3 legal processes you need to know about

When you're carried away with the fun of designing and the thrill of coding, it's easy to forget the bigger picture. Specifically, it's easy to forget that we makers are surrounded by complex laws and regulations that can – if not followed and understood – make our lives hell.

There are, for examples, rules about making contracts with clients. Follow them and your life will be a whole lot easier. Ignore them, and proceed on a project with only a handshake by way of a contract, and you could be storing up problems.

Likewise, we're all worried about how to protect your work digital thieves. Here, Asad Ali – an expert in the laws surrounding creativity – gives three tips that should make your life easier...

01. Consultancy agreement

How should I go about writing a basic consultancy agreement?

"The first point to clarify is whether you are dealing with an individual or a consultancy company. In addition to a clear description of the services to be provided, it is critical to ensure you know who is to pay any associated tax or NI.

"You should also consider if the consultant is entitled to appoint a substitute if they are unable to deliver, and take steps to protect the intellectual property and confidential information which the consultant may have exposure to. Restrictions on the consultant from working with your competitors, staff or clients are also recommended, and evidence that they have appropriate insurance cover?"

02. Hosting outside the UK

When building sites for clients I use a host based in America. Could holding data overseas cause problems for UK business?

"Personal data should not be transferred to a country outside the European Economic Area unless that country can ensure adequate protection for the rights of the data subjects when processing their personal data.

Whilst there are a number of countries on the so-called 'white list', America is not one of them. However, if the American company is signed up to US Department of Commerce 'Safe Harbor' programme (or if they have managed to 'self certify’), then you may be covered."

03. Licence worries

I make WordPress sites for clients. As I understand it, WordPress is covered by the GPL license. Does this mean I can actually sell the site to a client? Or, does the GPL agreement mean my work is similarly free for anyone to use?

"So long as sufficient effort has gone into creating the bespoke sites for your clients, you would be creating new copyright material. As the author, you are the first owner of that copyright, which you are able to assign to your clients for a fee (although this must always be in a written agreement).

The GNU General Public License (GPL) insists if you distribute content that includes its software that you must give the recipients the same rights that they gave you, and provide them with the GPL terms so they know their rights."

Words: Asad Ali

Asad is a partner at Blacks Solicitors LLP and specialises in commercial, media and digital matters. Follow him on Twitter at @AsadLawBlacks.

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