If you leave a company after being in the IT department as a programmer or just as someone who had intimate knowledge of computer systems, you better be careful when switching to new company. Learning the law is vital in order to avoid being prosecuted by your former employer.

You can’t take secrets with you from one company to another. This seems like it should just be common sense, but a programmer, who made a million dollars per year, has served time for doing just that, so maybe it needs to be said.

After leaving a company that he had earned him millions upon millions of dollars, a now famous programmer was handed down an eight-year prison sentence. The ruling was later overturned, but he still spent time in the slammer. This time could have been avoided with slightly different business tactics.

Leaving the company made sense since a start up was willing to pay him more for his services coding the same types of programs. The problem is that while fixing code for his new employer, the programmer violated some open-source laws by using a program called Subversion. It allowed him to take some code he had written for his previous employer along with him.

What he did was pretty common in the programming industry.  To those outside of the field, they looked pretty shady. It led to his arrest just a month after changing companies. It didn’t help that he had erased his keystroke history, but the reason he did that, he claims, was to keep his password safe.

He also claims not to care about the money and seems innocent enough. Regardless of how he felt, however, his former employer obviously decided the money was everything and wanted payback for the perceived betrayal – IT is a competitive enough field without losing your best programmer.