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Jane Doe Deer
Jane Doe Deer, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 3896
Experience:  Atty since 1986. Real estate, tax, and other business law questions
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Am I liable if I dont turn over the source code of a ...

Resolved Question:

Am I liable if I don''t turn over the source code of a web site if there was no contract?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 9 years ago.

Hello and thanks so much for writing to me. I will need just a little bit more information before I can respond:

Please tell me the "story" (summarized). I want to know if any oral contract was formed, the dates, who the agreement was with, etc.

I'll look forward to your response!

BTW, sometimes there can be a delay of many hours before I can get back to you. Be patient; I won't forget you, and I can usually respond within no more than 8 hours.


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Two and a half years ago I was contacted by a business owner who occasionally has web site design jobs pop up. Not enough to hire someone full-time. Until a few months ago, I helped him those opportunities. I did somewhere between 12 and 15 sites for him.

We had a falling out, and I refused to do any more work for him. He asked for all the source files (Photoshop, Flash, HTML, etc.) I provided all the source code except for one site.

He and I never signed ANY type of agreement. We never had a discussion regarding assignment of rights or ownership of the work.

Now his attorney is contacting me and sent me this email:

You are correct that we are looking for the return of the source code.
Your obligations and potential liability to Red Level Network are clear regardless of whether you were an employee or independent contractor (in fact, your potential liability may be even greater).
The concern is with servicing the client, Sparkie's. At this point, there has not been a disruption and there is no stress.
If you fail to provide the source code and the client is harmed, you will understand "stress".
Please provide the source code immediately.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
At this point, I feel I should turn over the source code. It's not worth it go through this kind of stress. However, I am wondering if that will really end it. I'm concerned that this will somehow go on and on.
Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 9 years ago.

If you returned all the source code to him except for one site, why don't you want to return it for the remaining site?

What you can do is write back to the attorney. Say that you will be happy to turn over the source code in exchange for a fully executed release that releases you from all obligations to your former customer, now and in the future.

In the future, please, please get a signed agreement from all your customers, even if it's a big pain in the butt. This is what happens when you don't have one. You can find some free templates through microsoft, and in a million other places online.


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The information provided is general in nature only and should not be construed as legal advice. By using this forum, you acknowledge that no attorney-client relationship has been created between you and Merry A. Kogut or Key Peninsula Law in Washington.

Jane Doe Deer and 5 other Business Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Merry A. Kogut's Post: Thanks Merry. I didn't want to return the one site because I thought it was unique and that I had an opportunity to market my solution to that industry (restaurants.)

If I turn over the source files and do as you suggest, do you think that will end it? I mean, it's not like I put any malicious code in there. Can you see a reason for them to keep bothering me?
Expert:  Jane Doe Deer replied 9 years ago.

Not if they sign a well-written release.

When you write to the attorney, you could also suggest, as an alternative, that if the customer was happy with your work before the falling out, that perhaps you can enter into a written contract with him to continue maintaining/upgrading his websites. Just a thought.

Also, what free ftp program would you recommend to me and where can I get it? I haven't maintained my OWN websites for WAY too long (I lost my program in a computer crash and can't remember what it was or I'd contact the company for a new copy).

Thanks! :)


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
LOL! It's gotten too ugly for that, but thanks.

This is probably the most popular free FTP program:

Thanks again Merry! What a wonderful gift to give someone: peace of mind.

Enjoy your weekend.