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Does Your Employer Owns Your Side Projects - Bite-Sized Legal #11

Does Your Employer Owns Your Side Projects - Bite-Sized Legal #11
By Bite-Sized Legal • Issue #11 • View online
So, your employer thinks that they own your side projects, although you work on that in your free time only.
But, is the employer right or not?
It depends on your contract with them. In most cases, if you have an issue with this it is best to seek advice from a lawyer.
There is not that much written in the law. The relationship and the status of the produced code are determined by the contract between the parties.
However, here are some general rules you can take into account:

Work For Hire
Work for hire is the work you do for your employer or client in return for money or other benefits.
This is the work you do in your working hours for the employer or the client according to your contract.
The work for hire belongs to the employer or client. It doesn’t belong to the developer or the designer.
You were paid to provide a service, so it makes sense that the person who paid for it now owns the outcome.
Work Outside of Working Hours
The status of the work done outside of your working hours, i.e. side projects, depends on many factors.
In general:
  • If it is not related to your work for the employer and you have no contract clause explicitly claiming that your side project belongs to the employer, you owe them nothing, and
  • If your contract has a clause giving ownership of your side projects to your employer, then your side projects have become work for hire, so basically you have agreed to work 24/7 for the employer for the salary of 40 hours per week.
The bottom line is:
  • Never accept a clause claiming that the employer or contractor has ownership over your work outside of working hours, and
  • It is reasonable to assume that you own the product produced outside of working hours if there is no such clause in the contract.
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