Recently I had a customer who wanted to move their domain from an obscure company to a major hosting service. They had used a "site creation tool".
I did caution them that some features might be tied to the host, and it would be better if they had all the files locally, but everything got moved and worked OK.
Shortly after that, they got a legal notice stating that the hosting company had complete ownership of anything created with their tools, and all such features must be taken down immediately.
Has anyone ever heard of such action, is this normal, and the important question, is this my fault? I don't think I could reasonably have foreseen this outcome and I was not involved in the original transaction.
The current hosting co has a similar tool, and a similar warning that it might not work correctly on another host, but they were clear that all content created is owned by the user.
I ended up creating them a new site with a generic tool, at basically no cost. I do a fair amount of work for this company, so that's not a huge loss, but the discussion is now centering around "where does the free work end and the billable hours begin?"
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Thread: Website Ownership
Just a thought or two.
If the hosting company created the tool and the graphics used to make the site then I suppose they have a lien to the website content. Of course they do NOT own the site. There is probably some T&C (in small print) which few would think of reading about using such tools.
Personally, I think you have now concluding your moral, but not neccesarilly legal, obligations in moving to the new domain especially if the site is now working to the customer's satisfaction. Any additional work should simply be billed but I would cover yer ass and draw up a written contract.
Whether the small hosting company really truly owns what they claim depends on a lot of factors, including what country this took place in. You'd need legal advice on that one, not the opinions, however well intentioned, of the many non-lawyers here.
In my opinion since you didn't recommend that they use that smaller hosting service to begin with (at least that's what you seem to be saying), their problem is not YOUR problem. They should compensate you for whatever work you have to do in setting up the new website and accept responsibility for a poor decision in the past to use some small mom and pop hosting company who'd look for revenge when they lost business. I have no idea how important this client is to you and whether you make your living freelancing or if this is just some extra cash you get outside of a regular job. If they are a bunch of jerks but you really need the money and need continued work from them, you might have to do this work at a huge discount if not free even if it's not your fault.
My basic stand is that I consulted regarding the technical issues of moving the site, based on what I understood as standard practices. Yeah, I shoulda read the contract, but if they had some copyrighted content that was licensed for use only on that site I don't regard that as something I should be responsible for. Bit of a grey area.
That contract was signed by a particular member of management who is a bit, um, "difficult". I get along great with the guy who signs the checks. It turns out that much of what the "difficult" guy wanted is somewhat different than what the check-signer wants. I think we're pretty clear that anything going forward is now billable, but it is going to be discussed.
I'm fairly annoyed both because I think I got hosed a bit, and mostly because I had to do the work as directed by Mr. Difficult. They are a good customer, I don't think the owner would have pushed the current deal.
I have talked to at least two other hosting companies who do NOT have such a policy, my main question is "Is this common enough to be considered a 'standard industry practice'", or is it so rare that I made no error in dis-regarding the possibility? Or somewhere in the middle?
Yeah. 'Mr. Difficult' sounds like a typical ass-licker who can then report to his immediate boss and show how much the company saved by twisting your arm to do this for f_all.
Your only error was not to actually check for the T&C. Whilst you did warn the client had you checked before you moved the site you could not have been responsible in any way. You might still have done what you did as a jesture of goodwill but 'Mr. Difficult' could not have forced you to do it.
I don't think this kind of "ownership" claim is common by hosting companies. I look at it as an underhanded way to retain customers by making it so painful to leave that many will just suck it up and allow themselves to be painted into a corner and stay. I work in IT for a large American company and my job requires me to sometimes interact with customer IT departments. The smaller companies are the worst because they often have BARELY competent IT departments and when we go to them and say "We can't connect to your server because you need to fix X." often we just get "Huh?" as a response. So I can certainly believe that asserting ownership is a tactic that works on this type of company because they don't have the expertise to rebuild their own websites elsewhere.
But as my whole career in IT has been working for large companies, I really have no reference as to how common this is. The big hosting providers don't do this, nor do they need to, but maybe it is common among smaller providers as a sneaky way to retain clients when the bigger providers start to cut into their customers by offering lower prices.
Jman, you may be correct. I've not heard of this but have not dealt with too many rinky-dink hosting outfits.
They did send a fairly legalistic-looking e-mail, I didn't really look into it much, the host is in Australia. Not much support and more expensive than GoDaddy.
I'll most likely make up the lost hours in the future, with this same client. I just don't like having the finger pointed at me, and make certain I know how this came about to avoid it next time.
Life is a series of learning experiences.