Bill Dog (726542)

      p.p.s. Doh. IANAL, so maybe you don't want to talk about what's "fair" with the customer, or that you could've leaked information about the employer that might damage their ability to service the customer, or anything else that might open the door to them suing both the employer and the former employees. If you're gonna start a business, you prolly need to hire some legal advice anyways.

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        I've hired the best legal mind i know - myself :-)

        Seriously, I am on solid legal ground in this case. The guy wants to claim ownership of work without paying the agreed-upon salary to the employee, and then goes further by abrogating the entire employment agreement? After multiple other violations?

        No court will award him anything except a walk to the woodshed.

        My actions were always taken in the best interest of the customer first, and even during multiple serious actions by the employer, in their in

        • by Tet (2721)

          Seriously, I am on solid legal ground in this case

          I'm not so sure. He hasn't paid you for work you agreed to do for a given salary. That doesn't grant you ownership of the code, that just gives you a right to reclaim the money. Your dispute with him is over the unpaid money. Nothing more. Were you a contractor, the situation would probably be different, but as an employee, I think you're overestimating your rights here. I'm fairly sure that in the UK, a court would merely order him to pay you the money,

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            Not when there's fraud involved. In this case, there was fraudulent inducement, in that we had agreed on a future increase in compensation as part of the deal, and he wouldn't have gotten the code otherwise.

            You don't get to keep the fruits of your criminal acts. Just because it's white collar crime doesn't mean that I have to sit there and take it.

            http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/fraudulent-inducement-of-employment.html [legalmatch.com]

            The legal concept of damages isn't limited to monetary compensation.

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      I've let the customer know that it's not about them - to the contrary, that I've bent over backwards to avoid the problems impacting them, but it can't go on this way.

      As for my ex-employer .... well, he's already both saying he'll be here tomorrow morning with two certified checks (but they're for the wrong amount, so I told him that was unacceptable) and threatened legal action (I told him go ahead, anyone can sue for anything, and I welcome the chance to both put it all on the record, and haul his partn

  • trying to strike out on my own and stuff.

    But the current 36h15min a week and regular paycheck keeps hitting me with a clue stick. And gives me time to have a life.

    Having worked in an abusive environment for much better pay, I think the choice while not hard isn't easy.

    Working for the government/large bueracracy has its advantages as above. If the work was interesting I wouldn't be moving by choice. As it is I can't get a permanent position in this role so have to keep looking as I think our flood/cyclone

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      I'm going to be opting for quality of life. I don't mind doing long hours for stuff I believe in, but throwing me impossible deadlines are a sign of someone who doesn't know how to plan, or even what they're doing.

      So I'm no longer enabling him to screw me over, because after a certain point, that's what it became. I could have contacted the customer last week, explained the situation, and worked out a deal. In retrospect, I gave him at least 2 chances too many. But then again, there's a reason hindsig

  • Contractor? It's a work for hire, and you can revoke the code if it wasn't paid for. Just take it, it's yours.

    Employee? The code is irrelevant. It's your bosses, not yours. But that doesn't change the fact that it's against the law for your employer to not pay you for work you've done. I don't think you even need a lawyer. Call the right government agency and he'll be in hot water over his head.

    Neither? I'll fuck his dog for $500, film it, and give you the rights. On a good site, that'll earn you far more t

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      Once the employment contract is breached by him, he can no longer rely on it to make a claim of ownership. Especially since he hasn't even ATTEMPTED to pay me for that week - in fact, even today, while this morning he says he will pay for the first 4 weeks of January by certified check, at the proper rate of pay, he again refused to address the question of pay for that last week. He doesn't want to because there's 40 hours of straight time, 15 hours of time and a half, 15 hours of double time, and 10 hour
      • Fraud brings an extra burden of proof, beyond the fact that he hasn't paid you. If you can prove it, then that would be great.

