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What should you do if your company's code is stolen and being publicly reused without permission?

thetuftii profile image Claire Pollard ・1 min read

I really hate being negative on the web, it goes against every thread of my being, but something came up this weekend that really irked me.

A friend, who shall remain nameless, has spent a long time building up their company and providing code libraries for people who compete in their events. The libraries are very specific to the event, and really have taken time and effort for their developer to write (I'm talking months of development time). You pay to enter into the event and the code is given to you to use in the event exclusively. The entry fee is used to stream the events online, provide support and do all the admin for the event.

Someone who shall remain nameless, has paid to enter the event, they've taken the code libraries for the event, uploaded them to a public GitHub repo, and started running their own version of the event using the code.

My friend has approached this person and asked kindly for them to stop doing it, they did stop for a while (and kept trying to convince my friend to open source the library, which my friend didn't want to), but we have recently found out they are doing it again and running events using the code without permission.

My friend feels pretty helpless and doesn't know what to do next as the person copying the code is quite well known in their community.

What should my friend do?

UPDATE: My friend emailed the copying party and threatened DMCA and they took the Github repos down and apologised. Thank you for all your advice and support ❤️

Posted on by:

thetuftii profile

Claire Pollard

@thetuftii

C++ backend developer for Imagen

Discussion

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Since your friend has written the code, he has the copyright, so he could try filing a DMCA Takedown Request for it to be taken down by Github.

 

This seems like the right first step. Your friend seems to be in a good position to take legal action, but getting tied up in litigation isn't the most pleasant experience.

There's also the court of public opinion. If the infringing party does not want their reputation injured, putting the issue in the spotlight could be an effective move.

 

That was going to be my friends next step, but we don't know what to do about physically running the events. Now they has a copy of the code, they can just keep doing it whether we do the takedowns or not.

 

I agree. GitHub processes lots of DMCA take-down requests (505 in 2015), so I expect they have learned to process them quite well. They have a page explaining the process: help.github.com/articles/dmca-take...

 

Since the person is well-known in the community, it might be a good idea for your friend to go public with this information. Not like doxxing or anything, just a blog post or something saying "Please be aware that so-and-so is using my code without permission for this-and-that, the only legitimate use of this code is in my event, xyz". It can be intimidating to call out well-known people but if they're doing this to your friend, they are probably doing it to someone else as well.

 

I agree that this could be the most effective course of action. And you've got us as an ally in this dispute 😊

 

Awww, you guys! @taghatle This is probably what they'll end up doing. Just have to wait for the right time/message. I think my friend is kind of hoping they'll do the right thing. I'm not so convinced...

 

I was in a similar situation recently - someone has stolen my code and published "their own" Android app full of ads.
I complained to Play Store, and they removed the app.
But I'd also like to know more about what else can be done.

I wrote a blog post about this experience, full of rant:) smartpuffin.com/someone-asked-me-t...

 

Read your blog Lenor thank you, and I'm really sorry it happened to you too! :( And this was part of the issue for my friend. His company is only small (2 employees and 1 volunteer) and the person copying is part of a much larger consultancy firm with large social reach, and they run events for free promoting their work, and this is where the code is being used.

 

You really feel like you're being bullied at school, and there's nothing you can do, right? :(
I'm sorry it happened to your friend, Claire. And I agree with the commenters here: your friend should at least call the names and raise visibility on this issue. This way at least some justice will be served.

 

DMCA to github will remove the code but won't change their behaviour.

legal letter to the person involved, then court if your friend feels particularly aggrieved, but they should be prepared for any backlash from it...

 
 

Time vs. Money. My friend doesn't have the finances to go suiting up for this as time needs to be dedicated to running business/events.

 

yeah, well...I don't know what else you can do

 

You're located in the UK, right? Is the infringing party also located there? I imagine this gets a lot hairier if it is international.

 

Yup. He's located in the US, my friend is in the UK.