Website First Draft: Who owns it? Designer or Client?

Before I get into the details, let me say up front that this is work I have been fairly compensated for up to this point.

I developed the initial draft of a site for a client who really had zero idea what he wanted. Working completely in the dark, I went ahead and developed a draft site, published it as a sub-domain of my site, and sent over the link for feedback. The feedback, after several attempts, never did come.

The purpose of the draft site was only to see if he liked the overall look, how menu items worked, how social media was integrated, etc… Having a basic idea of his business, I pulled images and other content from the web just to populate pages until the “real” stuff came from him. Obviously, any SEO enhancements were left out as neither of us wanted this draft site found — or so I was led to believe.

Yesterday, because my client has failed to reply to any of my e-mails, I googled him and end up at a YouTube video where some marketing “expert” is critiquing my client’s draft site for him as a “freebie”. Evidently, he had sent this company the link I gave him to get their feedback. From the feedback they were obviously under the impression this was the final site — although I fail to see how an experienced developer could believe this was anything but a draft. Regardless, they thought this was the final so, obviously, the talking head was ripping it apart. 

I was a little annoyed that my client did this, especially since the “expert” identifies the subdomain and my domain in the critique. Which I feel shows questionable ethics at best. But, since this company, even though they are social media experts as well, has only garnered three views on YouTube, I’m going to let it slide. In the meantime I have removed the subdomain and completely changed my site.

But I do wonder, even though there is nothing that contractually states it, do I not own this site and content? Or, because the client has paid me up to this point, does he own it?

Any comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Peace out...


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