[thelist] Copyrights

AJ Dalton a_j_dalton at hotmail.com
Mon May 13 16:47:01 CDT 2002

Hi all -

I thought I'd write this before I get anyone else confused on the issue.
First of all, I'm not an attorney - so I couch everything with "I believe
that ..." - since I have to rely on others in this area.  Plus, in "internet
land" things may be changing.  I'm only raising a 'red warning flag' on

My understanding agrees with the comments that an employee's work belongs to
the employer, by default.  Also, I believe that those are correct by saying
that an original and autonomous work is copyrighted at time of creation
(though proof of authorship is helpful).  So, I have little doubt that a
website that you created for yourself is yours.

But, at least according to one attorney, courts may start treating
Contract-Built Websites differently.  Just as an FYI, I will pass this along
FWIT (For What It's Worth):  I came by this on a plane on the East coast,
about a year ago, when I sat next to an attorney who was building a practice
on Internet Law (or lack of it).  In the course of the discussion, he noted
that a recent copyright case ruled for the business which contracted for the
website.  Copyright was not mentioned in the contract nor noted on the

As best as I remember, he said that: a company contracted for the web site,
participated in and approved the design and content.  Later, the web builder
built an almost identical site for a competitor.  A suit followed.  The web
builder maintained that he owned the copyright and could do as he wished
with it.

The court found that:  1/ The contract was for a product and the product was
the website (delivered and paid for),  2/ The company participated
substantially on the design and content of the product and approved the
final design and content, and as such -  3/ This was not an autonomous,
original, and exclusive work by the web builder.  The web builder lost.  [My
paraphrasing of what he said].

Is this the law?  I don't know.  A lot is up for grabs in the internet.

But, my bottom line is:  I'd state clearly in the contract what the
copyright is, and then clearly publish the copyright on the site.  Then the
whole issue is a non-issue.  Otherwise, "legal-land" can become a quagmire.


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