A friend of mine made me aware of the following article: Web, counterfeit: Court penalizes Web design firm that helped sell knock-offs - latimes.com
It is about a web design firm that built a site for a company they knew sold knock-off golf clubs, which is illegal. As we web designer, Can't I just include a paragraph in my contract with the client that states that anything illegal the site might be doing is completely the sole responsibility of the Client and not the developer.
As long as the Client signs that, am I protected from prosecution? Is there anything I can have the client sign that would protect me or do I always need to triple-check to make sure everything on the site is legit?
Absolutely, you should have a paragraph in your contract that indemnifies you and limits your liability for things like this. Be sure it's written properly and enforceable in your jurisdiction (i.e. consider hiring an attorney if you are at risk for this kind of thing).
A signed contract with such a paragraph in it will help to protect you, but it certainly doesn't guarantee your protection in every circumstance. What the contract will do for you is protect you from being an innocent party to someone else's wrongdoing - but it doesn't relieve you of your own personal responsibilities. If you knowingly contribute to someone's illegal enterprise OR you fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that your clients are legitimate and operating legally, then you could have some liability.
Fortunately that is much easier. You don't have to triple-check each client to make sure they aren't up to something. But, if there were some very obvious signs that they were doing something illegal and you reasonably would be expected to recognize those signs, I'd be very careful!
Ok, I hardly ever feel the need to say this but IANAL (I am not a laywer) so I can't provide legal advice - but that is my understanding of how this kind of thing works.
Anyone with a JD want to jump in?
And the article you cited is consistent with my interpretation, too:
Bright Builders was liable because it knew, or should have known, that copycatclubs.com was selling illegal merchandise, Cleveland Golf attorneys said in the lawsuit. An attorney for Bright Builders argued in court that the company was not aware of Prince's illegal conduct and should not be held liable for it.
A federal jury in South Carolina disagreed, ordering Bright Builders this month to pay $770,750 to Cleveland Golf. Prince was ordered to pay $28,250. A federal judge entered the judgment March 14.
wooohoo, I'm a pretend laywer!
So the web developers get stung with $770k, but the actual owner of the site only gets to pay $29k? Seems odd that the web developers get assigned over 20 times more liability than the guy who actually owns the whole set up and who is clearly the 'brains' of the whole operation.
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