Suppose that a developer created an online back-office application, a database, and a UI for a startup business run by the developer's wife and a partner.

These items have a copyright notice in their footer giving the copyright holder as the business. But they do not have any terms and conditions (T&C) document listing the business as the owner.

The developer was never an employee of the business, was never paid for development services, and there was no written agreement of any sort between the developer and the business, specifically no copyright transfer or license agreement.

If the wife leaves the business can the developer insist on payment for having done this development work, or for the copyrights involved.

This is a follow up to my previous question here No written licence or any agreement between us at all.

Assume the developer designed the sites, but the content and the images were created by the business.

  • I have edited this question significantly to make it more generic. As edited, I do not think this is a request for specific legal advice (RSLA) and should not be closed as such) Aug 6, 2021 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


The matter has not much changed from the previous question. The developer would be the initial holder of the copyrights. There must have been a transfer of copyright or a license agreement for the business to use the applications lawfully. Since there was no written agreement, there must have been an oral agreement or more likely an implicit agreement.

If this went to court the court would need to decide what the terms of the implicit agreement were, so that it could enforce them. It would do this based on the demonstrated actions of the parties. A copyright notice would be evidence of a transfer of copyright. Perhaps more importantly, allowing the business to use the developer's work without payment for a period of years suggests that it was provided as a gift to the business to benefit the wife and the wife's business partner. A court might be reluctant to create an obligation for payment out of mere implication in such circumstances.

The developer would be wise to come to some agreement with the partner on the matter, and perhaps to consult a lawyer experienced in IP law. A court case would involve some expense and might not have a favorable outcome, but a lawyer to whom the whole facts were disclosed could give a better opinion on that. An initial consultation with a lawyer might not be very expensive.

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