Last week, as many of you will recall, I rashly committed character and career-suicide by asking a question which ended up with me in the digital equivalent of the stocks, pelted with various rotten fruit and vegetables.
One comment particularly stuck with me:
And that is what you should be worried about - your reputation.
As the thread progressed, I certainly was. Character assassination is never a pleasant thing, but when the assassin's hand turns out to be one's own, it all feels alarmingly like the world has turned upside down and that existence - which previously seemed (approximately) okay - has suddenly become a gut-wrenchingly, conflicted, guilt-ridden experience.
The sentence in my initial post which condemned me was:
I can see (now) that my friend's father has always perceived - as a matter of good faith - that the website (and the domain) belonged to his business
Responses to this were many and varied, including:
You never owned it in the first place - you bought it on their behalf and didn't do the correct paperwork giving them ownership.
Morally it makes close to zero sense to develop the site to promote the business then behave in a way that kills his chance to sell the business. What a recipe for bad karma! [...] You bought it at someone else's request and on their behalf. IMHO it was poor practice not to put their name on it.
They absolutely own that domain name. You should have listed them as the registrant, and yourself as an admin contact.
it's time to hand over the domain and website gratis and move on.
I don't see any way that you can rationalize that you are correct. [...] In no way do you own that domain.
you misled your friend's father if you registered this in your company's name.
Honestly, reading your comments it seems like you are just grasping at straws here hoping someone will come along and tell you that what you want to do is OK.
The biggest misconception here, and I hate to be the one to say it, is that you thought you owned the site and content. From a technical, moral, and most probably legal point of view that just does not make sense.
Whenever various thread-participants indicated that I should have been clearer and made myself more explicit in the original negotiations and during the ongoing 6-year business relationship, I did try to point out that:
I clearly gave him the choice.
I thought I'd made it crystal clear that this was my business' website. Understand that prior to the start of this year, I have never produced a website for any third party.
We could and - to my knowledge - did settle this matter in February 2010.
it's not like they had to do any due diligence - I did it all for them. [...] Now it's beginning to look like they didn't listen to anything I said. And apparently it's me who has to bear the brunt of their lack of acknowledgement of what I repeatedly stated.
But my assurances that (certainly to my mind) I had laid things out in a responsible and professional manner and that I had said explicitly what I would and wouldn't be prepared to do seemed not to make much impact during the course of the thread. Anyway
at just past 8am on Friday morning, my friend called me and we had another long conversation.
She explained apologetically - and I was not expecting this bolt from the blue - that her Dad knew
the site was the property of my business but had promised it anyway, since he thought in the event, I wouldn't attach too much value to the site and would end up just shrugging my shoulders and say "It was good while it lasted. So be it."
So he knowingly "sold" something (or, promised it, at least) that wasn't his to sell.
That rather changes the terms of the debate.
I would have posted this sooner, but I have been non-stop busy since last Friday morning.
I trust this leaves my name and my reputation in a marginally less tattered state than it was at this point last week.
I also trust that everyone here understands that (of itself) the [location][generic-keyword].com domain betrays no immediately obvious association with the business in question - and, after a request last week from the former owners of the business to redact from that site any identification markers or references to that business - the site no longer gives any visible indication that it has an association with that business.