An anonymous reader writes "I am a website software engineer in South Carolina, and a person in New York contacted me for a website job — one half of a job (the "front end") she was given by a very prominent NYC real estate company to redo their site as HTML5.
After agreeing over email to do the work in exchange for an emailed invoice and to receive payment no later than 2 weeks after the work is completed, I spent 10 hours on the work and sent the $1,000 invoice for the completed job. Along the way, a technical limitation within web browsers was discovered (a XSS security safeguard) that caused one page to require to be implemented differently than the others' structure, so I emailed her to seek approval to use a workaround that, while being an exception to the way the other pages were implemented, did not harm the site's look or functionality. She approved it via email, the page was completed as agreed on, and she emailed me that it was fine and thanked me.
After the site was completed, she cited the above workaround (which she, via email, approved) as a reason not to pay the invoice, along with other negligible requirements which were not documented at any point during the work (such as "don't delete code, just comment it out").
I asked her to pay the invoice twice during and after the two week period, but received no response. I also called the NYC real estate company the code would wind up in the hands of and explained the situation, and though they said they would look into it (a VP and principal of the company via three-way, documented phone call), I heard nothing more.
A month has gone by, I have received no pay nor correspondence from any party involved, and today I discovered that the real estate company's production site is hosting the code I wrote, serving live traffic and being used to provide real estate services for profit to customers.
Is this not a simple case of stolen property on behalf of the woman I wrote the code for, and the real estate company hosting the stolen property all the same as if they downloaded a Hollywood MPAA movie and allowed people to play it free on their site?
Also, a little research shows that I can sue businesses across state lines (though not individuals) in small claims court, which in SC is up to $5,000 in damages. Can this be confirmed and maybe further evidenced via precedent? Will there be a pretrial hearing to establish jurisdiction here since I wrote the code here? And finally, should I sue the original lady client's sole proprietorship (which all the emails were sent to, her domain name for her business therefore establishing that she was acting under her business and not "under the table tax-free" I'd imagine) first to establish that property was stolen before going after the realtor for hosting my stolen property citing the previous trial as a precedent?"