        Another option - changing you into a contractor can be a problem. The IRS has a very specific definition of a contractor. You can make his life miserable with a phone call.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          Earlier today one of his emails accidentally provided the confirmation I need that he did everything I've alleged. I guess all those years of trolling paid off :-)

          I now have all the proof I need that he obtained my services by fraudulent inducement. At this point, if we go to a hearing, not only does he lose on the pay issues, but also on the code ownership issues, since I will ask for everything that was done to be "undone" to the maximum extent possible, so that he does not benefit from his fraudulent

          • I am looking forward to reading your account of the court date. I love the read a story where the bad guy gets what's coming to them.

            • by tomhudson (43916)
              I'm sure there'll be plenty of action before then :-)

              He was really stupid. He didn't want to pay overtime for the 70 hours, so instead he tried to convert me to a contract worker - retroactively. That doesn't work, and that's when I quit. So now he has a problem.

              As you point out, if I'm a contract worker, if I don't get paid, he doesn't get the code. That he tried to do it retroactively is even worse ... it's breech of the employment contract and constructive dismissal.

              I've given him several oppor

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      I'll fuck his dog for $500, film it, and give you the rights. On a good site, that'll earn you far more than you are owed.

      We're negotiating. He's basically offered $5k, and I want $10 - plus all copyrights incontrovertibly owned solely by me.

      The copyrights bit isn't for me - it's to remove him permanently from the "web application development" pool, and to make sure that no customer is "vendor-locked-in" to him by the code. And it only affects the code that is targeted at specific customers - the gene

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Oops - $10k, not $10 ... and $10k is less than I'll get if we go for a hearing. So once he realizes that those are his only two options ...

        Geeklog has had an "edit comment" feature for years. Instead of all the "oh shiny" crap, why can't they do this - just let people append corrections to their original comment. It's not that complicated.

        2-liner

        include_once('db.php');
        mysql_query(sprintf("update $DB.comments set comment_txt=concat_ws('

        edited at '%s'

        ', comment_txt, '%s') where comment_id='%d' limi

        • Hey now, give Perl some love. 13 years ago, it was MUCH better than PHP, and is STILL not as insecure by default as PHP enabled web servers are.

          I would think, for your own health, you're better off getting a lawyer to deal with this. As your former landlord has learned, you do know what you're doing. So, use that knowledge to find someone who's on the same page as you legally, and have them pursue it.

          What happened with the Landlord, anyway? Did I miss an update?

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            No, you didn't miss an update. Awaiting the latest decision in the next month or so ... :-)

            As for a lawyer, the commission des normes de travail supplies me one specializing in worker rights for free if it goes to a hearing, and I know what materials he or she needs to present a case. Mind you, the bounced check pretty much speaks for itself, and I have a witness or two to back up my claims. For example, we worked Christmas and New Years, but my pay check was no different than the weeks before, and the

  • Let's all try to remember, as we play armchair lawyer, that Babs is under .ca jurisdiction, not .us. The former actually has these things called 'employment laws'. Crazy concept, I know.

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      Thanks for pointing that out.

      Honestly, though, I think it would be the case even in the US, that if the employer flat-out refuses to pay you for the time, he doesn't have the right to say he owns your work.

      He won't pay for the full 70 hours that I took to rewrite the code that week. So fine, I emailed him back today and told him that, since he doesn't want to pay for it, no problem - I've dropped that portion of my claim entirely - now REMOVE MY CODE FROM YOUR SERVER OR TAKE OUT A LICENSE.

      After all, i

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        At the individual state and county level, you'll find plenty of judges who will say "tough shit" to employees and/or contractors in right to work states, particularly in the south. You'll garner more luck the further you head north, but there is always individual variance. I think the arguments and interpretation of the law would carry more weight at the appellate levels. OTOH, the Supreme Court? Who knows...

        The title of this entry is the most telling, and would likely be of major concern to the court. Can'

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          The south has a reputation of being stuck in the past ...

          Then again, I think a lot of it has to do with colder weather forcing people to leave less to chance.

          For example, if you end up homeless in Florida, you'll rarely freeze to death. Homeless in the Great White North, you're at a greater risk, so there's more of a safety net. Northern American states lie at the midpoint.

          So I'd suggest that social safety nets, laws, etc., are strongly influenced by weather and the associated risks. This brings up

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