Even Friends Need a Contract!

Below is a recent email I received. I have removed identifying information for obvious reasons. I’ll call this victim Regretta.

Dear Angela,

Three years ago, I started a blog and website describing my talents as a writer. They were both under one domain name.

All this setup was done by my best friend. He had handled all the money matters and setup as he is a technical guy and worked as a web administrator.

We were also involved emotionally and I trusted him blindly…

The email went on to say that the “friend” hadn’t worked on the site in two years, and didn’t make any updates, but kept encouraging Regretta to grow the blog. He was earning Google Adsense money on the blog and he was sharing the revenues with her.

By now, you know where this is going. He started dating someone else…yet he kept checking in weekly with the Regretta to see how the blog was doing. Regretta was so hurt that she filed complaints against him with the resellers and the website host. But, she added, “He was too sly and had covered his tracks well.” He changed the domain registration to a relative’s name and there was no way for Regretta to prove she had any ownership of the site because everything on the back-end had been done by the friend.

It gets worse. He blocked her access to the blog and website, as well as her email, and told the website host that she was trying to steal his blog. She finally resorted to begging him to remove her name from the blog, obviously not trusting his intentions. He got abusive, taunting her, saying her work was “garbage”, and that she was a thief. He even claimed she had been his employee all along. After losing her entire website and blog, which included more than 400 original articles, she suffered anxiety attacks and depression, and developed high blood pressure.

She concluded with, “Everyone at home blames me for my stupidity of believing in him without any paperwork and won’t understand that I was blinded by love and believed that we were meant to be.”

They never had an agreement where Regretta agreed to give him ownership of her original materials so, in my opinion, his act of refusing to remove her articles from the blog is copyright infringement. A certified letter from a real attorney detailing this may be all she needs to get the articles and her name removed from the site.

But, first, she should access the site using a different computer and copy/paste her articles into files so she will have them after (if) he removes them. She should also obtain screenshots of the pages on the site so she can prove copyright infringement, if he continues to refuse to remove them.

The fact is, relationships end all the time, whether they be based on romance, friendship, or strictly business. Any business of any sort, even a website, that is run by more than one person should be backed up by a legal agreement detailing exactly who owns and/or controls what and it should also include a clause that details what will happen if the relationship ends.

When we incorporated BookLocker, our lawyer insisted we have such a clause because he knows, as all lawyers do, that things can absolutely go sour with no warning. Protect yourself. Never work without a contract, even if you are a co-owner!