Hey dude! That's MY code!

So, what happens when you see your code being used by someone else? What about your graphics, your designs? Unfortunately this has happened to me recently :mad:

I created a website for someone (who shall rename nameless) and I maintained it for a long time off and on as required. Recently I found myself in a situation where I could no longer sustain support for this website so I decided to inform this person and focus more on my other projects. All good so far. Now…me being me, of course I was curious to see what was going to happen to the website - I knew this person very well and I knew they were going to get someone else to do the website, goodie! So a few days ago I decided to check it out! And boy was I in for a surprise! :rolleyes:

When I saw the website, I noticed that there were a few alterations to the overall look but the layout was the same, some of my graphics were still in use in addition to ALL of my own photographs (all without my permission) and my code was still in tact when I viewed the source code! Nothing really did change! :x

At first as you can imagine, my thoughts were not fit for posting here on this forum! I haven’t done anything about this due to the fact of “how” I know this person as I don’t want to cause any upset so I’m happy to let it slide but keeping a close eye

There is one thing that bugs me though - All the work I had done before was all for free - this was a favour for someone. Now, with this new person they have “giving them a new website” was actually paid for their services etc - so now I have a bit of a dilemma - do I say anything about it as they are obviously being ripped off or should I just let things stay as they are? I’m inclined to go with the latter :shifty:

So it got me wondering, what are your experiences and stories? What advice can you give those who may find themselves in similar situations? Are there any tips you can provide to help prevent situations like these occurring in the first place? Can you really protect your work if you finish working for someone?

All thoughts are welcome and I look forward to having a good discussion!


I don’t understand. Were you leasing the site and discontinuing support meant it was supposed to be taken down but it wasn’t?

I would imagine that once you create a site for someone they have all rights to it, and they can do with it what they please. And I imagine that someone thought the same. So maybe you should speak to them about it and sort it out.

As far as stolen code, etc., I find it usually sorts out by itself. Those who steal are usually good for nothing failures who do with it what they do best - fail. So aside from being irritating but somewhat flattering, it’s something I’ve simply learned to live with.

Well Saul, this person told me specifically that they were wanting a complete revamp of their website - this was a free project to me so this is why I wasn’t able to invest anymore time because I was working on projects that were actually yielding money - they were my priority. This website was a favour for a favour I guess - but they were taking liberties at this point because “my favour” was minute compared to what they received back i.e. the website and constant updates etc - basically it was one step too far for me and I wasn’t prepared to spend more time doing this project as I considered we were more than even/quits. There was no bad blood of course because I know this person very well - falling out wasn’t an option.

I wasn’t leasing out the website no, and I do agree that they do have rights to everything but there was code, graphics & photographs on there that were exclusively mine and this person knew that. Knowing their character - I think because they saw slight alterations they still believe they got a new website but in actual fact they didn’t - it’s just a copy and paste job - I’m not that bothered overall but it’s just whether or not I pursue with telling them is another story - When I think about it now (maybe as it’s late at night - I tend to think different) it’s annoying that this person was prepared to pay for the new website but if I had agreed to it I wouldn’t have gotten anything - that’s buggy as hell! So I don’t know I guess that’s why I’m inclined to keep schtum! :smiley:

The other issue is the fact that this “other guy” that did do the “new website” is passing off my stuffs as their own! I guess I’ll just have to take deep breaths and make do! This is the first time this has happened to me, at least the only time I’ve been aware of - people have asked to use my graphics etc before so it’s a bit alien to me - I think I need counseling :rofl:

Ah, so the new developer was supposed to re-do the site completely, but instead they just did some alterations? I wouldn’t say that’s stealing your code, since it was already there.

Looks like your grief is mostly because you were not paid while another developer is getting paid and gets to use your previous work to make their work easier. That’s what you get when you do favors. :smiley:

:lol: Yeah I guess I am a bit peeved alright but I went beyond expectations to be honest, that’s my fault of course, I’m too obliging by nature!

The new developer was indeed supposed to do a new website and yes they did use my code - that’s ok with me to a certain extent but just changing 2 things to make it look a bit different and then claiming the work is all there’s is a big no no to me. They even put a disclaimer in the footer that all rights were reserved by him for all coding and design “site built & designed by xyz” - that’s what my issue is! :rolleyes:

Someone paid you to build that site for them so they have the right to keep that design, code, etc…

UNLESS you have a written agreement before you built the site that specifically says you own the design and if they ever quit using you for design/hosting they have to build an entire new site not using anything they paid you to produce.

If you have no written agreement outlining this…then the person you built the site for owns what you produced for them because they paid for the product you delivered.

Pretty simple there…

Last time I read the US copyright laws, it said if you’re an independent contractor you must have a written agreement with your customer, otherwise the work is not work-for-hire.

In other words, the fact that the work is paid for doesn’t by itself affect the copyright.

<disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer> :slight_smile:

That’s exactly backwards. If you don’t tell your customer in a written agreement or terms of service (you’d really need them to sign something instead of looking at TOS) that all the work you do for them is owned by you, even though they are paying you to produce the product, then the product belongs to the customer.

It’s pretty odd to think that if I create a website for someone that is paying me to do the job…that the website belongs to me and I’m only allowing them to use what they paid me to give to them.

It’s not only odd, but wrong, immoral, and deceptive to your customer because you would be claiming to retain ownership of something somebody paid you to create without telling them that “even though you are paying me to produce this…it’s forever mine”.

