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Legalities of Clients requests

     
3:13 am on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Scenario:

A new design client comes to you and says the current host and designer is incompetent, hosts porn, won't fix the php scripts and is ready to "throw in the towel" on selling (and then subcontracting) web design to his clients in addition to doing their computer networking and hardware fulfillment.

The new design client claims the files are his and owned by his client that he represents.

The new design client gives you the FTP access information and tells you to move these files to your server and fix the PHP script problems.

*****************************

Several months later you find out that the "New design client" lied to you and has paid you to move the site files from another host without paying for the design/programming work. Since he had you move them without question, the original programmer/host did not know for a period of time that the DNS had been changed and the site wasn't actually being served off their servers anymore. The files had been moved without their knowledge.

*****************************

How does this play out? If the "New design client" has lied and contracted you to do things that may be illegal, how do you protect yourself?

Does this activity sound illegal to you?

IS it illegal? Would the "New design client" be committing a crime to hire a webmaster to "covertly STEAL" files that are in essence work property that wasn't paid for?

3:48 am on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I always include an item in my contract (you have a contract, right?) along the lines of 'the client warrants that the client has the right to use all images, code, lalala supplied by the client' (I'd have to pull the file to get the exact wording).
Thats to cover my bum - hopefully it will, if I ever have an issue.
Scary stuff, man! If this is a real situation I hope you come through ok!
4:09 am on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well, I'm glad I do what you do. They have to sign a statement that they own the material presented to us.

However, the client misrepresented the facts and hired us. In essence, we are trying to figure out if he caused us to break the law by requesting us to do what he asked us to do.

I find that it is not my place to question why a client wants to do what they want to do. I am hired to do a service.

I would never have questioned it - except for the fact that he hired another webmaster to steal the files off of OUR server and basically do the same thing to us. He had another webmaster get the files off the server and refused to pay us for work and hosting. The files were moved 3 weeks before we realized they were no longer being served from our servers - same as the first victim.

The guy is an out-and-out crook. I'm just trying to figure out if he committed a crime by hiring us to do something that equates to being illegal (In MY mind it does, anyway).

I'm just wondering if he could be arrested for lying to us and hiring us under false pretenses, withholding information concerning the material, and also then "stealing" from us as well.

He owes us thousands and the other company thousands. I really DO NOT care about the money. I just want him arrested!

4:34 am on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think it will all depend on your jurisdiction - where you are - as these laws will be different everywhere, but, IANAL! I thought this sort of thing was generally persued by civil suit, rather than criminal?
ie you'd have to sue the guy, rather than have the police press charges?
But I have no experience in this sort of thing.
I assume you have contacted the new developer to warn them? They'll think you are just being catty, of course, but you'll at least put the wind up them.
Bad news, all around.

Just goes to show that there is a point in contacting the previous supplier to see why the previous relationship is ending :(

4:51 am on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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In 10 years of development, I never have had to question a "clients motives" for paying me money to do what they asked to be done.

Since he had full FTP access information, it didn't seem that the company the files were being moved from was trying to keep that from him.

Of course, we found out that the original company didn't know that "Mr. Nice Guy" had intentions of hijacking a $15,000 php programmed site off their servers without paying. Sure he paid half up front - but he skipped without paying the rest and most likely kept what his "client" paid him for the rest of the site (pocketed $7000.00 or more).

I can not find out who is "webmastering" the site now. The Crook keeps himself in the middle. He never tells his clients directly who is actually doing the work and he never lets the webmaster talk to the clients directly. He makes sure that is the agreement at the time or all deals are off.

He is the reason that us web folks have a hard time convincing clients that we do good work and it is worth it. He is out there ruining all of our development relationships with potentially good clients - and getting away with it for the most part.

By the way, the "original" programmer/host is appearing in civil court tomorrow suing him for the programming still owed the first company. I'm appearing in court on their behalf to tell the judge that we didn't mean to "steal" this site. We were operating under completely false circumstances. We would NEVER have moved the files had we known that they were not paid for and fully the Crooks' files.

8:00 pm on Jan 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yeah and the judge will say 'The internet, is that some sort of yoof game Ive to hear of?'
2:16 am on Jan 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What's a yoof game? ;)

Deanne

4:45 am on Jan 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Never give FTP or other access to clients before full payment is made.

Standard Operating Procedure.

1:27 pm on Jan 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The issue here is that the prior web development company gave him FTP access to the site.

"I" did not give FTP access. I understand your point about having full FTP access to a web site. That is what made me think in the beginning when I was approached by the "client" about moving the site. It is standard practice not to give full FTP access to a person that hasn't paid.

So, my assumption was that this website was actually paid for.

It had NOT been paid for, and the "client" hired me to move these files under false pretenses. He indicated that there were problems and all of the problems he laid out were lies.

Therefore, he had me move the files just in order to have the work - and the original site creator has not been paid.

AND - I've been put in the position of essentially "stealing" something that wasn't paid for by this client because he lied to me about everything.

3:18 am on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Bottom line, this sounds like some sort of a breach of contract where your defense would be in the formation of the contract under both fraud and misrepresentation.

I doubt that you would be held liable because you did not have knowledge that the files were not owned by the client.

Having said that, a merchant (such as yourself) in the business of hosting/web development should take the reasonable and necessary steps to make sure that what your client says is actually true - or at least make a reasonable effort to find out.

Sounds like your original contract (whether you had a physical one or not doesn't matter, it could have been verbal or through your actions) is voidable because of the fraud.

best advice, talk to a lawyer...
goodluck

6:13 am on Feb 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>best advice, talk to a lawyer...

I agree with that 101%.

FTP access isn't really necessary these days to steal a site.

Making sure that your client has paid 100% before he ever gets a working site at any domain name is wise! Never make it live at a domain the clients owns without 100% payment.

In your case you are now aware that the site is "potentially" stolen, therefore I would drop the client immediately on ethical grounds. Hopefully your contract allows you to drop them for any reason, at anytime, you feel like?

I would tell the "client" straight that you consider them to have acted inappropriately and you want nothing further to do with them! I would also copy this communication to the designer that you believe has been conned!

If you have already taken money from this "client" I personally would refund it immediately.

This experience is going to cost you both money and time......but, on the bright side you will have learnt an invaluable lesson :)