|an independent web designer is hired to design, build, host and maintain a commercial website which has mainly photo and video content. relationship continues for three years.
then the website company says, thanks for all your great work, but i now have someone who is going to take over maintenance of the site for free, please hand everything over. independent contractor says no way, this is my work, i own it. here's all your original content back, good luck.
should he have to hand everything over or does he have ownership rights on the site?
This should be specified beforehand. It rarely is though. The company will win if they have more money, and the designer has anything to loose (like money for a lawyer, and/or tons of time to spend in court.)
Did the designer register the domain name for the company? If so (if the designer is the offical contact for that domain) then the company has a BIG problem. Probably the designer could just hand over the domain name in exchange for the company not pursuing legal action. Tricky though. A very ethical web designer would refuse to register a domain for someone else for just this reason.
I'll bet this happens with some frequency. But it's pretty clueless on the part of both parties. You contract someone to "build you a website" but don't make it clear who owns what in the end? Is the designer providing a service, or delivering a product? Interesting. Keep us posted on how this turns out.
designers are hired all the time to design a site, or ad, or whatever, and then the client invariably picks the most boring design, or edits it away, etc. the designer often shows their own favorite design iteration in their portfolio, as opposed to the design that was ultimately used by the client.
and in my experience the designer is never interested in the maintenance part as that is not nearly as interesting as the designing.
legally, i don't think the designer has any right to the work, they were hired as a consultant, to do "work for hire." i agree with jim, this sort of language should be in the contract up front.
oh, come on...this is clearly a work for hire...give me a break.
there MIGHT be some issues around the underlying code...but the public site is clearly the company's...what else were they paying for?
a no brainer. speaking on an ethical level.
legally, i assume it would be pretty easy for the company to prevail...but they were idiots for not putting it in writing in the first place given that there might be crazy webdesigners with crazy ideas out there ; )