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Thread: Copy right

  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot Sesran's Avatar
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    I have a new client looking for me to maintain and host their web site which was designed & hosted by another local company. The reason for her change is because he is unwilling to fix spelling errors and do updates on the site. Regardless, now she has come to me.
    Who owns the site as it stands right now? He designed the site for her and he has on every page and in the source code, Designed by designersname, LLC. She says that she didn't sign any contracts with him and she is not sure whether or not he will have a problem with this. I personally will not remove his info from the site, unless I do a total redesign on it. I feel that is only fair being that he did design the site. There is nothing saying anything about copy right on there either.
    He does not seem to have any financial gain from the site, being that she has paid him in full, the only thing he will lose is any future hosting costs he would have received if she stayed. She doesn't have any maintanance contract on it either. He would still receive a link from each page as it stands right now, so i believe that he will still gain from that end of it.
    Any and all opinions are appreciated. I am staying out of it personally, i told her that he is her problem. I am just offering her maintanance and hosting. Thanks
    Sesran
    Sesran Site Solutions - Web Site Hosting & Design

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    Skills to Pay the Bills Sparkie's Avatar
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    I would guess that since he designed and/or developed the site originally, the graphics and source code remain copyrighted to him. If you do a major overhaul of the site, then you can claim it as yours. I believe that you could, if you like, state somewhere on the site "Maintained by Sesran Site Solutions".

    -Disclaimer- I'm not a lawyer or a legal representative of any kind. I'm simply offering advice! If you want a lawyer's view on copyright on the web, I suggest you visit http://www.whatiscopyright.org

    Sherice Jacob - Web Improvement Expert
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    From what I understand about copyright law, designersname, LLC owns the copyright to your client's Web site.

    In addition to literary works, copyright laws include: Computer programs, music, choreography, pictorials, graphics, sculptures, motion pictures, sound recordings, photographs, etc.

    For more information, visit http://www.loc.gov/copyright

    Hope this helps.
    Joanne Glasspoole
    www.glasspoole.com

  4. #4
    Destiny Manager Plebius's Avatar
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    From what I understand about copyright law, the client owns the copyright to the site because it was a work for hire, regardless of what copyright notice/credit the original designer put on it.

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    Unfortunately, the site owner is NOT the copyright holder of the web site; the designer is.

    Copyrights consist of two basic elements: Expression and originality. Although the content may indeed be the copyright of the site owner, the Web site design itself belongs to the site designer, unless he/she gave/sold the copyright to the site owner. This is one of the reasons why a contract between the site owner and site designer is important when a Web site design is contracted out.

    Since Copyright law is complex, the site owner should consult with his/her attorney on the legal ramifications and to find out what needs to be done to purchase the copyright from the site designer. Who knows -- perhaps the designer will just give it away.
    Joanne Glasspoole
    www.glasspoole.com

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    It looks like you have your answer already, but I'd like to echo those who said the site owner is not the copyright owner. Original work no longer has to have a copyright notice on it. (Berne Convention) That provides international coverage with the 121 countries that participate. United States copyright protection is automatic once the original work is completed. So, the original designer is the owner of the source code, just like you thought. As suggested, you can just put a note that maintenance and hosting is done by you.

    Here's the deal with copyrights. It's automatically protected. However, if the owner wishes to bring a law suit, they must register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. (yes, they have a Web site) I think it costs about $30. They consider it registered once they receive all of the applicable information. Once it's registered, the owner can sue. If they owner registered within 3 months of finishing the work, they could collect statutory damages and legal fees. (A little incentive to register the copyright!) If they didn't register in 3 months, they still can get actual damages. I am not a lawyer, but I know all of this because it's the topic of my thesis on INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS FOR WEB DESIGNERS. I'm trying desperately to get some Web designers to fill out my really short, easy to answer questionnaire. It's only 7 questions. If you could help me out, just email me and I'll email it right back to you.

    Also....for anyone else who's interested, the BEST book on the subject is called "Internet Law and Business Handbook" by Dianne Brinson. A MUST have for Web designers. Comes with contracts on a disk etc. Pppllllleeeeaasssee answer my questionnaire! I'd be happy to forward on my thesis when it's done.

  7. #7
    Destiny Manager Plebius's Avatar
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    Why wouldn't it be considered a work for hire and therefore owned by the website owner? If you work for a company they pay you and they own the copyright of what you produce for them unless other arrangements have been made. At some Universities, some student work is owned by the University if it was done using university equipment. I think if you pay to have a creative work made then you own the copyright unless you agree otherwise.


  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot Sesran's Avatar
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    I agree and that is the exact way that I run my design business. Once you have paid in full for your site, the owner of the site becomes my client. I am not running a leasing company here. The whole point still remains, what does the judge think? And from what I have heard, it depends on the judge and they all seem to have a different opinion too. So what are we supposed to do to protect ourselves? I signed up a new client today and I brought up this issue with her and I also told her how I operate. I also broke out the contract and she didn't want one. I explained to her that the contract was to protect her as much as it was to protect me. I state in my contract that once the site is paid in full, they become owners of it. And thats the way 'I' believe it should be.
    Sesran Site Solutions - Web Site Hosting & Design

  9. #9
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    Okay, let's tackle the question about work for hire. IF it is in the contract, it is a work for hire. If there is no contract, the creator of the work is the owner. Then a person using that work must get a license to use it. Remember that the copyright is AUTOMATIC and belongs to the owner. You were right about universites, government offices and corporations. If you are an employee doing work FOR the company that hired you, they own the rights to your work.

    After all of my research, it turns out that copyright law isn't as ambigious as I thought it was. First, copyright protection for most original works is automatic and free. Registering your work is a different story. It's not hard, though. The difference is if your work is registered, you can sue. You can't sue if it's not registered. You can register as soon as someone infringes on your rights and your material shows up on someone else's multimillion dollar Web site. However, if you didn't register within 3 months of creating the work, you can't receive legal fees and statutory damages...just actual damages. That's the U.S. Copyright Office's incentive to register. It costs about $30. And, yes, you can protect your Web site. Also, don't forget, the copyright is only as good as the owner's desire to sue. It's pretty expensive. Companies like Walt Disney have some pretty deep pockets and aren't going to allow you to put Mickey on your site. Most other individuals will just use the act passed in 1998 by President Clinton to contact the offender's service provider and make them take off the stuff they stole. You are protected. If you don't believe me, go to the U.S.Copyright Web site or the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Web site. Look up the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Berne Convention.

    So, how about filling out my questionnaire????

  10. #10
    Sports Publisher mjames's Avatar
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    I just use "Page contents copyright 1998-2000 Sports Central." for my pages. That works.

  11. #11
    Destiny Manager Plebius's Avatar
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    Ok, I looked at copyright law a bit and it seems that unless there was a signed agreement stating that it was 'work for hire' then the original author owns the copyright, however, since the design is part of a collected work 'the website' the website owner has the right to distribute it, make copies, and to modify it at will.

    In other words, the original designer does appear to own the design but you can change it however you want.

    <disclaimer>i'm not a lawyer, if you want real advice ask a lawyer</disclaimer>


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