Intellectual Property and/or Copyright Law

Hi all, I’m in a bit of a strange position with regards to a potential freelance web job.

In a nutshell, the entity that wants to (hopefully) hire me is being held hostage by their current contractor. They have no FTP access to their website managed by this guy, and any disputes or grievances they take to him apparently result in the site being made unavailable until they capitulate.

What I may be asked to do is to retrieve and/or duplicate this site on another host controlled by the contracting entity at which point they will inform their domain registrar that the domain (which they do control) will point to the new site.

My question is does the original contractor own any piece of the site concept, graphics, layout etc.? Am I potentially exposing my person to charges of IP or copyright theft? Or is the site and all its contents the property of the contracting entity? To head off any locality questions, the contracting entity is in Sweden, I’m in Texas and the other guy is in CA.

The assignment of copyright should have been a key point in the contract that the company made with the guy who is holding their website hostage, so they would need to review that contract to ensure that they have the rights to do what you’re suggesting.

However, if there’s a dispute raging to this extent, it seems that it’s in everyone’s best interests to get everything settled before any further action is taken. For your protection, you might want to consider, strongly, whether or not you want to get into the middle of the fight between the Swedish company and the Californian guy. The trouble may not be worth whatever fees you may be earning.