Ask LH: Am I Allowed To Scrape Designs From A Company I Used To Work For?

Ask LH: Am I Allowed To Scrape Designs From A Company I Used To Work For?
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Dear Lifehacker, In my previous job I developed some Intellectual Property in the form of an online fitness challenge. I’m pretty proud of the work and wanted to get access to the files again. However I’m worried that I might be violating the code of conduct by trying to regain access to the material.

I don’t intend to distribute it for my own personal gain, rather I would like to have it as proof of concept in the event I need to apply for another position. I left on good terms, do you think I’d be able to get this work back? Kind regards, Nathan

Website design picture from Shutterstock

Dear Nathan,

As you’re doubtlessly aware, the creative output of contracted/salaried web designers usually becomes the legal property of the company that hired them. In other words, you can’t just reuse the same code for another job. Doing so could lead to accusations of plagiarism; especially if the interface, fonts and icons are highly similar.

We would advise against scraping the assets you worked on without asking permission first. If it’s just for a portfolio, your former employer may be willing to hand over the assets. The fact that you left on good terms will obviously work in your favour.

With that said, they might have an issue with you republishing the work in an online portfolio if it contains unrelated company assets such as logos and brand names. You may be required to alter the content so that the company isn’t mentioned in any way. Obviously, the same thing goes for third-party stock images — republishing those without a valid licence is obviously a bad idea.

One option is to set up a private portfolio behind a password that you give out to prospective clients. This may help to alleviate the company’s qualms about republishing the assets publicly. At the end of the day, the important thing is to ask permission. Apart from anything else, it’s just good manners. If anyone worked on the project alongside you, make sure their contributions are acknowledged as well.

If any web designers or developers are reading, please lend your expertise in the comments section below.


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  • However I’m worried that I might be violating the code of conduct by trying to regain access to the material.

    This is not just violating a code of conduct, you are also breaking copyright and intellectual property laws too. Any work done while being paid by the company belongs to the company, even if you were contracted. The works still belong to the company.

    You may also want to check your contracts that you would of signed when you started working at the company may also have a non-compete clause as well. So that will be worth checking too.

  • The fact you even need to ask this kind of question means you really don’t understand what you were doing (legally speaking, ownership) when you did the work.

    • You have to consider the general attitudes a lot of people have today towards downloading and sharing music, video, games, software etc. Is it really so surprising that this attitude carries over into the workplace?

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