Online Thievery - Graphics

by Shari Thurow - email her


(Note: we are currently writing up a rather lengthy HTML document regarding the steps you can take to gather evidence in the event that your website content is stolen. My advice here is an excerpt from the draft.)

I'm not a lawyer and am not able to dispense legal advice. These are just some of the steps we follow when a client does not honor a contract.

21 of our web pages were stolen in July, including the graphics and logos we designed for clients. Here's what you can do to show your former client that you are serious about pursuing a lawsuit if they do not comply with your contractual agreement.

First, you do have to prove that you created those graphic images. One way to do this is to be able to show the original Photoshop/Illustrator/Freehand file, the corresponding gif or jpeg file, and the DATES they were created. On a Mac computer, you can open up your directory under the Finder menu, and print the screen showing the names and dates of the files. It is imperative that you do not actually open these files, because if you do, the date will change on the file.

If your former client has been messing with your graphic images (and it's been my personal experience that unexperienced designers do make them worse), you can view the date a graphic image was FTPed in a browser . On the HTML page, in Netscape, go to View-Page Info. A new window will open. You can click on the link to the graphic images on the page, and the information shown will give when the graphic image is modified. When this info is revealed, you can print it. Personally, I will tend to print the screen.

All you need is only a few pages of evidence to send to them, but you will have to do this for every graphic image they have used/ stolen without your permission BEFORE you contact them. (I used to work at a web host. They can take away your evidence very quickly.) Have an attorney send them a registered, certified letter stating the breach of contract that you no longer give them permission to use the graphic images on their site, and order their removal. Give a specific date for removal. Send a copy of the contract where the breach is highlighted. When you send this letter, send only a couple pieces of evidence as an attachment. Maybe the emails they sent you would help. The evidence shows them that you are serious about pursuing a lawsuit if they do not comply.

We did this to a couple of clients that decided not to follow through on their contractual agreements with us. The clients paid up when they got the registered, certified letter on a lawyer's letterhead (it's more written evidence for you), and the strategic evidence sent to them. You might want to have a lawyer select the best evidence to send to them.

We, too, have contracts at our firm. Our contract is very specific about ownership. Copyright ownership does not transfer for the image(s) until final payment is deposited and cleared in our bank account. (Notice I said "cleared." You can deposit a check and it could bounce.)

Best of luck to you. I know how hard this type of procedure is.


Shari Thurow (


For FREE design and marketing tips, visit us at:


Other Information on Copyright

back to Consulting Articles Page

back to Articles and Other Writings

back to Web Building and Other Links

return to the Square Wheels Home Page