smithjones — 2011-09-26T14:19:00-04:00 — #1
When I started out as a designer I made some very poor decisions. These decisions included making Craigslist my main source of finding clients, and not working with a contract.
I did some sites for a client, and over the years I have done site updates for these sites and put similar sites on different domain names for the client. This client has been a really good client to work with, always paying what they said the would, etc etc.
I recently discovered that this client may have been involved in some shady business practices, and may be facing lawsuits in regards to the companies that he had me build sites for.
To be clear, when I built these sites, there was no indication that the client was doing anything legally questionable. However I recently found out that he may or may not have had rights to the content that he provided me with.
Nothing has come of this yet, but I am certainly paranoid that I could be viewed as an “Accomplice” if this client is infact involved in anything shady.
So basically, is there anything I can do about it after the fact to protect myself, or am I pretty much just screwed if something hits the fan because I was stupid and didn't use a contract to protect myself? I don't suppose I could ask them to sign something stating that I am not liable at this point could I? I hate myself for not being smarter when I started out.
Just wondering if anyone has ever been in a similar situation. TIA.
sagewing — 2011-09-26T16:50:37-04:00 — #2
I wouldn't worry about it. Being an unknowing party to a copyright violation can be a legitimate legal matter, but if it's fairly clear that you were just executing the web development piece and there was no reason for you to beleive or suspect any wrongdoing you will probably be ok. Sure, you could be affected legally but it's not as simple as 'if they get sued you get sued'. And it's definitely not as simple as 'if they are liable you are liable."
Even if a legal dispute were to arise, you may not be named in the matter. Even if you were named in the matter, a judge would have to find that you are legitimate party to the case. Even if that did happen, it's not clear what your liability would be.
And most importantly, unless you are talking about significant amounts of damage ($$) and you materially gained from the work in a significant way you probably are pretty safe. Most craigslist transactions like this are pretty low value.
I wouldn't bother having them sign something now, they probably wouldn't do it anyways. Just don't worry about it and avoid this situation in the future.
attorney_jaffe — 2011-09-27T16:28:05-04:00 — #3
Sagewing is being sage again. His answer is spot on.