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Can he win if he sues me?
Client threatens to sue me because of a webpage I put on my website

 2:59 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi Masters,
I have recently joined your forum.
I have been in business for 7 years and this has never happened to me.
I was contacted by a person and asked to do a website.
I do have a signed contract from this person.
Over the course of 5 days, we exchanged emails and phone calls. My contract says "Client will supply text and graphics".
I was having a problem on a contact page because his host did not supply a cgi script. I used formmail and after hours on the phone it was decided that asp would work. I DID leave the phone conversation at that point.
He had some tech support change the code to make the form work. But I designed the site, totally.
He changed the password to access ftp the files. He sent me an email trying to pay me partially. I said no.
After heated arguments, I just said take the site down.
After all he didn't pay me, I did design it.
So now that he has the site and I am out the money.
(Don't want to pay a lawyer twice or three times as much to get him to pay me)
I am thinking ways to make him take it down.
I contact his isp. no help.
I ask other web designers I know. One suggested to put up a page on my domain and let people know he didn't pay me and refuses to take it down.
So I did. Nothing mean, just that I did the site and he didn't pay me and refuses to take it down.
Now he emails me saying he is going to sue me for defamation of character and loss of wages due to my page. I did contact a lawyer and he said that telling the truth is not a defamation of character.
And that he would have a hard time proving loss of wages.
Well now he has been harrasing me in emails. Even cursing at me in the emails. He also took my html code and removed my name and even changed a no right click code that I got from the web. (Barts1000) He took Barts1000 out and put in his name and email address)
He is also using photos from a website inmagine.com and I know he didn't pay for them because he instructed me to take their watermark off. Yes I guess I would be liable for that, but when I contacted them, they said they didn't care. It wasn't worth the hassle.
In reading other posts most of you said putting up a website to discredit him only makes me look bad.
But what else do you do? I mean if he does sue me, does he have a chance? I don't want the cost of going to his town to see a judge that is probably a relative of his and end up loosing and having to pay tons of money.
If I take the site down, then he wins. He has my design all over the web. People that know my sytle will know it's mine.

What should I do?

Maggie Harrison



 3:39 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

First of all, are either one of you, or his host, in the States? If so, then he is guilty of copyright infringement. You, as the creator of the website, are the legal copyright owner (assuming that you didn't sign a contract giving away those rights). Under the terms of the DMCA, you can file a Notice of Infringement with his hosting provider, and they are legally obligated to take his site down, or be subject to be sued, for up to $500,000.

Since you're already in contact with an attorney, talk to him about this. If you're in another country, he will know what the copyright laws are there, and what legal recource you have. Also, save all of his harrassing emails, because he may be committing another crime there.

I ask other web designers I know. One suggested to put up a page on my domain and let people know he didn't pay me and refuses to take it down.
So I did. Nothing mean, just that I did the site and he didn't pay me and refuses to take it down.

Hopefully, this is a lesson learned. It's never wise to take advice on legal matters from non-legal professionals. In some places, what you did could be construed as defamation of character, and you'd be liable for damages. The sad thing is, you were in the right and should have taken proper legal steps against him. But now you're on the defensive because of the ill-gotten advice you've followed.


 3:56 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thank you for your reply.
Yes we both are in the USA.
The attorney that I contacted told me that the website I put up was not considered defamation of character.
Although he would not represent me because of health reasons.

I guess my question is what else can I do to get him to take down this site.
Contacting his host didn't work. They said so what.

Maggie Harrison


 4:03 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Also, He claims that he has the copyright to the site because he told me what to write and what photos to use.
I never signed away any rights to anything.
My contract states that client has rights to website once it is completed. But then my contract says paid in advance also. So I was bad in even doing the site without getting the money first.
In seven years I have only had one person not pay me. And that was easy I just took the site down.
I don't have access to this site. So, I have lost.

I understand all that, and will just learn from that.
But what can I do to get him to take this down?
Or if he does sue me. Does he have a chance to win?


 4:12 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Sorry to belabor a point already made, but truly it is an important one. Seeking legal guidance in a webmaster forum is not in your best interest.

There are precious few lawyers who are going to provide legal advice on your rights under a written contract that they haven't reviewed, or speculate on the impact of the liability, if any, regarding a page on your website relating to a dispute on the payment terms of the contract.

If the value of the contract is sufficient to be worth its pursuit, then gather the contract, copies of the emails, screen shots of what you provided to the other person and of the page you added on your site re the dispute and then schedule yourself a visit with an experienced attorney of your choice.


 4:35 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

"...he didn't pay for them because he instructed me to take their watermark off."

This should have been a warning to you.

What goes round come round.



 5:06 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

thank you for all your help.



 5:08 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't be worried about him suing you - I'd be suing him for not paying you.

You have a contract.
He has a finished website and doesn't have a receipt that he paid you.

If you go to small claims court you don't really need a lawyer.


 12:03 am on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

^ ^ Bingo, actually you **can't** have a lawyer in the courtroom in small claims and this is perfect for that. (At least you couldn't the last time I sued.) It wouldn't even matter if you did a lousy job (not saying you did, just sayin'. :-) ) The bottom line is you worked X hours and were never paid. Hi-ho, it's off to small claims court we go.

Small claims will cost you a small filing fee (when I filed it was $25,) and you sue for the amount owed you + the fee, and you will have to pay someone to serve the subpoena, usually the sheriff's office. Most defendants will just cut a check.

I still say the bad client web page was a bad move, even though it's legal, unless your only goal was to P him off, which appears to be the only thing it's really done. :-)


 12:32 pm on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thank you all. I did take the page down. I felt bad having it up there, I guess I did piss him off. But, All I wanted to do was make him take it down.
See the thing is, after reading the text I typed and seeing the stolen photos on his site. I didn't want to be affiliated with him in any way. So I wanted it taken down. He refused. I can't post the site here can I? I guess I want professional advice, that is why I joined this forum. I realize that legal advice is not found on a forum, but my first intent was to just ask what else could I do to get him to take the site down.
I am going to the district justice with all my papers and the signed contract.
And thank you all for your advice.
Yes, you did help.


 2:27 pm on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good Luck.

Keep us informed of how it goes.


 7:49 pm on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just came back from the district justice office.
They charged me $75.00 which will have someone go to his residence, serve him the paper and he has to come to the district justice office on a given day, to stand in front of the judge here.
Well, I didn't want it to come to this, all I wanted him to do was take down my design.

Will let you know the outcome.
By the way, you are right, the website was not defamation of character. But I took it down anyway.



 1:40 am on Oct 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well, I didn't want it to come to this, all I wanted him to do was take down my design.

You're far too nice. People like him ought to suffer the full consequence of their sleazy behavior. Good job.

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