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kristremblay

[Legal] Client and/or Client's Host Shady

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Hey guys! I've recently come across a problem and I am debating on whether or not I should be contacting a lawyer. About 5 years ago I made a webpage for a municipal Township and the page had my name in the credits as well as at the bottom of the page (I explicitly wrote that the page was property of the township and myself in order to maintain intellectual copyrights). As I was nearing completion of the project, the guy that runs their ISP and host locked me out and changed a couple things on the site, one of which was removing my name and claiming credit for the site. If this wasn't bad enough, he stole the layout, changed a the colours, and added a cheap graphic header and is using it as his company's homepage! It's a ridiculous rip off! I need to know if I am within my rights to pursue this or not.

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I second the business forum recommendation - there's some experienced people there who give good recommendations on legal situations like this.

My take from your description is that you're within your rights to start pursuing it, which would mean talking to a lawyer. Your lawyer will give you a better idea of what you should do than anyone here could.

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Quote:
Original post by kristremblay
I need to know if I am within my rights to pursue this or not.

Yes you are within your rights to pursue this but the real question is can you afford to pursue this and will you get anything if you do.

What this person has done is infringe your copyright. The normal suggestion would be to contact their host and inform them as they would need to remove the site or risk legal action. Unfortunately the person responsible is their host so that is unlikely to work.

You could hire an expensive lawyer to pursue the matter and the likely outcome is that the page would be taken down and changed back to your original page, with your credit. Getting that done might just require the lawyer to send a legal letter or it may require more legal work. In either case it will cost you money and you wont actually get any financial compensation.

If your client paid you for the work then chalk it down to experience and move on. If they didn't pay then you could pursue the debt through the courts or with a collections agency. Anything more than that is likely to cost you a lot more than you will get back.

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It costs nothing to send a threatening letter saying "if this is not changed in X days I will instruct my lawyer to start legal proceedings". Most people will be scared of something like that.
You could also tell them they may pay you $XXX to get permission to use your design.

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Quote:
Original post by d000hg
It costs nothing to send a threatening letter saying "if this is not changed in X days I will instruct my lawyer to start legal proceedings". Most people will be scared of something like that.
You could also tell them they may pay you $XXX to get permission to use your design.

No, most businesses are not swayed by this type of legal threat.

He needs to work in good faith, not bad.

Do not mention litigation until you have exhausted the nice route.

Start with a nice but firm letter saying basically: "I noticed that you have taken my web site product and believe you are using it without a license. It appears you have also removed my copyright notice and replaced the credit lines with your own name. All of my pages, source, credit lines, and other elements are protected by IP law. Please either take down the unlicensed material or contact me before {date} to get a license."

This puts him on notice that you know he's doing it. The legal threat is still implied, but the letter remains on good faith that he just made an honest mistake and is willing to correct it.

After that date you may decide to contact a lawyer.

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Oh, if you want a license without paying for a lawyer, Nolo Press has a book Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements that includes excellent boilerplate license agreements and instructions on how to correctly modify them for your use. It is much cheaper than hiring a lawyer for something that is basically a boilerplate contract.

Look at both the software and creative license agreements in that book. Look for it at your local library. If you intend to do any more consulting in the future you really should buy a copy.

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> About 5 years ago I made a webpage for a municipal Township

The way you describe the problem, the contractual agreement is between the Township and you. The Township knows what happened? Maybe if you told them, they'd switch ISP? Just a thought.


> one of which was removing my name and claiming credit for the site

Maybe a complain about the ISP's behaviour to the city's Better Business Bureau (or your local equivalent) might change things. As long as it doesn't turn into a smearing campaign.


-cb

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Thanks for all the replies, guys, I really appreciate it.

When I originally did the site, I was working with 2 ladies: the deputy mayor and...I can't remember the other's job. Since then they have both retired so I don't know what the township will have to say about the issue.

I will be contacting them in the morning, hopefully something comes of this.

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