How to protect code and project ideas?

Hi Friends!

Currently I am working on an idea for a software as a service and the project gets larger every week. I spend a lot of time, work and also some money to develop this idea. Soon I would like to work with unknown freelancers and I ask myself if there is any way to secure my code and my idea?

Everyone who is working on that project could just copy and paste the whole code base and steal my idea and all the code I have written. It would be very easy for them to just host the project on there own.

Please dont get me wrong, I think open source is great and we need to share code and knowlage, but I am indeed a bit concered that someone steals my idea and the code when I just make it publically available on Github.

Is there a way to protect code or do you think it is not neccessary?

Thanks for answers :slight_smile:

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This is the same as anyone working for anyone. Stealing is normally illegal, so someone employed by you who does that can be arrested. However

Ideas are cheap, and not particularly copyrightable. So yes, of course they could steal your idea. This is, again, the same as working for anyone. If the idea is stunningly unique and couldn’t be anything but yours, then in the tiny chance that the situation occurs, you would maybe have a case. But the overwhelming majority of people won’t steal you’re because it’s either not worth the effort (or not worth anything to them).

If the project is private and you had hired them to work on it, then this would be illegal. They would be stealing your property.

If you are open sourcing the code and the licence you use allows that then no-one would be stealing anything. The entire point would be to share it. If the licence you use is restrictive then no-one can do that and you can use legal action to stop them.

If you are creating some closed-source software, why would you put the code out in public? It makes no sense.


Thanks for your answer!

This means that it is usual to share the whole (private) code base with freelancers from around the world? So are my concerns overblown?

Sorry I dont mean “open source”… what i try to say is that I usually share my projects on Github via a public repository so everyone can download it but it is not open source.

Is it possible to also share private repositories on Github as well?

That is literally the definition of ‘open source’. The source code is open to the public.

Yes. You can add people as collaborators to the project on GitHub.

Ok I understand now. I never tried to share private repositories. Then I will make a private repository and share it with the freelancers.

Thank you for the help :smiley:

It all depends upon the goals. I do all of my work in public repositories - I don’t think I’ll be able to reasonably sell any of my code. Creating software that other people will want to purchase is unlikely with unpaid collaborators.

This is normal in any job: if someone is employed, they normally have access to whatever company property is necessary for them to do their jobs. So for example if you work in a shop, you have access to all the stock. But [I’d hope] it’s unlikely you’d steal that stock, even though it would be easy for you to do so.

It is something else to share a web project with an unknown freelancer on the other side of the world. They could steal the code without me realizing.

I am at the beginning of my carer and I worked a lot for this project and I need to outsource to freelancers form India/Pakistan to save some money. Thats why I have this concerns, not because someone in the same city or country has access to the project.

They can just copy the project and host it in a few minutes and what I can do about that? Talk to an indian lawyer? I dont even know there personal information. I am talking about Freelancing Jobs on Fiverr or Upwork.

That’s the risk literally anyone runs when using a freelancer. In practical terms though, it is pretty uncommon to have some freelancer or employee steal your code and sell it as a billion dollar idea.

Lets imagine you build a project like dropbox and therefore you need to hire freelancers,
so as the project is growing you run out of money and try to find cheap workers on platform like Fiverr. Is it common practice to give acces to the whole code base?

I am just curious, because I dont know how this normally works.

Anyway, I am not building the new dropbox :joy:

You get what you pay for. If your pay is crap, you will get lower quality work. Don’t cheap your freelancers or your employees. They are people, not revenue streams for you. Pay people well and they won’t want to cheat you.

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Also, services like this didn’t start by hiring lots of people (Dropbox was just two friends for a long time); much tech is the same. There are one or two people and they build something, generally related to their specific domain knowledge. Then if it’s successful, then they hire people. Maybe they hire a specialist for some non-tech parts when they’re still small (for example a designer), but the core part, that’s normally just one or two people solely working on that.

I’m not saying that’s relevant to you, but just that it’s not super common to just outsource everything from the get-go if it’s purely tech


I never said that people are revenue streams for me and I highly apprechiate everyones work and time. However I am self tought and the last year I spending my time studying with minimum income. At the moment I just dont have the possibility to pay the high prices for developers in my country. I worked for a minimum salary myself, just for the experience and to go on with my journey, so I know this situation.

Thats good to know. As far as I know, Dropbox developers worked in Thailand to save some money and that is what I did as well, because otherwise it is really hard to pay for all the expenses without going in depth, specially at the beginning when people work on there own ideas for a long time.

If you can’t afford to pay freelancers or employees well, that’s probably a sign that your idea isn’t mature enough to warrent those expenses. You being self taught has no relationship to if the employees or freelancers should be well paid. Working for a minimum salary and experience might have been enough for you, but that’s the sort of thing a founder does, not an employee or freelancer.

Freelancers in India and Pakistan make their own prices, it´s not that I make prices for them. I am talking about Freelancing Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. Actually it is a great advantage to work for cheaper prices then western freelancers, because they can get a lot of jobs and compared to the salery in there country it is way above average.

Most of these freelancers can keep nearly 100% of there income, freelancers from EU/US need to pay around 40% tax and have higher costs of living. This is not a bad thing, it is simply arbitrage and this dosnt have something to do with exploitation.

My point still remains, if you are worried about freelancers stealing from you, pay them well avoid that. If you can’t afford to pay them well, your project isn’t mature enough to handle employees or freelancers. Also, if you go for the cheepest contractors, you will get the cheepest work.

Definitely and that has its justification.

Hey @kazooi, one thing:

I spend a lot of time, work and also some money to develop this idea.

Have you validated your idea with people/your audience? Do people already use your software? Have you experimented with use cases for your software?

There are many questions that come into mind when you state how much time, work, and money you’ve put into this.

I think it’s important to get feedback as early as possible on project ideas you intend to make money with. You don’t want to spend time and money on something that you don’t know will even work.

Aim to validate your idea with people/your audience first. If idea validation is successful, gain an understanding of the market you’re entering then create the minimum viable product (MVP). When you get feedback from the audience on your MVP, that’s when you start making changes, adding features, and investing more money/time into it.


@jmoore197 Thank you!

This is a great advice and I think you are right. I dont want to hide something, but actually a lot of people dont belive in this idea, so I dont talked to much about it. First I need to finish some tests to see if it works as expected and then I will talk more about it.

I need to say that I am still at the beginnig and I just work on that for two months and it is also a learning project for me. However there is a deep thought process involved for the last one or two years which is neccessary in order to make it work. As you said the MVP is ready soon and then I know more and if it works as expected then people maybe get interested and I can go on.

Yes I guess you are right, however when I listen to other people then I should just get a normal job as soon as possible and stop working on my own ideas.

Yes I guess you are right, however when I listen to other people then I should just get a normal job as soon as possible and stop working on my own ideas.

I am not telling you to stop working on your own ideas. In fact, I encourage you to stay persistent on your SaaS ideas or any other project ideas you want to make money with. It is much better to fail fast than to work years on perfecting something that may not see the light of day.

If you want to make money in the industry, you must create quality software. This means you may need to go through several ideas, and projects before you actually start making money.

These are just my observations based on researching successful SaaS products in the market. They all solve at least 1 problem. Your product must do that too.

Stay persistent and don’t give up just because one of your ideas isn’t valid in the market. You will encounter failure but you could see it as a learning opportunity and decide to push through it.

All the best and happy coding! :tada: