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In the company I work at I was assigned a task that requires the use of a particular software. During the research phase I found that there are very, very few tutorials on how to operate it. I have been self-studying the software and exploring documentation, which took me quite some time.

I had an idea that I could make tutorials on YouTube regarding this software, not regarding my assignment, but rather how to use generic functions and how to operate this software in general. I presented my manager with this idea, and he said he does not want me to do it, because then other people could learn how to use this software and make their own products.

Can he legally force me not to do this, if I use the knowledge I acquired during work, but the tutorials are not connected my assignment?

And in general - Is this a normal thing? And should I have even asked?

  • Of course you should not do this (assuming your team is not open source). Open-sourcing tutorials is just like open sourcing code. Obviously you don't do it if your team is not open source. (if your team is open source, of course you can do it.) – Fattie Apr 8 at 13:16
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The short answer is: Check your contracts, but in your case, I believe your manager gave you correct advice.

[...]if I use the knowledge I acquired during work[...]

If the software was made available to you by the company, and you self-studied it in company-paid time, the ownership belongs to the company. Any documentation / presentation you may create may (and likely to be) still be owned by the company.

You were right to ask your manager.

Since they explicitly forbid you to try publishing in Internet (YouTube or otherwise), and you're not absolutely sure [1] you're not restricted from doing that by the employment agreement, it's better to listen to your manager.


[1]: By means of professional help, from a registered lawyer.

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    I don't believe this is correct, legally. Knowledge acquired during work is not automatically property of the company. The only way this would be illegal is if creating such tutorials either used copyrighted materials (e.g. screenshots, logos, documentation) or necessarily revealed corporate secrets. – forest Apr 9 at 0:41
  • @forest I'm not a lawyer, however, if this is a case I'd face, as I mentioned in the first place, I'll check the contract. There are weird clauses, sometimes. I'd rather not take a step about which I am not sure on the legal part and any supervisor has disallowed it explicitly. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 9 at 7:33
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    @SouravGhosh and none of such clauses would ever hold up in a western european court. No company has ownership over employee 'knowledge'. At most you can have an NDA. Where it can go wrong is that you use company provided tools (i.e. the software) to create the tutorial, making ownership a bit less clear (your personal time, their tools) – KillianDS Apr 9 at 7:50
  • @KillianDS That's what I said, is not it? If the software was made available by company, and the tutorials are created using that software and the knowledge gained by the company paid time - the materials belong to the company. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 9 at 7:52
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    I think it's easy to misinterpret "the knowledge gained by the company paid time belongs to the company" as "the intrinsic experience you have acquired while working belongs to the company". Might wanna clear that up since you mean produced knowledge under company time (guides, papers, code, etc). – lucasgcb Apr 9 at 9:15
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Just to play devil's advocate, if the software itself isn't a company secret literally nothing keeps you from writing a guide, Medium Article, etc on your spare time, specially under an alias.

Granted, it's wise to have a personal copy of the tool if you are to follow through with using pictures of even adding a video, doing so with a company license would be a terrible idea.

Outside of that, imagine if engineers on SE were to pay royalties to every company they've worked for in the case they share knowledge on tools they've used, like how to use a programming library or an electric drill. It's nonsense and a good chunk of this website would not exist if that logic were to hold.

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Your manager said that "he does not want me to do it". Regardless if he can force you to not do it, regardless if his position is correct, or fair, or what not, doing something that your manager explicitly told you not to do is a very poor choice - it is the first step in a process which will inevitably end up with you looking for another job.

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    @Abigail - I'll admit that I have zero knowledge about employment law in the Netherlands. That said, there are many ways that someone can make your life miserable without breaking the law. – dan.m was user2321368 Apr 8 at 20:56

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