What if I write my client a website using LAMP. Suppose that clients starts selling my code to other people, can I perhaps do something about it because I have already asked them not to sell it more than once. This is because I am giving them the space to sell their website. But I don't want my code to be sold to too many people.

As a web developer, I usually use OOP really well and so when my clients want websites, I usually use what I have. But what worries me is that a customer can go and sell my code for a cheaper price which in turn could run me out of business.

This is a little complicating because I did sell them the website. But on the other hand, I have a copy of windows but I may not resell it. The problem is that unlike windows, php isn't compiled and thus they could make changes and sell it.

My question is, can I take them to court over it?

  • 3
    No contract, no court case. Not in writing = doesn't exist. If you didn't sell the website as licensed code, but only asked, you'll probably be laughed out of court. Most website development is done for hire and the copyright belongs to the owner of the website unless other arrangements are made in writing. – Fiasco Labs Apr 5 '13 at 1:41

Generally when you write code or scripts for a client, you do so under an agreement. I would strongly advise consulting with an attorney before you dish out your software, so that you can agree with your client upon some terms -- distribution, usage, modification, resale, etc. -- and also terms for if the contract is breached. If your client DID follow your "I don't want you to sell it more than once" request, what is stopping the buyer from selling for his or her self?

The second thing: you may consider looking into sites similar to ThemeForest, where they "more securely" sell copies of your site and give you about 70% commission.

Another option is to 'obfuscate' the code, which can be done on both free and paid systems. This makes it extremely difficult for someone to decode your scripts. The more expensive the software, generally the more secure it is. One that I recommend is http://www.ioncube.com/ which is NOT free, but if you're worried about losing money for having unauthorized copies of your scripts sold, may be worth the investment.

Directly addressing your question: no, you cannot take them to court over it unless you have all of the terms and conditions (license agreement/contract) in writing, preferably with written signatures and dates.

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    "The more expensive the software, generally the more secure it is." -- That is a dangerously flawed way of thinking. Many see code obfuscating as a fool's errand, and it's a moderate deterrent at best since even the best code obfuscators still produce compiled bytecode that's trivial to disassemble into human-readable form. – Lèse majesté Apr 5 '13 at 5:09
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    And considering the trade-off you're accepting: making it impossible for customers to maintain or upgrade the site, you better have more than just a naive assumption to base your decision on. And given the vendors of these code obfuscators aren't gonna tell you how their product works (just as DRM vendors won't explain how their DRM mechanism works, as they rely on security through obscurity), you should at least trial the software, pitting it against the leading disassembler on the market to make sure it does more than just strip the comments and change your variable/function names. – Lèse majesté Apr 5 '13 at 5:17
  • You're working for the client - it's their product, unless otherwise stated. That's why a client can usually fire their web dev, take the site and get someone else to work on it. If there's proprietary code then that needs to be specified. Bottom-line:- serious web devs have a simple contract that spells out what the client is getting and what they can do with it. – garth Sep 20 '18 at 8:49

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