Reader JohnForDummies alerts us to yet another example of extreme "ownership culture" found in a Stack Overflow query from a guy who works in IT for a school district. The school district needed to export a list of all its students every year to send to a company that handles their online exams -- and for years (before this guy was hired in IT), the district had contracted out the process to a guy who charged them $500 per year, to basically write and then run an SQL query that exported the data. Each year, all he had to do was change the date, but he still charged them $500. So the IT guy figures that he can change the date himself, but noticed that the contractor had put a nice copyright notice in the file
// This code was writtend by [the guy]
// and is the property of [his company]...Copyright 2005,2006,2008,2009
// This code MAY NOT BE USED without the expressed written consent of
// [his company].
The Stack Overflow community basically suggested that the best course of action is to rewrite the query (even potentially asking the Stack Overflow community via a separate entry, with the details of what the query needs to do), but it does raise some basic questions about whether or not an SQL query can be covered by copyright. The answer, tragically, might be more complicated than it needs to be, but assuming that the query wasn't anything really out of the ordinary, it's difficult to see how a single SQL query, by itself, would be considered unique enough to be covered by copyright. However, I'm sure there will be differences of opinion here, so let's see if any of our copyright lawyer readership would like to weigh in on this one... As for the IT folks, it would be interesting to see what people think of the idea of copyrighting a single SQL query for something like this.