Over the past month i have been working on a program for my company to use. Some ground rules:

  1. They did not hire me to do so.
  2. I did it at home on my own computer and not during my work hours.

This i remember from copyright class i took in college, as long as i didn't do anything on company ground or property and they can't (exactly) claim ownership of my code unless they know about it. (correctly me if i'm wrong, that what i'm here for anyway).

So i already told one of the managers of what I've been up to and he wants me to continue development of the program. However, if i do so, since the company wants to use it. I think its proper to sell my source code to the company and THEN continue development but under my hours.

My question is; Can i sell my code without copyrighting it first? Even if i put a copyright logo on the program and code, does it still count as "my property"?


If developed on your own time with your own resources only, it's your property to do with as you please - subject to any NDA, non-compete, etc. and assuming you're not violating your company's IP.

You do not need to register a copyright for one to exist - simply by having created the code you own its copyright and all associated rights (see above).

You can certainly transfer your ownership and copyright on the code to your employer for compensation. In at-will employment states, refusal to do so if your employer won't pay might get you fired, but that's the worst they could do (unless one of the exceptions in the first paragraph applies and you offer your code for sale to third parties, in which case they could realistically sue).

Until they pay for the code, do not show them the source and do not work on it during regularly scheduled work hours and do not load it on your work computer or devices. If they get your code and start using it, the situation gets really ugly for you - you could sue but good luck proving anything. Their not having the code is your leverage right now.

  • Thanks! I'm having a little trouble understanding this part though. "In at-will employment states, refusal to do so if your employer won't pay might get you fired"
    – xR34P3Rx
    Dec 9 '15 at 15:03
  • @xR34P3Rx in the U.S., at-will employment means you can be fired anytime with no notice for any reason or no reason (except for specific cases which wouldn't apply here). Refusing to just give the code away for free to your employer could get you fired. Or not. Or you might get fired if your boss has indigestion and is feeling grumpy.
    – Patrick87
    Dec 9 '15 at 15:45
  • OK. Got it. Thanks for clearing it out for me. Was very helpful!
    – xR34P3Rx
    Dec 9 '15 at 17:29

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