[thelist] Copyright Issues

Judah McAuley judah at wiredotter.com
Tue Jun 15 00:36:30 CDT 2004

Wes Reed wrote:
> So my questions are .....
> How common is this sort of licensing practice?  We know people who do 
> the same but I am wondering if we are just a small minority.
> If you do this, do you have suggestions about how to make this palatable 
> to the client?

I've certainly done this in the past with companies I've worked with. 
I've not really run into problems with clients excepting it and 
understanding it. I'd make an analogy for them: I'm going to sell you a 
hammer. I don't care what you build with the hammer. I'm not going to 
claim ownership over anything you build with that hammer. I am, however, 
going to sell other people hammers. My selling a hammer to another 
person does not make your hammer less useful to you and does not impair 
its value in any way. It's still a really nice hammer and you should go 
hit some nails with it now. Or hit screws for all I care, its your 
hammer, go nuts :)

There have been a couple of situations where I've done significant 
custom work for a client that was pretty industry specific and have 
agreed to not pursue selling those things to that clients competitors. 
Those type of agreements obviously are more expensive.

And finally, if they really really want to own the code, have copyright, 
not just own their own copy of the code, then I'd tell them how I'd 
arrive at a price. I'd explain that I've spent this long developing the 
code thus far and have sold it (or parts of it) this many times to 
clients. Technology has a useful life span, so toss out a number of, 
say, 2 years of useful shelf life for that code. They are asking you to 
then give up X number of contracts based on what you've done in the past 
and furthermore, they are making you spend Y amount of hours developing 
a whole new code base that doesn't incorporate the code you are selling 
them. Add on pain and suffering and you've arrived at a figure that 
represents the "true cost" of your code. That should convince most 
clients that they are getting a better deal by listening to you. If the 
client wants to pay that and essentially buy you out, then you can buy 
me a beer for helping you figure out a fat number to give them :)


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