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Recently in order to expand our products, we have had to bring in external contractors, especially those working remotely. Some of the tasks involve porting an existing application on one platform to another.

In order to effectively port some of these applications, sharing existing code with the contractor is inevitable. Yet, this is the most risk taking things of all. How do you share code / your livelihood, with a contractor and ensure it's not misused or recreated in another project? All I know, they could cancel the contract after a few weeks and go on and develop their own app using the stolen code.

I realize vetting and interviewing trust worthy candidates is the first step, but after having done that, what steps can be taken to ensure your code is safe from being reproduced illegally?

closed as off-topic by Willl, Mark Phillips Sep 6 '15 at 22:41

  • This question does not appear to be about the practice or profession of project management within the scope defined in the help center.
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  • Hi & welcome to PMSE. Have a look on the tour page in order to learn how this site works. – Tob Sep 5 '15 at 20:09
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not really a project management question as such. This is about IP protection which is either a legal question or a technical question (neither of which are appropriate for PMSE). – Willl Sep 6 '15 at 13:54
  • I would disagree though, as it's got everything to do with project management. During the course of managing a project, one needs to know/learn how to manage / share their intellectual property whilst getting the most out of the contractor they're managing. It's not a legal question per say. Legally one could sign 20 different contracts, but here I was asking how you'd ensure your code does not get stolen, i.e. how do you engage with contractors and take steps (personal relationships) to ensure they stay loyal to you. – strangetimes Sep 7 '15 at 0:11
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    Not every problem that a project manager has to solve is a project management problem... – Marv Mills Sep 7 '15 at 8:05
  • How do you stop an on-site contractor stealing all your code? I have (because I need to have) tonnes of customer code on my machine. You're not going to be able to work effectively with people you can't trust. Developement on restricted computers will result in having slower development that cost more per hour, I wouldn't consider it lightly. – Nathan Cooper Sep 8 '15 at 9:10
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As usual, you can just increase the effort one has to invest to steal from you. There is never 100% security. Your employees might copy and sell your code.

Nevertheless, there are multiple possibilities but they could be divided in legal, technical/physical, and strategic

Legal:

  • Put a clear IPR and usage right statement in the contract
  • Put the IPR statement in the code
  • Request certifications

Technical / physical

  • Provide object code instead of source code
  • Provide interface descriptions instead of code
  • Provide the office and / or development tools like restricted computers, e.g. no USB, no internet despite Stack Exchange :)

Strategic

  • Implement a supplier development strategy
  • Offer long term relationships to downgrade the quick-win "business case"

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