So, how would that work anyway? Are you giving them permission to use the site you were paid by the customer to produce…for a little while? For as long as they pay you a monthly hosting fee? What?

rockrz are you a lawyer?

That’s exactly backwards. If you don’t tell your customer in a written agreement or terms of service (you’d really need them to sign something instead of looking at TOS) that all the work you do for them is owned by you, even though they are paying you to produce the product, then the product belongs to the customer.
I’m not a lawyer, but irrespective of the morality involved, I think you’re wrong about the law here.


I’m only looking at US Copyright law, not international.

Well, I can guarantee you one thing…if I hire someone to do a creative work, that person I’m hiring will be signing my agreement (before we even start talking pricing for the job) stating that he surrenders all claims to the intellectual property that I AM PAYING THEM TO PRODUCE!

If I pay for something, it’s mine! Having an agreement signed by the contractor that states that this, takes care of this issue. This is why most large companies have contractors sign their agreement so things like this are addresses and the company doesn’t get screwed over.

Explain this to me…how come people that invent stuff (intellectual property, just like people creating websites are claiming) while working for some big company cannot claim what they’ve created? (some companies have allowed intellectual property claims to go to the employee, but most do not)

Simple. The company had them sign an agreement that states that the company owns all intellectual property created by the employee while they are working for the company. If the employee doesn’t want to sign the agreement, then they are not hired.

So, how would that work anyway with creating websites?

Are you giving them permission to use the site you were paid by the customer to produce…for a little while? For as long as they pay you a monthly hosting fee?

If you don’t discuss this issue with your customer, does this mean they are using your design illegally?

Maybe I’m of higher moral character…I tell my customers that anything I create for them belongs to them and I’ve had a couple customers want to have their sites hosted elsewhere and wanted to know if they can take the site I created and I told them; “Sure, that’s your property that you paid for”.

This is what is right considering you are being paid by your customer to create something FOR THEM…

If they own the website, that also means they can sell the website to however they please, for however much money they please, whenever they please, and there’s nothing you could do about that.

Sounds good to you?

Since it’s their property…what gives you any right to claim anything that belongs to someone else???

If they sell it for $5 million dollars, are you going to get a greedy and hire lawyers to go after someone else’s cash?

That’s being covetous and it’s being greedy where you have no right to either.

I can’t believe this…you guys think you own a website that a customer has paid you to produce for them? That’s bass ackards!

What if the tables were turned and you had no idea that you are paying someone to build something that will be their property when it’s finished (but you still have to pay for it) and they never told you about this…

Wouldn’t you think you were being ripped?

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s in my terms of agreement. If people don’t read that it’s not my problem.

At this point, did you inform your customer that they are forbidden from using the website you designed for them because it is your property?

If not, then what right do you have to go tell someone they cannot use what they paid you to build?

It’s not right after the fact to try and tell them this as this needs to be told to customers before the job is done (which is what is fair) if this is going to be your position…and if it is, I’d be surprised if too many more people will want to do business with you.

No money was involved - they only paid for their hosting and domain that’s it - my work was payment for a favour they did for me!

There were no written agreements/contracts - as I said before I know this person pretty well and it wasn’t going to be paid work anyways. I understand that they have exclusive rights to whatever I made for them but my point wasn’t that I was sore about that - it was the fact that this new crowd came along and claimed my code/graphics etc as their own and that’s what I have an issue with!

As I said before they were even so cheeky as to put a disclaimer at the bottom of the site outlining that the entire website and contents were created and designed by them :rolleyes:

It wasn’t a customer as I said above :slight_smile:

I have no qualms about re-using the design/graphics/code etc but having someone claim, what I essentially created, as their own work is what I do have a problem with!

We can talk for hours and hours whether it’s wrong or right, moral or not, etc etc.
Case in point is that mizwizzy made the website, therefore she has copyright over that website, and people can not go about claiming it’s their site, or reusing (parts of) it without her permission.

Like it or not, that’s just how it is.

Lovely business attitude towards your customers…I’m sure you’ll go far :rolleyes:

So, you had them sign an agreement stating your position?
If not, they can take you in court…

All they have to do is get this in front of a jury of normal people who have common sense and you’ll lose the case and will probably have to pay for thge other guy’s legal bill.

If the law is currently in favor of the creator of the product, it’s only because nobody has yet taken this into a major Federal court to establish a precedence.

Well, once again you’re being unrealistic.

The latest buzz, the smartphones that you buy but you are obligated to use under certain terms.

For other examples, limited time frame licence use for antivirus programs. You can pay the use for 1 month, 1 year and so on.

Paying for something doesn’t necessarily means you own it. It can also mean that you are allowed to used it for a limited period of time.

This is borderlining a personal attack. Take a step back!

Yes, they have to a sign a contract, and the contract says the terms of agreement are applicable to that contract. So yes, they do know it. And nobody ever made a problem of it. In case they want to own the products I make, that can be discussed.

I didn’t make the law, I’m just following it.

Right, because you’re the first person to find this out …

The site is property of the site owner, so why do you care?

You don’t have any recourse against the new web design company, so why worry about them saying: “hey, we built this” when they didn’t?

Only thing to do here is to learn a lesson and consider the lesson learned to be payment in the form of gaining some good experience.

Next time, have customers sign an agreement that outlines all your demands…and hopefully not too many customers will pass you by in favor of guys like me that tell customers up front; “what I make is your property to do whatever you want with…just pay me for the job”