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  1. I have created a project for use in my other office projects and I am the only author of it.
  2. My project does not use any code from any of my organization's products or its licensed projects.
  3. My manager did not ask for it (directly or indirectly) and is not even aware of the project.
  4. Our company doesn't seem to have any open source projects till date. So, I would like to publish my project on my personal GitHub account.

Is it ethical to make my project open source?

Two conflicting points of view are:

  1. Ethical: Since I am also giving my project to be used in the company's products (including those which I develop) and open sourcing it doesn't have any negative business impact.

For example, it is like Google and its open source Gson project. Gson project is open-sourced but doesn't seem to have any notable direct impact on Google's business

  1. Unethical: Because the company's resources (PC, electric power, Internet etc) are used. So the company is part of it.

However, many people use company's resources for personal activities, for example, using company's Internet for WhatsApp. When this is okay, then the former will also be okay.

  1. Should I ask my manager or team lead? What if they do not consent for it?
  2. The main question, is it ethical or unethical?
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    If the code was written in the companies time - it is not your project. End of story. – Ed Heal Nov 4 at 15:16
  • This has to do with the contract between you and your employer. Ethical or not, you may have a legal concern you want to figure out before considering anything else. – JRodge01 Nov 4 at 15:19
  • @EdHeal Unless its published as a open source project, with permission from one's boss. – Jonast92 Nov 4 at 15:22
  • Chances are its theirs this is fairly common practice, but its also common to have this baked into employment contracts so I'd look at that too. – UIO Nov 4 at 15:25
  • "a project for use in my other office projects", but no one is aware of it? Is it a tool for something? Is it related to your work domain, or is it just something generic you use at work (for example, you wrote your own calculator or git tool)? Did you write it on work time? – Nathan Cooper Nov 4 at 15:28
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It's not your code. If you developed it during work time, it belongs to your employer, not you. You cannot legally open source it. Your employer can, but not you. If you think it should be open sourced, you should talk to your manager about it, but because you wrote it for them, it's their call, not yours.

The answer to your main question: it's not one of ethics, it's of legality. It's not your property, you cannot open source it.

  • generally speaking, unless there is an explicit written agreement to the contrary, copyright assignment for any work you produce for work purposes, or using work equipment, or on work time belongs to your employer. In order for you to own the code you produce you have to do it on your own time, using your own hardware, and it cannot be relevant to your employer at all. If any of those conditions aren't met, it belongs to your boss. – eskaife Nov 4 at 15:23
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If you were to do this without getting permission then it's clearly unethical.

GSON is a false equivalency - Google developed it then they chose to open source it. If your employer was to chose to open source this then that would be the same thing.

I am also giving my project to be used in the company's products (including those which I develop) and open sourcing it doesn't have any negative business impact.

Unless of course they want to use that project's code in anything they develop - because that could then (depending on the license used) require them to release those projects under open source as well.

Because the company's resources (PC, electric power, Internet etc) are used.

Yep, you also missed probably the biggest company resource that was used - your time. Which they are paying you for. This means it's not your code - it's the company's code.

many people use company's resources for personal activities, for example, using company's Internet for WhatsApp. When this is okay, then the former will also be okay.

Yeah it doesn't work like that - one thing being okay or not doesn't mean that all things are the same.

Should I ask my manager or team lead? What if they do not consent for it?

Ask them, they might surprise you. But if they say no, don't do it.

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As already answered, due to the fact that the project was written on company time it is their property. Therefore do not post it before you get an approval from your manager.

If posting this project would reveal anything that was supposed to stay within the company, or there is a possibility that a competitor could take advantage of it or that code will be used in something they develop - do not ask your manager for permission.

Otherwise, tell them that this project could perhaps shed some positive light on the company as well (by supporting open source). You could then agree whether you would post it and mention the company you work for or they would post it and acknowledge you as the author.

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    Honestly, approval from the manager isn't even enough. You'd need approval from legal. – eskaife Nov 4 at 15:33

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