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Say a company gives a week long assignment during the hiring process of a Software Engineer role and ask for the project´s codebase to remain private.

Can they morally and legally ask to keep that private? Who has right / ownership of this project?

  • How was this request made? In writing, orally, in a contract, . . . ? – HDE 226868 Aug 27 '15 at 18:45
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Answer

If you agreed to keep it private, you are bound to do so.


Sources

This answer pulls information from the following sources regarding the enforceability of non-disclosure agreements.


NDAs are enforceable

Non-Disclosure Agreements and Confidentiality Agreements are common elements of the hiring process. It would not be unusual if they required you to sign one in consideration for an interview.

If you signed one, you should consider it a binding contract and absolutely enforceable.

Project Ownership

Regarding project ownership. If the employer had an existing codebase and asked you to contribute to it in exchange for being considered for a job opening, they would own the project, the code and the work product you contributed.

Caveat for Fraud

All this assumes an actual job exists and they are not tricking you just to get free labor. If they are, then that would be fraud and contracts are not enforceable if their is "fraud in the inducement."


Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I am not your attorney. Do not follow my advice. Hire a real attorney. Never take legal advice from strangers on the internet. Treat my answer and every answer on this site just like you would advice from a bunch of drunks at a bar — all of whom received their "legal educations" from watching episodes of The Practice, Boston Legal and Ally McBeal.

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It depends on what the explicit agreement was but generally speaking based on the facts you've given yes they can ask for it to remain private. In consideration for being a job candidate you agreed to do work and keep the work private. Their half of the contract was to evaluate you as a job candidate and your half was to do the work and keep it private.

Did the other party fulfill their part?

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    Thanks for the answer but assuming the other party did fulfil their part, I still wonder if there is any legal framework for the employer to justify having someone work without any contract say for a significant period of time (say a week), not within the company's premises and not using any of the company's ressources and asking that engineer to keep all the code they wrote private. Doesn't the engineer have ownership of that projet in fine? – Tristan Aug 20 '15 at 9:16
  • Your follow up should not seek the legal framework for the justifying the free work, but rather for justifying the opposite - that the work agreed to be free is no longer free. If the applicant agreed that the work was free & confidential, and willingly completed the work (rather than say no thank you)? and the employer reviewed the work and hired the applicant, why do you assume the law permits the applicant to ignore the confidentiality agreement? It's certainly fair to ask if the UK has a law that makes the agreement void, enabling the applicant to seek payment under quasi contract theory. – jqning Aug 28 '15 at 12:37

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