My client who owes me payment is ghosting me. What can I do?
I'm a new freelancer and learned from my mistake of not having created a contract. I've worked with this client before on two quick projects, and this project took longer and was more expensive. I sent a draft to him because he needed to overview it with his attorneys as it's business-related paperwork. I sent an invoice on April 24th via email, and the client responded via text on the 27th that he'd pay me the next morning (the 28th) via Venmo. I have heard nothing from him since despite texting and emailing politely multiple times since.
I figure I'll never see the money, but do I have any course of action? I was recommended by a fellow freelancer to call his office and reach out the investors on his project, but I'm concerned that'd he be able to accuse me of harassment. I know the work (an executive summary for a company and its products) is my IP with the Copyright Act of 1976, but to what extent can I use it as an example for clients/display it on my website as a sample? It contains information about their products and investors.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Depending upon how much money you're out, you may want to consider filing a small claims suit against the client - and probably precede that with a letter from an attorney, which will indicate that you're not just blowing smoke. Of course, small claims courts are temporarily restricted with all this Covid-19 mess, but should return back to somewhat-normal in the coming weeks. The absence of a formal contract is absolutely not fatal to your claim.
If you'd like to further discuss, contact me offsite at [email protected] or 267-663-9995. Best of luck, and keep washing your hands.
Let me start with the IP angle.
Being there was no contract the client receives an implied license to use and enjoy the work product for all its intended purposes. The rule is that an implied, nonexclusive copyright license is granted when (1) a person (the licensee) requests creation of a work, (2) the creator (the licensor) makes and delivers it to the licensee, and (3) the licensor intends that the licensee-requestor use the work. All which of occurred in your situation.
Being this is the case, you really do not have an IP claim, but you most certainly can go after the money owed to you for services rendered. You might want to consider a small claims court action.
Regards to using the content as a sample, being you own the IP rights because there was no work for hire contract you can do anything you want with it so long as that does not frustrate your client's use of it, like selling or licensing it to a competitor. Using it as a work sample should not be an issue, but if it contains very sensitive content that may change things. But of course this will have to be rather obvious being there was no agreement that addresses confidentiality. You can also redact some of the most sensitive content if you think it might be an issue.
If you need clarification, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your best course of action in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.
Our firm is now referred by the American Bar Association (see under the New York section): http://www.americanbar.org/groups/delivery_legal_services/resources/programs_to_help_those_with_moderate_income.html
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 of this posting.
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