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Who Owns the Database?

Question asked by disabled_jackrodgers on Sep 28, 2013
Latest reply on Sep 29, 2016 by arby

Quite often the client is unaware of copyright laws and believes that hiring and paying a developer makes the client the owner of the database. Sometimes the developer believes this. Other developers understand the copyright law and know that the developer can be sole owner of the work created if the transfer of copyright was not spelled out in the contract or if the developer is not a full time employee whose job descriptions includes creating databases.


I've involved in a situation where my new client had hired a developer 5 years ago who did weak work and decided to move on. The next developer quit also. A third developer was little more than a beginner and when I took over I deleted his full access account. So who owns the copyright is very unclear and confusing. However, I do own a serious portion of the databases copyright for portions I worked own. I never assigned my rights to the client.


One question arises, do I have the legal right to remove all full access acounts other than my own since I was hired as a developer and asked to do work inside the database. Question 2 is do I have the right to refuse full access acounts to beginners and those I do not have confidence in. And of course the enevitable of what right does my client have to threaten to have me arrested for denying access in this instance to medical records which is absolutely not true since his staff was actively at work doing what they've always done at the time of the threat.


I guess the issue revolves around who owns the database and my responsibility to protect it from the less competent and to protect my copyright.


Note that I did not modify any scripts or layouts or field definitions of the previous developers (OK I had to change a very small number.) My work is easily identifiable by my specific naming conventions (almost always). There are of course fields being used in layouts and sometimes in calculations that were created by the other developers but except for that I can identify a large portion of the database as my work.


So, my questions are:


Who owns the database if the client has not bill of sale for the database, license agreement or better a release of copyright from the developers. Can the client claim absolute rights to the work and demand whatever they want in terms of full access once a new developer has been hired?


Next, what are my rights to protect my copyright and my client from less skilled developers being given access?


Lastly, can I assume that a portion of the database is my intellectual property and that I own it?


OK, one more. If a portion of the database is indeed my intellectual property can I be denied access to it or the ability to protect it from changed or being copied?