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Website (and images) i designed were copied by another firm
Firm A paid for thier web site design and publication. Firm B copied the wh

 11:55 am on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just wondering if anyone has any experience with such issue and can advise on the legal ramifications.

Story as follow:

Late 2002 firm A contacted us and requested a web site to be designed, images taken, edited and published. Site was ready a month later and published online.

Firm B (which seems to be having some working relations with firm A - agent like) simply copied the entire site a few months later (including all the images that we originaly created for firm A) and published it under their own domain name while carefully removing the name of firm A from all pages and replacing it with their own commercial name (which is totally different - not an offshoot of firm A. It is a completely different company, trading under a different name and in a different state.)

I stumbled across firm B's site today and freaked out to find that they simply copied all images and content and created a site for themselves.

Question asked, what are the legal remifications?
Who really owns the copyrights for the images and site design after you are contracted to create and publish a web site?. Can other parties (lets assume with working relationship with the original ordering firm) simply copy your hard work and create a site for themselves without paying a cent (to you the original site and image(s) creator)?

Your help is much appreciated.

Iíve sent a letter to firm B notifying them of a copyright infringement and that the content and images were originally licensed to firm A ONLY. However, I also advised them that a separate license for their site can be arranged. (otherwise, to remove all images within 72 hours).

We are still in working reletionships with firm A and currently in the process of creating for them a brand new site.

Do you think I did the right thing?

[edited by: Max_M at 12:00 pm (utc) on Nov. 9, 2005]



 11:57 am on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

There has been a lwasuit in Germany, where the court found that even though ti was not morally correct, it was legally right to steal the artwork.

However a lot of this has to do with German laws, which claim that creative work is not protected if it does not reach a certain level of uniqueness.


 7:11 pm on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

U.S. Copyright Law works like this: The creator of the "work" (in this case, you) is the copyright owner. The fact that a client has paid you money does not automatically transfer the copyright to them. To do so, you must specifically state that in writing. Some designers hold onto the copyright, and some transfer it to the client upon completion. If there is no written agreement, then the copyright remains with its creator.

So, if you specifically transferred copyright ownership to Firm A, and they gave Firm B permission to copy the design, you're out of luck. On the other hand, if Firm B copied the design without Firm A's permission, then Firm A has a beef with them. If you did not transfer copyright of the design to Firm A, then you are within your rights to demand that Firm B cease and desist.

Another option you have is to file a Notice of Infringement with their hosting company. Under the terms of the DMCA, service providers are legally obligated to remove such material upon receipt of the notice. Firm B can file a Counter Notification, but by doing so, they are agreeing to be named as a party in a lawsuit. In other words, they're agreeing to be sued by you, so be sure you're willing to take it that far and can prove your case in court.


 9:06 pm on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is one very important issue for you to consider here before you risk upsetting both company A and comany B. Before the emergence of company B's website, were you happy with the payment you had recieved for the design work you had undertaken? Why do you feel that you are somehow owed money for something which you have not undertaken any work on?

And why do I think you will upset or have already upset company A? Company A may well have provided the graphics or the green light to go ahead with using the design to company B as part of their ongoing business relationship. And I doubt they'd be pleased to hear (via Company B) about your blunt request.


 10:01 pm on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is one very important issue for you to consider here before you risk upsetting both company A and comany B. Before the emergence of company B's website, were you happy with the payment you had recieved for the design work you had undertaken? Why do you feel that you are somehow owed money for something which you have not undertaken any work on?

Although I agree that he should have first spoken with Firm A before issuing his cease and desist, whether he was "happy" with the payment he received for the original work is not the issue. If he indeed is the copyright owner, then Firm B has stolen his work. It's both unfair and illegal for someone to profit from your work, whether that be a website design, a photograph, or an article you've written.

This is another thing to consider when transfering copyrights. You can give full rights to use or modify the design, but "reserve" the right for the client to resell or allow others to use the work.


 1:16 am on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thank you for your reply guys!

Exactly what i was thinking. We have never transferred the copyrights of our work to company A. They had a license to use our work under their own trading name and web site and that's about it really.

Company B are simply profiting from the work while avoiding payment.

The good news...i received a reply from B today asking how much it will cost them to use the work on their own site.

Thanks again for your pointers, it is much appreciated.


 5:31 pm on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

That's good news, for what looked like some sort of disaster as I read through the thread.


 3:14 pm on Nov 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Be careful that you check back with the company you originally created the work for before you give permission to the other company to use your work for payment. I assume one reason company 'A' hired you was that they wanted to have a UNIQUE website.

They could well be upset if you sold the work you created for them a second time.


 3:06 pm on Nov 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I also would be very upset as Company A if I found out you resold our website. I would read your contract very carefully.

Why not just create a new site for firm B? The only thing I would've done is notified firm A of firm B's action and let their legal department take care of it.

Originally you just created the site. Once it's done its out of your hands. Now if your reselling it... well... Unless you expressly said you hold ownership of all content, images, programming it is wrong. I usualy give ownership of that to the client so they can take their site anywhere they want.

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