A recent statistic compiled by .net magazine provides a startling revelation: in a poll of 500 web designers it was discovered that 59% were using unlicensed software when designing their client’s sites. And this fact raises an interesting question: who exactly is liable should a software company discover this, the designer or the customer?
First, it’s important to note that, liability aside, there are myriad problems for the end-user if “pirated” software has been used in their site design. The most glaring are these: users often face bugs in the programs and do not benefit from access to support services, which can cause a lot of headaches. (Note: Byte Technology uses only legitimately-purchased versions of industry leading software, meaning your website is compliant in all licensing agreements.)
Why are so many web designers flouting the law? In a word, money. The design industry is flooded with both amateur and professional designers, and even larger firms are finding their budgets stretched thin in the highly-competitive market. And because pirating design software is so rife, major players are responding: Microsoft’s WebsiteSpark program offers support for web design and development agencies with up to ten employees, and eligible customers of Fasthosts—a U.K.-based company—gain an immediate financial benefit with a free Windows Server and MSSQL license. So perhaps soon it won’t be necessary for any web designers to flirt with the potential dangers of using non-licensed products.
As for underlying question of who is liable—the designer or the client—when unlicensed software is used, the law is clear: the designer is absolutely liable, just as guilty as anyone who has every illegally downloaded music, a movie or any type of software. And according to a local attorney, if they don’t inform the client as to the transgression, that party cannot be held accountable.
As a designer, letting your clients know that all of your software is legitimate should be among the first conversations you have with them. And if you’re particularly worried about being above-board on all your website designer projects, a host of companies now provide web designers insurance.
Byte Technology is a premium Minneapolis/Bloomington Web Design company providing custom web design and development services for medium to large businesses in Minnesota, as well as nationally. To speak with a web representative about this article or schedule an open office hour session, please call (612) 204-4921.