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Several years ago a friend of mine, had a friend who was also one of his employees, build him a personal blog on the side. This blog is very popular, because my friend is a radio personality.

My friend the radio personality paid the guy for his extra work, he paid for the domain name, the hosting etc. But everything on the domain and hosting site was done through the employees name and employees login credentials so the employee could manage the site.

flash forward a few years, the employee went rogue, started lying about things, going behind peoples backs and was no longer able to be an employee at the company, he was let go.

My friend contacted and paid the man to transfer all of the files from his domain over to a new domain in my friends name, but it was never done, the former employee when contacted as to why the exchange never too place is claiming "issues" with transferring over the files.

This employee has my friends website root files and all of the domain information and is now completely unresponsive to contact. There were no contracts signed regarding the website, there were no legally binding agreements besides checks being cashed. What teeth does my friend have to get the web files from his rogue former employee?

there is no desire to sue for any damages, the only desire is to get the websites files and not have to build from scratch again. Which I can do, but it would not be preferred.

  • It sounds like there are two issues here: the work and copyright involved with the website files, and the ownership of the domain. Who is the domain registered to: your radio friend or the employee who built the blog? – BlueDogRanch Feb 19 '16 at 0:52
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Notwithstanding that there was no contract signed, there was a contract. All the elements required are there.

What is not clear, because it was not a matter addressed by the contract, is who owns the copyright in the code, that is, who owns the program files (the blog entries will belong to the person who wrote them)? In the absence of a contractual provision the common law says they belong to the creator.

If the contract were an employment contract (work for hire) then the copyright belongs to the employer. When you say "the radio personality paid the guy for his extra work" do you mean that he was paid overtime as part of his normal job? If so then the copyright belongs to the employer. If not, that is, he was paid say a fixed fee to design the web site, then the copyright belongs to the creator because he is a contractor, not an employee, for this purpose.

Needless to say this is messy. While there was a "legally binding agreement" it is not clear what was agreed. There are arguments available to both parties that they are the copyright holder and that the files legally belong to them.

A legal remedy is uncertain and expensive - rewrite the code.

  • This is a get a lawyer question. – user3344003 Feb 19 '16 at 5:52

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