Legal Question in Intellectual Property in California

I worked on a website on my part time for over 4 years and a NPO used that with the understanding that the software was not for free but there wasn't a written contract. Over the last 7 odd years, the organization has grown over 300% of its original size and now wants me to give up the software. They have paid for the software a monthly nominal amount for the last couple of years only and now they do not want to pay anymore as well. What are my options now?

Asked on 10/21/13, 2:22 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Jim Betinol Withrow and Betinol Law

Without a contract it is unclear on what your position is with regards to ownership over the software and to force further payment over the software. I would recommend that you consult with an attorney because the answer to your question depends on many factors that is difficult to determine merely based on the information you provided above.

Some factors that needs to be decided includes but not limited to: (1) whether you were employee or an independent contractor, (2) whether the software was a sort of a "Work for Hire," and (3) whether there are emails can establish an agreement.

I wish you the best of luck.



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Answered on 10/21/13, 2:42 pm

Frank Natoli Natoli-Lapin, LLC

My colleague offered very good advice. We would really need to understand all the factual circumstances in context and review any written exchanges, etc before offering a best course of action.

You should really reach out to a lawyer (or several) in private to get some insights.

If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.

Kind regards,



[email protected]

DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis

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Answered on 10/21/13, 2:51 pm
Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

Computer code and website design are both copyrightable. Under copyright law, the creator of a work owns the work unless there is a written contract to the contrary saying that the work is a work for hire (verbal understandings are not enforceable under intellectual property laws). And copyright attaches automatically as soon as a work is created (but you need to have filed a registration with the copyright office in order to go to court). The fact that there has been a monthly fee would not change the ownership. You should speak with a competent intellectual property or copyright attorney about your rights and perhaps have him/her negotiate on your behalf. You might be able reclaim the work or, if it is uniquely useful only to the company, work out some sort of license/purchase.

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Answered on 10/22/13, 11:34 am

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