Recently we had an issue with a new client. The old website provider decided that they were not happy we took over web marketing for this client and sent us a nice letter telling us that we needed to remove the website under the DMCA.
Before we had a chance to even think about responding we got a notification from our hosting provider that they were going to take it down because of failure to comply with the DMCA.
The problem was that all the brand elements on the site were brand elements of the client (taken from their artwork). All the images on the site were stock photos... pretty sure that this web builder doesn't own those images. And the content was so bad that we changed it this week anyway as part of the new contract.
The best part is that the bottom of the old website said, very specifically, that the copyright was our client's. So, it was reasonable to assume that our client owned the copyright.
You'd think that, too, if it was yours, right?
What we did for this client
Now, I'm not going to tell you who the client is or the competitor was. That would be bad form.
We decided that it was easier to remove any gray area. Partially because the fight wasn't worth having and partially because there were definitely elements that if they want to lay claim on it, they probably could... no matter our philosophy.
So, we created new graphics. We created new icons. We changed fonts. We changed colors. We swapped out stock photos. We wrote entirely new content and verified that content against a really cool plagerism tool we have to verify that we not only were within the limits of the law but so far in that no one could say boo.
DMCA is for losers
Okay, that's a cheap shot, I get it. The DMCA is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. I see that I might ruffle a few feathers saying something like that. I also know there are legitimate reasons why artists need to protect their work. If a blogger creates original work that is very unique to him or her then that person should be afforded some ability to protect that work. The Oatmeal v FunnyJunk is a very good example.
The reason why I think this is for losers is that this type of case is a small business website that doesn't possess any spectacular artistic ability that any template provider couldn't do (for all I know, it was a template site). The content was piss-poor and the imagery was stock photography. There was nothing to really copyright.
In this case, the cry of foul against the DMCA was because this company didn't do enough to take care of their clients. If you can't take care of your clients then it's your own fault they leave you.
As my good friend, Tac Anderson, say, "Obscurity is a fate worse than piracy."
Tribute Media's Copyright Policy
So, when you hire Tribute Media, who owns the copyright on your content and your website?
That's easy, you do.
No legal jargon of "client agrees to not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, resell or exploit any portion of our services."
As long as you pay your bill to us, you are the owner of your content and website.
Of course, if you choose to use proprietary software for your website, that company licenses it to you. If you are stupid enough to get a professional photographer that wants to license pictures of you to you then that photog owns your face.
If we don't do a good enough job taking care of you then we don't deserve you as a client and we aren't going to hold your content hostage.
What are you going to do now?
Is your website built by someone that is going to hold it hostage when you are ready to move on?
Are you being taken care of?
Maybe you ought to consider a partner instead of a vendor.
Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Digital Marketing Strategist. He is also the author of "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter."