I am currently a master's student and really glad that I learned almost everything about plagiarism prior to my master's thesis, I really want it to be perfect.

Anyway, I have an issue that has been lurking around my mind for a while, it wasn't a big deal before but I am currently making a huge moral deal out of it to the point of not deserving my BBA!

It is regarding my senior (or BBA graduation) project, I used to be a web developer well before taking any university courses, so when the time came for the senior projects, I was like: "Hey, I have that excellent web application (I worked on its codes for a month!) which I developed and sold 2 years before to a local organization, why not use it for the senior project?". I earned "very good" (a grade between 14 and 16 over 20) on it.

Did I infringe any copyright here since I already sold the web application to another party? Back then, I thought of this and since I wasn't a perfectionist, it was okay for me since I am ONLY using it for an academic (and not a financial) purpose. To clarify, it went like this: I developed the web application for the other party, they paid for it, I taught them how to use the web application and that's it, I never gave them the source code as I remember (this was 6 years ago). I discovered a few months later that they aren't using it anymore and went for another web application by another developer. One of the answers makes sense, I made the source code available for public (other students) when I submitted it for my graduation project, I feel guilty now that I did not think of this in this sense back then. What can I do to for making up? Does this affect, in any way, my credibility of holding this BBA?

  • It really depends on the specific parameters of the assignment (project): whether the instructor allows previously created work to be used to satisfy the requirements or whether "new" work is required. For example, when I did my senior project, I asked the instructor about this and he told me he doesn't allow me to use a project I developed for work. Other instructors might be fine with this. The only way to know is to ask the instructor (or other person responsible for overseeing the senior project.)
    – ff524
    Dec 21, 2015 at 23:40
  • 1
    (For the questions on copyright and ownership, it's not clear what you submitted, under what terms you transferred the copyright, and what you mean by "own" the project. If you edit the post to clarify those issues and remove the first question, which isn't answerable, I'll gladly reopen.)
    – ff524
    Dec 21, 2015 at 23:46
  • One issue I see is whether you submitted the source code of the project to the university. In all the universities I've been, it was a requirement to submit your code and make it available to other students or anyone that would like to access it in the university. The company that paid for the app wouldn't be very happy to find out that thousands of people have access to their app's source code.
    – electrique
    Dec 22, 2015 at 10:28
  • I've edited my post.
    – R. AS.
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


After your clarifications, I don't see that from the point of view of the company, you did anything wrong. Since you sold them the application and not the source code and since you didn't transfer your copyrights to them, or signed any contract saying you will not resell/reuse the app, there is no issue.

From the point of view of your university, it really depends. You reused previous work for your project and you will find people arguing on both sides of whether that's ethical (check Is reusing old code for a new assignment considered self plagiarism? How to protect yourself if you consider it to be, and a group partner does not?). In my opinion, it is not the best thing you can do because you are supposed to learn something new in your master thesis, but personally I don't find it unethical.

Moreover, your supervisor(s) must have realized it when you showed up with a finished/polished product, with a designer on the acknowledgments and without asking him/her any questions on how to get there. If he/she didn't realize, then he/she didn't really care.

If this is really eating you up, you can have someone else (maybe a current student at the same institute) send an email to your past supervisor and asking if it's OK to use material from previous work in ones master thesis. In any case, don't beat up yourself.

  • Thanks for the reply. Yes, nothing was official or written. But, since they own the .com hosting site, they could easily download the uploaded pages/source codes and view them, but I sold them the end-application and not exactly the code, it's just a religious organization. Allow me to clarify that it was for one of my 2 bachelors graduation projects and NOT the master thesis which I am working hard right now and out of scratch for it. (And this master thesis is based on my marketing degree and not the MIS (where I have the problem with the web app.) degree).
    – R. AS.
    Dec 22, 2015 at 20:20

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