Writing website for charity...should I copyright it?
July 21, 2010 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I have been laid off and, along with looking for work, I thought I'd learn some new technology and add to my resume. I am now working on a web site for a charity that uses Bing/Silverlight to find meeting locations. One of my former co-workers said "You had better copyright it" which made me wonder if I needed to and if I do, what kind of license do I give the charity?
posted by CodeMonkey to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Copyright is automatic. You don't need to do anything to have copyright.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think your former co-workers is confusing patents with copyright, as in they're saying you should legally protect the method of using Bing/Silverlight to find meeting locations. You probably won't be able to as you're re-using Microsoft technologies. However, if you're operating on any sort of contract with the charity, you could use a clause that says something along the lines of:

"I reserve the rights to any intellectual property, code or technology provided to you under the terms of this contract, unless explicitly granted to you."

IANAL, so there's probably more precise wording. Honestly I wouldn't worry too much about this unless you think this charity is likely to re-sell your technique to other charities or somesuch. If I read this right, you're working voluntarily anyway...
posted by Happy Dave at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2010

Please read the US Copyright Office's FAQ.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:32 AM on July 21, 2010

The license would presumably be perpetual and non-exclusive, but I just give the code to the client as a work for hire so I don't have to think about it after I'm done. What are you going to get out of a copyright on this, are you planning on becoming a charity-meeting-scheduling tycoon? My philosophy on work for other people is "done is done," I have enough of my own projects already, I don't need to track what's happening to more.
posted by rhizome at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2010

Response by poster: I am not expecting to make money. I do want to keep the code (I always want my code). I would be really irritated if someone in the future took that code and used it for commercial purposes though.
posted by CodeMonkey at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2010

IANAL, and if you want to be really sure you should hire one. That said, what I think you want is to sign a contract granting the charity a perpetual non-revocable non-transferable (they get to use it forever, no take backs, but they can't sell it to someone else) license to use your code, while keeping the actual ownership to yourself. You don't need to get all fancy and legalistic, just a common-sense piece of paper signed by yourself and someone there will most likely be enough.

If you want to allow other people to use it, you have lots of options for that; If you want to allow non-commercial use I would recommend the GPL.
posted by contrarian at 11:39 AM on July 21, 2010

I think Happy Dave has it. You need to get some kind of written statement acknowledging that you own the code and they have only limited rights to use it. Otherwise someday, someone you may not have met yet may decide or assume that the charity owns the code and you'll have a tough time establishing your rights. Because it will be your word against theirs.

If you're going to have that battle then now is the time to do it.
posted by 14580 at 11:51 AM on July 21, 2010

If you want to control how your code is used, you want to license it. Here is a decent intro to public, open source licenses. If you want to maintain control, you need to create a more specific license that prevents distribution and/or modification. Copyright is just one aspect.

For now, you should be putting a comment at the top of each file that asserts your copyright (e.g. "// Copyright 2010 CodeMonkey Warez, Inc. All Rights Reserved.").

Then you should consult an attorney.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:24 PM on July 21, 2010

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