I'm a developer building a portfolio for new job applications, and am tempted to publish (putting up on github publicly) some libraries that have been byproducts of projects done in my current job.

The projects are general purpose, and do not contain any company secrets. I have been the sole contributor to the code.

My question is, do I need permission from the company even if my work contract does not specify anything about the company owning anything i create on their time?

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    They paid you for the code. IANAL but I think that makes it theirs, not yours.
    – Summer
    Aug 6, 2019 at 16:16
  • Could you tell us where you are located? Certainly in the UK and Australia anything created "during the course of employment" is generally going to default to being the companies intellectual property even in the absence of a specific clause. In the US it's more of a grey area.
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 6, 2019 at 16:46
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    @motosubatsu: in EU. First instinct for me is that it's their IP, but then i thought it's maybe just general practice to always mention this in contracts when mine does not.
    – tonsteri
    Aug 6, 2019 at 17:06
  • @bruglesco guess it's that simple.
    – tonsteri
    Aug 6, 2019 at 17:07
  • You question is somewhat contradictory: " I have made under my current company." ... " anything I create on their time ". So, which one is it? Did you write the software while on the course of your duties (using company resources) or are they unrelated to your job, done one your time, without using any of the company resources? Either way, checking with your direct supervisor might not be a bad idea, "legally allowed" isn't the same as "best course of action". Aug 6, 2019 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


If you did the work for your company, or in company time, or using company equipment, then it is extremely likely that the company owns that code, not you. In some cases the company will own it just because you were employed by them at the time you wrote it. If you publish them without permission then you are violating company confidentiality and publishing company secrets. People can be and have been fired and/or prosecuted for doing that.

You should absolutely get the company's permission before doing this (and in writing). Anything else leads to some potentially very serious downsides for you.

If they deny you permission and go ahead anyway then you are laying yourself open to severe disciplinary action, possibly including termination (and with a reference that says you stole company IP), and in extreme cases legal action.

  • Thanks. I plan to ask for permission, but wanted some opinions in the very likely case they refuse.
    – tonsteri
    Aug 6, 2019 at 17:56
  • 1
    If you ask and they say no and you do it anyway, what do you think their response is going to be? Aug 6, 2019 at 18:02
  • @dj: Not sure if they would try any legal action. But I'm pretty sure they would never notice unless I told them about it.
    – tonsteri
    Aug 6, 2019 at 18:05
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    If you don't identity yourself possibly not. But be aware of the very substantial risk you are taking. And remember that if your company finds you have violated their confidentiality in a small matter, they may assume you can't be trusted with more serious matters. Aug 6, 2019 at 18:09
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    And if a future employer finds out you stole IP from a past employer, they won't trust you either. You aren't just risking the relationship with your current employer, you're risking your career.
    – Seth R
    Aug 6, 2019 at 18:20

Don't do it. The usefulness of such "portfolio" to your ability to obtain future employment is essentially zero. And your tendency to give away your employer's property to the public, for poorly though-out reasons to boot, will be a big red flag to your future employers.

You have your CV/Resume, you have your references. Since you were not fired from your last job after 3 months, every reasonable hiring manager will safely assume that you indeed have the skills and the experience that you listed on your Resume.

If they need a further evaluation, they will find a way to test your skills in a way that benefits their unique situation. Analyzing somebody's old code is usually not it.

If your interviewer has specific questions regarding technical aspects of your previous job - impress them with your good memory, good technical knowledge and excellent communication skills - by quickly and intelligibly summarizing your achievements on a white board.

Nobody will have time to look at the source code that "fell out of the back of a truck" of your former employer.

Edit: includes an answer to Tonsteri question below.


The application forms you are filling are generic forms to serve for all types of candidates. If someone was working on Open Source projects, or is an independent consultant and shares his solutions with the public as means of self-promotion, or worked for a company that encourages "tinkering on the side", then they have a "portfolio". However if you spend 10h a day doing proprietary UML designs and writing proprietary code for Big Pharma, then obviously there is no public "portfolio".

A competent hiring manager knows all this (and trust my 20 years as a Solutions Architect and Software Engineer: you don't want to work as a junior-to-mid-level personnel for people who don't know what they are doing). The worst thing you can do is having a "forced" portfolio made of your employer's code, where no reasonable manager would expect you to have one. It shows a lack of common sense and poor judgement. If you want to have a real portfolio - get involved in some Open Source project, or just create some libraries that provide useful functionality that people ask for online.

  • 1
    Are you a recruiter of do you have experience on this? My experiences are quite different - all the applications forms I have filled so far expect code samples and/or github link or public portfolio
    – tonsteri
    Aug 7, 2019 at 8:02
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    And to clarify, I'm not asking if I should publish code "behind the company's back", I'm asking if I have any rights to do so if my boss does not want to cooperate.
    – tonsteri
    Aug 7, 2019 at 8:05
  • This doesn't address the question, but I think it's the most useful answer, so +1 for "don't do it because...". Also, I had an contract interview last year where they did walk through code from the previous position using my laptop, asking how it solves specific problems. I had to specifically get permission to do this. But you're right its almost unheard of. That was the first and only time so far in 30+ years.
    – Justin
    Aug 7, 2019 at 11:29
  • Hello, Justin. I hope you got that contract... :-) Obviously I don't know how your specific interview went, however I am generally wary of companies that use interviews to obtain free consulting to solve specific problems in their current projects and I am not shy to express my apprehension. Aug 7, 2019 at 15:47
  • Obviously I don't have an issue in demonstrating my general tech knowledge of "common knowledge solutions", but if they want some hard-won proprietary knowledge: I will draw high-level diagrams on the white board, I will demo the code, but if they want specifics: they know the hourly rate... :-) Aug 7, 2019 at 15:54

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