[quote name='bschmidt1962' timestamp='1347383827' post='4978963']
[quote]But now as I understand it I have the derivative work, but does that mean that, for example, I can choose to not allow my work to be used, and force a reversion to the original work?[/quote]
It's not quite that simple.
What happened is that you and whomever paid you [b]did [/b]have a contract. It may not have been written down,but clearly since someone started writing you checks and you started writing code, there was some sort of agreement. You knew what to write, they knew how much to pay you.
Since it was not a [b][i]written [/i][/b]agreement, it gets very hard. If there is a dispute (which reading between the lines, it sounds like there is), then the way disputes are settled in such cases in in the courts. Either you sue them because they're using "your" code, or they sue you for their money back if you're not handing over the code you wrote, etc.
What will then happen is that a Judge will have to create a contract for you, after the fact, based on what you say, what they say and whatever evidence (email thread, logs, notes, etc). And they will decide who owns the code.
Although I would advice contacting a lawyer versed in copyright and contracts law, I have to believe that if someone gave you some instructions on what code to write, wrote checks for you to write it and then you wrote that code, it would be difficult to believe the agreement between you was anything but a "Work for Hire" agreement. A judge would look at all of the facts and then judge what would be a reasonable contract.
Although I suggest you contact an attorney (there-I've said it 4 times:)), if they paid you a reasonable rate (in the normal range for "work for hire" programming) and you accepted their money, I think you'd have an uphill case saying it wasn't a work for hire.
But to answer your question with a much more simple answer:
If you write code and get paid for it, but don't have a written contract, that does NOT mean that you automatically own what you've written.
Edit for clarification. What I [b][i]should [/i][/b]have written was: If you write code and get paid for it and don't have a written contract it does not mean that you would automatically win if you were sued (for example, if you then sold/licensed it to someone else). It was a certainly huge error on the part of the person who is paying you to not ensure that you had a contract.
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Thanks for that, pretty clear and concise. I'm sorry if I'm coming off pretty clueless about this, it's just that it is a situation I didn't expect to find myself in, and really need all the advice I can get to make informed decisions. Just to give a couple more details: I'm not using the company's tools, and to make matters even more complex, I'm actually being paid by a third party, not the people who give me instructions on code to write. Also what happens if the pay is far less than the standard work-for-hire rate? To clarify though, this isn't about money as such, I'm just wondering how it affects the issue.
[quote name='samoth' timestamp='1347385087' post='4978978']
[quote name='fs86' timestamp='1347325271' post='4978747']as it has become pretty important recently, for details I can't and won't go into.[/quote]To me, this reads a bit like "I now have an offer from a direct competitor and since I wrote that stuff and there's no written contract, I'd reuse what I have, and sell to them". Don't correct me if I'm wrong, and don't tell me if I'm right -- just saying what this looks like.
If it is anything like that, stay away from that idea, for your own good. Don't even talk about it. Seriously.
I know you said don't correct you, but when you posted that I realised that's how it is coming across, and that's REALLY not the case. I've not been approached by anyone, nor do I want to sell the code to another party. Sorry I can't go into details, but let's just keep it vague with it has everything to do with working practices and conditions, and decisions being made about the code.