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So the story is simple, early stage EU portal hired me to do some extra modules. I got all the source code for local testing, did my job, committed new code.

Now I am out of this project but client still haven't paid me yet and he is not even thinking about that. It has been couple of months and no contract was signed so I can't take any legal actions. What should I do with all the source code? Sell it? Run exact copy of that portal? Make all portal publicly available?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Feb 19 '11 at 13:28

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I would run an exact copy of the portal –  yoda Feb 19 '11 at 11:21
    
@yoda, that is dangerous advice, possibly leading to legal problems. –  paxdiablo Feb 19 '11 at 11:30
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@paxdiablo: Legal problems without any kind of contract? I'm not the type of "eat and shut up" .. Still, it's up to the OP to decide what to do, just my 2 cents. –  yoda Feb 19 '11 at 11:37
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@yoda, it was the "I got all the source code for local testing, did my job, committed new code" line that worried me - that means the starting code belonged to the company, not the OP. –  paxdiablo Feb 19 '11 at 11:56
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@paxdiablo: hmm .. you're right, kinda skip that part .. –  yoda Feb 19 '11 at 11:59

5 Answers 5

My advice: do nothing. Walk away. Any act of revenge is likely to end badly.

If you can't get paid by doing regular things like contacting the client and requesting it, and you don't have a contract (why?, seriously, why did you do this?), then you should treat this as an education and move on.

Don't ever do work (or at least don't deliver it) without a contract in place, preferably with progress payments so, even if it goes belly-up, you've been paid something.

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+1 for the progress payments, this is a great way to weed out the chancers –  Jaitsu Feb 19 '11 at 11:27
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+1 for pax - also, in addition to his comment, you can always take legal action. But without a contract, that will be hard to prove :/ –  True North Creative Feb 19 '11 at 11:35
    
+1, but even with a contract - they're generally not even worth the paper they're printed on. Contracts are like fences - they keep honest people honest, but the deadbeats will ignore it. And if you want to fight it, good luck trying to out-lawyer them. –  red-dirt Feb 19 '11 at 17:21

Not sure this is the place for these types of questions. But here's my 2 cents...

You still own the intellectual property rights to that code, if you can produce proof that you were the one who wrote it, then they will have to pay you. No contract has been signed, but if you have emails/recorded conversations of them agreeing to pay you in exchange for this work then that in itself is a binding contract.

They couldn't use your code in a commercial product without your written consent either, it's your intellectual property and they haven't held up their end of the agreement yet.

If it's a large sum of money it may be worth seeking legal advice, and don't ever think that you can't do anything about it. That's what people like that play on.

On the other hand, they may well be planning to pay and have just forgotten. You should try chasing them one last time and say that without payment you can't sign over the intellectual rights.

Maybe someone can correct me, but I'm pretty sure you're in the position of power here.

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"You still own the intellectual property" - be careful here, this is a jurisdictional issue. –  paxdiablo Feb 19 '11 at 11:26
    
@paxdiablo: It is a jurisdictional issue, but it may be worth investigating. However even if the facts and the law are on the OPs side, getting lawyers involved may turn into another "educational experience". –  btilly Feb 19 '11 at 15:59
    
Hiring a lawyer may well cost you more than you are owed. If you spend $1000 on a lawyer to collect a $500 debt thats just kind of dumb. –  Zachary K Feb 19 '11 at 16:32

You get to pay some stupid tax, sorry about that. For now I suspect that there is nothing you can do but keep bugging them to pay you.

For future I would say your best bet is to be more careful about who you work for. When choosing clients you need to ask the question, Do I think this person will pay me on time? if not Well don't take the job.

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I would play around with their code.

Try to find some exploit.

Do you have access to production DB? Maybe you could save yourself a copy.... just in case. I don't tell you to use this, but you could threat to do something with that data or exploits.

Also, consider (aka threat to) go public. Depending on who they are, they might dislike the idea and pay you your deserved money.

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Be very careful. This might be severely more illegal than not heeding a verbal agreement. –  user1249 Jul 30 '11 at 9:29

It might be worth talking to a good and trustworthy lawyer about this. As @Jeff says in the comment above, there is such a thing as verbal contracts and they often are as binding as written ones (although of course possibly difficult to prove). Also, you are likely to have E-Mail conversations outlining the business nature of your relationship with the client.

It could be that your jurisdiction allows you to claim payment without a written contract. If you don't mind risking paying some lawyer's fees, I would at least explore the legal route. Even if nothing comes out of it, it is going to be valuable experience.

In the future, needless to say, insist on written contracts with a clear payment plan.

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