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  1. #1

    Legal Options and/or scenarios about ownership - problem

    I wasnt sure about this topic, But I couldnt find anywhere else to put this.

    Perhaps some of you have been through it.



    I operated a website for 3+ years under the domain of a friend. My friend owned the domain while I webmastered the complete site. My friend never did anything on this website and only supplied the domain.

    We never signed any type of ownership options for this site, and it was just myself and him with this dedicated server.

    Well, him and myself have had a falling out and I am building a new site elsewhere, however he claims to have 100% ownership of all the files and information.

    He paid for the server and the domain. He owned them prior to me coming aboard. However, it was just a friend giving a friend some space.

    Does he legally have any entitlement to any of the files or properties that I created and installed on that server? Like I said, we didnt sign a thing for any type of ownership at all.



    Should it be something as simple as, "him allowing me to store this stuff in his garage.. and that doesnt give him a right a ownership."

    Anyone been through anything of this nature?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Personally, if you you authored and conceptualised the files making up the website then you, and you alone have full ownership over them, unless overriden by some other written agreement.

    As for the name of the site, or access to resource, that it at the discretion of the other guy, but he cannot use your files, or modify them in theory, provided you can prove you have written/authored the documents alone, since presence on his hardware may indicate ownership in the absence of any other proof.

    basically, try to make sure you can prove that you alone authored the website files.

    My aunt is going through something very similar right now. Her charity organisation's website was setup & hosted by a trustee ( website design was donated by a design firm ), and after a falling out, he is leaving and has told her that she will need to set up another site on her own.
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  3. #3
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    The problem is are the files worth the legal trouble? His lawyer will allege that you developed the files in exchange for free hosting; essentially you were being paid to develop them. Therefore copyright and ownership belongs to your ex-friend.

    That doesn't sound like the situation but its going to be hard to prove otherwise.
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  4. #4
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    If I've learned one thing in life, it's that forums and legal advice do not go together well.

    If you're have legal trouble, seek the advice of a lawyer. Forums generally only cloud the issue, as it's unlikely that anyone here has passed the bar exam. Additionally, law varies from state to state and what someone may believe to be true in one state, is not necessarily true in another.

    Seek legal representation, consultation fees are generally fairly affordable, though any necessary litigation is generally not.

    Regards,
    Sam
    Sam Machiz / Director, Product Development / Ubersmith
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  5. #5
    if you need to prove that you uploaded and managed the site then get the raw logs of your site. the IP stored there (with ftp upload) is from your computer. just my 2 cents.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Doesn't matter if he uploaded or even built it. Depends on the nature of the relationship.

    Disclaimer: Sam is right none of us are really qualified so seek professional advice. I am just saying this is my view.

    If I have a staff member who makes my website and receives consideration (payment, services etc) then the site belongs to me. Even if no consideration is given ie.. volunteer development work to learn or just a favour, the court should side with the owner of the domain as they are the named individual or organization who really has a claim to that name.

    So my view to the threadstarter would be (using his analogy):

    If you helped him build the garage, the garage belongs to him.

    If you left your bicycle in that garage its still yours if you are no longer on speaking terms your still entitled to the bike.

    If the files in question have to do with the site, they are his if they have to do with somethign unrelated they are yours.

    So sayeth the non lawyer whos wife who is a laywer and wont pick up her cell phone so I could ask her.
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  7. #7
    mmm but if I publish my own developped software on his web site this doesnt mean that the software belongs to him. Fortunately in that case its easy to prove because he just doesnt have the source code.

  8. #8
    Am I not right to say that the files belong to the creator unless a written contract stating otherwise with regard to the transfer of ownership is in place?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Check out lawguru.com for free legal adivce

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Originally posted by Sigmaservers
    Doesn't matter if he uploaded or even built it. Depends on the nature of the relationship.

    Disclaimer: Sam is right none of us are really qualified so seek professional advice. I am just saying this is my view.

    If I have a staff member who makes my website and receives consideration (payment, services etc) then the site belongs to me. Even if no consideration is given ie.. volunteer development work to learn or just a favour, the court should side with the owner of the domain as they are the named individual or organization who really has a claim to that name.

    So my view to the threadstarter would be (using his analogy):

    If you helped him build the garage, the garage belongs to him.

