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Re: Code Samples and Previous Employers

by EdwardG (Vicar)
on Mar 21, 2005 at 16:32 UTC ( #441227=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Code Samples and Previous Employers

I would not expect a candidate to provide real code from previous employment unless that code was explicitly in the public domain.

On the other hand, I would very much expect a candidate to be able to re-use the conceptual frameworks gained in previous employment. This is one of the benefits of experience.

Copyright protects the tangible form of original creations, it does not protect intangibles such as knowledge of a framework.

And I disagree with perrin. This is not merely an "annoying corporate attitude" but an issue of respecting the legal and ethical rights of a previous employer.


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Re^2: Code Samples and Previous Employers
by perrin (Chancellor) on Mar 21, 2005 at 18:06 UTC
    Your comment about reusing conceptual frameworks sounds much more like a potential violation of copyright and non-compete agreements than the sort of thing I'm talking about -- showing someone a little piece of code from a database connection factory class or some such. No one would be able to gain significant business value from stealing the sort of isolated samples that interviewees have shown me over the years, but they could certainly benefit from getting a former Amazon employee to reveal the entire inner-workings of their page-generation system.

      You can't violate copyright by telling someone what you know, but you can violate copyright by copying something for which you don't own the copyright. A non-compete agreement is something else.


        You can't violate copyright by telling someone what you know

        Yes, technically you can, depending on where in the world you live, and what you do. For example, under Canadian copyright law, you can only read a "reasonable portion" of a book out loud: even though reading out loud doesn't make a copy, and certain tells someone what you know about the book. If you completely re-word each passage, you may or may not be okay. After all, translations into another language usually change almost every word of the original text, but they are still legally considered "derivative works".

        In short, copyright law here is nasty, confusing, and horribly nebulous: the courts decide almost everything, like what a "reasonable portion" is, or whether your new version consists of a "significant part" of the original. You'll stay on the right side of the law only if you memorize a lot of case law, have a very good IP lawyer, and/or carefully guess how the judge will rule. Unfortunately, the Copyright Act itself is just a very crude jumping off point; the actual law is inside the minds of the judges who enforce it.

        -- AC

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