Held Hostage by SEO Company for Meta-Tags: Copyright Law

Apr 13, 2005 • 8:33 am | comments (1) by | Filed Under Legal Issues in Search

Our very own Ben Pfeiffer (aka Phoenix) started an outstanding thread over at Search Engine Watch forums named Can an SEO/SEM Company Own Your Meta-tags?

The thread was inspired by a friend of Ben who felt he was scammed by an well known SEO company. Basically, the SEO company required that he continue to pay his monthly fee in order to continue to use the meta-tags. In fact, the contract he signed or wanted him to sign read:

The Meta tags provided by ABC Company are the property of ABC Company and protected by copyright law. As a client, you may continue to use the Meta-tags and work provided solely for the website after the terminations of this agreement as long as payments are made as agreed.

Ben goes on to talk about the ethics behind this. Will such a clause stand up in court. And if so, what happens if your sued over your meta-tags, is the SEO company libel?

Replies to Ben's post are of all flavors. Some look at the case from an objective point and say, yes, this should hold up in court. They base this off of documents at copyright.gov that reads;

(b) Works Made for Hire. In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.

Others say that its perfectly fine to have that in your contract. It is the same thing as writing an email at work; unless otherwise specified, the business owner has rights to read that email. Others say that it is simply unethical, legal or not.

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