Indiana Supreme Court Considers Website Design Ownership
By Jad Mills – Edited by Ezra Pinsky
Conwell v. Gray Loon Outdoor Marketing Group Inc., May 19, 2009, No. 82S04-0806-CV-00309.
On May 19, 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the Vanderburgh Superior Court and Indiana Court of Appeals decisions ordering Piece of America (POA) to pay Gray Loon Outdoor Marketing hosting fees and website redesign charges and denying POA’s conversion claim for the loss of its original website. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Shepard held that POA contracted for the redesign, and although Gray Loon’s project design proposal specifically and unambiguously represented that POA “owned the work product,” this did not vest ownership in POA. The proposal gave POA only a non-exclusive license because it was not properly signed and carried insufficient weight and certainty to transfer the copyright.
Ex©lusive Rights and Eric Goldman each provide an overview of the case. Juliet Moringiello summarizes the case, but also criticizes the court for restricting the analysis to copyright law simply because the asset in question is intangible, when they should focus instead on whether the asset “can be exclusively controlled.”