My webmaster created our website and is now charging me a licensing fee


My webmaster signed an agreement saying that all work done on the website is owned by our company.

He now thinks that he is being payed unfairly and wants the website to be taken down.

He says that he will allow us to use the code after we pay him a certain amount of money he thinks he is owed.

Is this a common practice?

Website Web Services Licensing Software Licensing Contractor

asked Feb 14 '12 at 11:11
Kyle Berkley
31 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • You have an agreement. Unfortunately, you may need a lawyer and a judge to enforce it. – Jeff O 11 years ago
  • Hard to understand why he thinks he is owed more money from your description. Did you fulfill your terms of the contract? Would a non-biased party agree with you? – B Mitch 11 years ago
  • Do you have control of the web site, hosting, etc? And you have his signed doc? If so, refuse his request and don't do business with him again. If what he is asking for is not too much and you can afford it and it is somewhat reasonable, just give him it and make him sign all sorts of stuff and never, ever do business with him again. Ever. Did you take advantage of him? Was he paid a reasonable amount? Who came up with the contract amount? – Tim J 11 years ago

3 Answers


If all work done on the website is owned by your company then unless there is some specific part of the contract he is quoting it sounds like he's out of luck. That said, if you are able to make a backup of any files pertaining to the website, do so ASAP.

You can try threatening him with legal action, in which case:

  1. Get as much evidence ASAP, before you threaten (emails, signed contracts).
  2. Backup as much data as you can, in case things don't go well and your webmaster becomes aggressive.
  3. Present the evidence and tell him that you will take legal action. This is often enough. If he is part of a larger design company, inform the company of the situation and your next steps.
  4. Hire a lawyer.

I also imagine that this is a common practice, known as extortion.

EDIT - This assumes no other important details. I don't know your contract and I don't know why he feels he may have been wronged. Also I am not a lawyer.

answered Feb 14 '12 at 11:26
384 points


Yes, as user745434 suggests, this sounds like extortion, which is frowned upon in many jurisdictions.

Try to get to the root of why the webmaster feels bad, as this will likely be the key to solving this issue. Ask them why they feel they have been treated badly and why they didn't mention it before when the original negotiation took place.

answered Feb 14 '12 at 18:44
Steve Jones
3,239 points
  • One of these days I ought to actually set a name, heh. – Mirov 11 years ago
  • @user745434 No time like the present. :) – Karlson 10 years ago


Yopur development agreement with him governs - and it will have a provision about who owns the copyright in and to the site (and the code behind it). The problem is that you will need to access it, and if he controls access, you may have a great case legally but a tough case as a practical matter. If he were to deny you access and then put up your site, contact the ISP and send a DMCA takedown notice.

answered Feb 15 '12 at 06:11
Neil Jacobs
46 points

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