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Web Development Thread, Reproduction and Copyright Issue in Coding and Web Development; I work at a school as an IT Technician and have recently undertook a massive task of producing an online ...
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    Reproduction and Copyright Issue

    I work at a school as an IT Technician and have recently undertook a massive task of producing an online tracking system for pupils grades, targets and test results. I have succesfully produced this and it is now being used by the school.

    I have been approached by a few members of staff asking me if i would be interested in creating a system if they moved school.

    My current version is owned by the school because i made it during working hours - what a swine, if i had created in my own time i could have sold it but copyright law says that it belongs to the school, not me - that the school own the copyright law for it and i cannot sell it.

    My question is, if i took the principle idea of storing data and accessing it through a web page, started from scratch and produced a newer, better version, could I be done for breaking copyright laws?

    Any help would be great as the school wont sign the rights for the copyright over to me. After all i've done for them they could of least of considered it for more than a split second.

    As a side point, can I reuse the name as it hasn't been trademarked?

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    contink's Avatar
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    Re: Reproduction and Copyright Issue

    Quote Originally Posted by the_travisty
    I work at a school as an IT Technician and have recently undertook a massive task of producing an online tracking system for pupils grades, targets and test results. I have succesfully produced this and it is now being used by the school.

    I have been approached by a few members of staff asking me if i would be interested in creating a system if they moved school.

    My current version is owned by the school because i made it during working hours - what a swine, if i had created in my own time i could have sold it but copyright law says that it belongs to the school, not me - that the school own the copyright law for it and i cannot sell it.
    .. That bit is correct and at least you recognise they paid for the time.. Like you say though, bit of a bugger from a personal point of view.

    My question is, if i took the principle idea of storing data and accessing it through a web page, started from scratch and produced a newer, better version, could I be done for breaking copyright laws?
    In all honesty you're not going to get what you need from this forum unless someone is a closet lawyer specialising in IP and related law. The only definitive answer that counts is one from such a professional so worth investigating costs, free advice, etc.. possibilities.

    Beyond that though, you do have a certain amount of leverage so I'd seriously consider playing hardball and refusing to incorporate any new features for your system or write documentation for it's upkeep until they show a willingness to renegotiate your contract terms. If nothing else the school are missing a golden opportunity to resell this technology or come to some agreement regarding share of profits if they were to sign over the rights to you.


    As for writing the new and improver version, my personal advice would be to:
    a) Make a complete copy of the existing software and have it stored with a solicitor.
    b) Completely clean the existing system from your home PC
    c) Start over from scratch with a new name, a completely new concept and never, ever take any of the work into school.

    Oh and refuse to do anything further to the school system beyond bug fixes (documented fully!).


    I somehow doubt the school will own the actual idea but they do own the final product as it currently stands.. But seriously take all of this with a huge pinch of Dead Sea and get proper legal advice.

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    Re: Reproduction and Copyright Issue

    IANAL, but have researched this for myself when working at Lancaster Uni. Software cannot be patented, which is the way to protect ideas. So, as long as your new software:

    1. Has absolutely nothing in it from the other one
    2. Never comes into school
    3. Is never on any school system (ie. your laptop)

    Also, ensure there isn't a clause in your contract which outlines that all IP created whilst in your schools employment belongs to the school - as this is a condition that a lot of companies include now for IT pro's.

    Other than that, I would advise speaking to a lawyer first.

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