    If you left your bicycle in that garage its still yours if you are no longer on speaking terms your still entitled to the bike.

    If the files in question have to do with the site, they are his if they have to do with somethign unrelated they are yours.

    So sayeth the non lawyer whos wife who is a laywer and wont pick up her cell phone so I could ask her.
    Actually, my understanding of copyright law in the US (from hours and hours of reading Groklaw, so don't take this as 'the word' ), is that you cannot lose your copyright by mere inference. Copyright stays with the author until specifically assigned otherwise.

    If you hire a website designer, you'd better be sure to get it in contract that all developed works are fully owned by you and that the copyrights are transfered.

    (a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent.

    (b) A certificate of acknowledgment is not required for the validity of a transfer, but is prima facie evidence of the execution of the transfer if —

    (1) in the case of a transfer executed in the United States, the certificate is issued by a person authorized to administer oaths within the United States; or

    (2) in the case of a transfer executed in a foreign country, the certificate is issued by a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States, or by a person authorized to administer oaths whose authority is proved by a certificate of such an officer.
    Source: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html#204

    Sure, morals would dictate that if someone pays you for a design ('product') then you should give them ownership, but the law makes it a bit more 'quirky' fro my understanding.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    While I agree that you should engage the advice of a lawyer, my company has unfortunately had the pleasure of being involved in a multimillionaire dollar lawsuit regarding ownership of a computer program so I am somewhat familar with the issues. Copryrightable creative works (and this would fall under that, as would a computer program) are entirely different than something like a bike or a garage. The two broad issues here are (1) transfer of copyright and (2) work for hire. You can transfer ownership of a copyrightable work and still have some claim to it (though generally many, many years later); a work for hire occurs when a person creates a copyrightable work but agrees to forfeit those rights to the person who hired them to create it. Many employment contracts have these sorts of clauses so that copyrightable works created by employees remain the property of the employer, and these are especially common in the entertainment industry. Given the benefit granted to the non-creator in a work for hire or transfer of copyright situation, generally that sort of contract has to be explicitly in writing. You likely have a strong case if there wasn't any sort of contract stating that. Hire a lawyer, and I'm sure the first thing they'll do is send a certified letter to your ex-friend asserting your copyright to the works in question, that there was never any agreement between the two of you that would give rise to the claim that this was either a work for hire or there was a transfer of copyright, and that use of said works would constitute infringement. That should at least make him reconsider just taking the site for his own use.

  12. #12
    Well its a little more complicated. It just wasnt for hosting. I also did HIS site work and one of my perks was to run a site on the server of my own free will. The only thing he owned was the domain.

    The site isnt really worth the hassle of going all out, if i think hard about it. But I was curious because I intend on moving all of my files to new location and didnt know if he held any means to them.

    It generally sounds like he doesnt. Ill check out that law site.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    Sounds like a high school game of who stole the football, I suggest learn from your mistakes and move on. Plain and simple.

    1) Always have full control over your domain
    2) Nothing is ever free, your better off paying for it.

  14. #14
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    Unless you have otherwise assigned the rights, in writing, to your friend, then he has absolutely no rights whatsoever to your content. That's the law and that's the way it is ...

    If the content is on your friends server he has no obligation to return it to you, or give you access, however he must at your request delete the content, as that would be seen as copyright infringement.

    Thankfully the US does have some decent copyright laws. However as I always say, contact a lawyer if this gets serious, and they can point you in the correct direction.

    HTH

    Dan

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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    you know what they say, posession is 9/10 of the law. Just move on is the best advice that anyone can give you, proving that you've authored files is nearly impossible when working in that type of environment (given that logfiles wont establish any case and could be falsified with ease), thus making such a case even more difficult to establish.

  16. #16
    This is how I see it. Sure, you may have made 100% of the material/code/graphics on the server, but what proof do you have that you actually were the one who made that material? By law it is yours, but you wont just get it back unless he wants to give it to you. Since it is his server, he has no obligation in giving it back, but must remove the content if you say so. But then agian, if he wanted to be enough of a prick, he can just claim he made the material, hosted the server, and bought the domain, what proof have you against him saying this?


    -LabeL-

  17. #17
    What proof does the site hoster have its his material though?

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