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  1. #1

    Angry UK Law on copyright?

    Anyone familiar with UK law on copyright?

    My client hired a "web designer" to make and set up a simple company website, but everything turned a bit sour when they realised the designer knew nothing about web design. They were given something that looks like it had been made in paint. They still paid the designer for the domain, hosting and time but now are stuck, because he's holding onto their .com domain (they have the .co.uk domain) and hosting.

    Hosting isn't a major problem, nor the material he originally made (which he is also withholding as he claims it copyrighted to him) but the domain definitely is. As whilst they have the .co.uk domain, all their email's are through the .com domain, so is a massive pain if he decided to the delete, forward, impersonate etc.

    They've tried to talk to the hosting company (which the domain was also registered with) but as they are getting two conflicting sides of the argument have locked the account so no changes can be made until my client and the original designer are both in-agreement of an outcome.

    From where I'm standing, I've always thought if you contract someone to design something for you, it becomes your legal property. And as far as the domain goes, they have a paid invoice from him for it, so should it not be legally theirs aswell?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
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    You can complain the US domain authorities, (with a lawyer will set you back about $1,900+). Your best bet might be a quick note sent to the designer who is holding the domain from a local solicitor, which will set you back anywhere from 190gbp to 350gbp.

    Typically this sort of stuff happens with newbie/freelance designers. When he/she gets a legal letter by registered mail threatening legal action and damages the situation should change quickly.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
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    You should have an original copy of the order and receipt
    This will state what goods (Domain Names) and services (Hosting and Website Design) were paid for

    I would send a formal request by Royal Mail Recorded delivery
    Require that the Domain Names have their registrant details updated and corrected within 14 days
    This should include the email address (as supplied)
    Alternatively, for the .com it should be unlocked and the EPP key sent to the email address (as supplied), and for the .uk it should have the new ISPTAG applied (as supplied)

    You could also argue further about the website design, as ordered by you or your company, being owned by the same
    Personally, I wouldn't bother, as you or your company will still own the images and logos you supplied to them
    Later (once the Domain Name issue is resolved) you can then contact their ISP and request the images and logos are removed (which most will do within 7 days)

    If the provider fails to conform or respond, send a second request
    If there is no further response, then proceed to Small Claims Court, you can then obtain an order for return of property PLUS consequential losses (including loss of income and costs)
    Once this is in place, you can then proceed to claw back the Domain Names, through Nominet and the relevant provider (for .com)

    However, you could probably claw back the Nominet Domain Name already
    If it is registered in your name, but not your email address, then contact Nominet
    Equally, you may find you are able to login to Nominet with your email address
    However, taking the matter further with Nominet may cost money
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by raininglemons View Post
    From where I'm standing, I've always thought if you contract someone to design something for you, it becomes your legal property.
    Depends on the contract. You do have one, right?

    And as far as the domain goes, they have a paid invoice from him for it, so should it not be legally theirs aswell?
    More or less, yes. If the domain was registered to your client with their details showing in the whois, I would go to the domain registrar (the hosting company may have registered it, but, they may simply be a reseller - they might not be the ICANN registrar that ultimately controls the domain), who will often normally ask for ID and then move the domain to an account you could access and control.
    Alasdair

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Copyright law in the UK is relatively simple.

    Copyright is owned by the creator as soon as its made.

    It can be transfered and made legal possession of someone else if the owner grants it to them (its a commodity like any other and can be transfered in the same manner as physical goods).

    Proof of said transfer is usually in the form of a signed contract, explicitly stating copyright has been transfered.

    If you didn't explicitly state you were buying the copyright or leasing for an explicit period of time, you may be able to use implied contractual agreement (my word is my bound rules), however these can be very hard and expensive to win as effectively you have to prove that it was so obvious that you were getting the copyright (or were told verbally) that it didn't require explicitly stating in a contract. This is particular difficult with copyright as "use rights" and "copy rights" are not the same (he may claim you were buying use rights of the design but he still owned the copy right)

    Either way, you may well be funding some laywers new car fund. As mentioned its free (and legal if done correctly) to threaten legal action which may have the desired effect, so probably the best course of action.

    The domain name case sounds much simpler, as you have a bill explicitly paying him to set it up for the company then he was working as an agent and so its company property of anything he brought whilst working as their agent. Only in cases of non payment could he try to have legal ownership transfered to himself to cover debt.

    And the obligatory, whilst I have studied UK copyright law I'm NOT A Lawyer, particular given the age and complexity of UK laws, that even the Pro's get confused at times :O
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  6. #6
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    Cloud Pixies makes the case well. In essence the design rights remain with the designer until transfer. In practical terms this transfer doesn't necessarily require a contract, the simple act of transference (such as sending the documents by email) can denote transfer.

    The domain could be tricky, depends on the contents of the contract.
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