I was recently contacted by someone to take over finishing a web site. The original designer has been fired and they want someone to finish it. They had no written contract with the original designer but contend that they own all rights to what has been done so far. How they know this they haven't explained. I am planning on running away from this as fast as possible, but am wondering if this situation has come up with others. It's a first for me. (Other times when someone before me has been fired it is because they couldn't come to an agreement on the design and I've pretty much started from scratch.)
Based on my experience, this is probably a wise move. The only project I ever had that went bad was under just these circumstances. The only reason I came out okay was because I was semi-suspicious from the start and took precautions. (Among them was at the last second making my estimate 25% higher than I would have otherwise.) If I hadn't been desperate for work at that time I would have avoided them altogether.
Anyhow, the company itself went bust shortly after we fired one another, another indication of their reliability -- and sad to say I get some degree of satisfaction from that.
Here's what Ivan Hoffman has to say about this:
TAKING OVER A WEB SITE DESIGN PROJECT:
Potential Pitfalls for the Designer and the Site Owner
IVAN HOFFMAN, B.A., J.D.
I also would stay away. This is a situation best explained by an attorney ... But, in an amateur's nutshell, they probably don't own the rights because rights, which would most likely have belonged to the designer and can only be transferred in writing. So no contract, no transfer. Most clients wrongfully assume that because they paid for something, they own the rights.
Thanks, everyone, for your comments. [T]he article by Ivan Hoffman is the perfect thing to show this not-to-be client.