Intellectual Property of building a Rails app

Hi, who typically owns the IP when building a rails app, the client or
the developer. I'm new to this and building a web site for a client
but in the contract(which I haven't signed yet) he is owning all of the
IP and granting me a nonexclusive license...

That is fairly common in the business world from my experience. When
someone contracts you for an application, its their property. Just
like building a house for someone, you don't own the house because you
built it - they paid you to do it.

If you owned the IP, then you would be able to prevent a future
contractor from changing what you've done. That's obviously a terrible
thing for the client, because it would mean that if you leave this
job, he would have to get someone else to do a complete re-write. So a
client who signs over the IP rights to you would actually be a bit

I disagree. If it is not discussed and written, the developer owns the

Also, just copyright the code. It cost you $45. That, in some cases,
has caused people that didn't even write the software to own the

Look at these and make your call:

Thanks for the responses, what if the IP is split, my intention is to
protect my database design and or code. Not to prevent any look and
feel changes etc... shouldn't I own at least that and grant the client
a license to use and change but not redistribute etc...?

I might want to reuse that code and or parts of that db structure for
another app...

I've read conflicting argument's on-line and some advice so far has
been that I should own the part of the IP.

thanks, I'll have a look at these links. I'm just trying to avoid a
mistake that will cost me money in the long run. The potential client
is a lawyer and one who wrote up the contract that I'm concerned about.
I should probably have it reviewed by a lawyer but they can be costly
and I wanted to do my own research first.

My number one suggestion is to print out the code, put it in an envelop
with a check and send it in to the copyright office. That possibly
might not cover you, but it is worth a shot...I'm no lawyer.

Just mail a few copies of it to yourself… The postmark from the Post Office should be enough to prove prior work, and once you have the case dismissed you can obtain proof of ownership that way. (poor man’s copyright).

Registering your works as Aaron suggested is probably more “official” though.

Without a doubt, get a lawyer if you are at all concerned. Even more
so if the contract was drawn up by a lawyer whose concern is not you.


I remember as a kid (15-20 years ago), that my brother wanted to
copyright his drawings, so someone advised him of the 'ol mail it to
yourself and the postmark is the copyright date trick. It does help, but
the truth is, you don't have to file for a copyright (patents and
trademarks yes, but not copyright). Think about newspapers and
magazines. What a nightmare to daily file. What about online content?
No one files because it isn't required. Its a myth. But when trying to
prove dates, the postmark trick is valid in court to prove your
timeline. Proving copyright being the key for the postmark.

I too have had the question about IP, and I've come to the conclusion
that it's a case by case basis, to some extent. I have re-useable code
that I make clear is mine, and not there's, and if they don't use my
services anymore, they don't own that part of the code. But if they
custom code, I try my best to negotiate the ownership of IP in our
favor, but if the client wants it (for very obvious reasons), then I
charge a premium for having to write it from scratch.

Our business model is complex, and varies, but it is partially to meet
the demands of the clients wishes with ownership. But do consult with a
software IP attorney (not just any attorney, but one that specializes in
Software IP), and have him help in negotiating and/or writing up

  ... just my 2 pennies in the wishing well

ahh, you made some very key points there. Especially about owning the
re-usable code, I was thinking of maybe granting a perpetual license
with terms that allows him to use it and modify for himself and his
business but not to redistribute and since I have ownership I can
re-use the code and do what I want otherwise he has the control and I
have to get permission etc...

I still need to get some advice from a software ip attorney as you
suggested just don't know if I have the loot to do so yet.

too many worries...

matt wrote:

Chris Conrey wrote:

That is fairly common in the business world from my experience. When
someone contracts you for an application, its their property. Just
like building a house for someone, you don't own the house because you
built it - they paid you to do it.

software or web sites developed by a contractor.

The way I read the links below the creator generally has ownership of a web site and the client should obtain either an Assignment of Copyright to the entire work or a license for use of specific portions and perhaps the right to make derivative works. The creator may wish to explicitly list items such as libraries or code techniques not specific to the client that may be used for other future clients.

As always, contact a *real* attorney for legal opinions. I'm just stating how I've read the links below.