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Legal/ethical question


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I've been doing some freelance work for a local organization for the last few years.  Recently, they hired a new director, and sent out a generic e-mail looking for a new director with web development experience.  Naturally, I got suspicious, but figured that the director would at least send some word about moving in another direction.  This was about a month ago, just before my old PC died.


I just got my new PC earlier in the week, after spending a few weeks trying to fix the old one.  I checked the website today, and low and behold 90% of it has changed (and not for the better).  All that remains is my dropdown navigation system (which looks completely out of place now) and, ironically, my name as the current web designer.


I'd like to remove those files that control the navigation system, but I'm weary about any legal ramifications that may have.  I didn't copyright those files per se, but my name is on them.  I don't want some wannabe Photoshop jocky passing off my work as their own.  Should I just remove them regardless?

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ethically speaking, i would contact the company and formally request for them to remove the files that you created...


speaking about copyrighting, the way that i understand it is that you don't have to "formally" copyright anything...


Taken from http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#mywork


How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?

Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.


When is my work protected?

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.


Do I have to register with your office to be protected?

No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

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Removing them without authorization would qualify as vandalism or destruction of property - so I would suggest that you leave them be. If you're worried about someone taking credit for your work, all you can really do is wait for them to violate the copyright (under US law, a work is copyrighted as soon as it is created) and then tell them to stop the violation or file suit.

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Got from same site...


  • How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else's work?

Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent. See Circular 14, Copyright Registration for Derivative Works.


  • Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?

A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

  • Could I be sued for using somebody else's work? How about quotes or samples?

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

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