Whether experienced first-hand or heard of in cautionary tales, everybody is familiar with the horror of not being compensated for one’s work and not being able to do anything about it. Enter a possible solution: a remote kill switch, which gives web designers a back door into a client website via PHP, AJAX or CSS to disable it in case something goes wrong, i.e., one doesn’t get paid.
Avoiding the technical details and instead focusing on the general idea of a remote kill switch, let me say this:
It’s a sad, sad reality that people have to resort to these methods, but it’s just a symptom of a bigger problem. I also see it as designers and developers defending themselves with tools they are familiar with, rather than legalese that could only throw them for a loop and might not even work. Which isn’t to say they should abandon the usual way of going into a project altogether; the kill switch can just be an additional safety net.
Is it unethical? There is no reason to use a kill switch underhandedly, or consider it as a sign of distrust or respect. It’s not about having the upper hand or treating clients unfairly, it’s about protecting one’s business. But to earn your keep you need to stay professional, not paranoid. Integrating a kill switch into a contract, where the client is fully aware of the consequences should it be breached, sounds fair and should achieve those two things. One must remember, however, that once both parties complete their respective deliverables, the kill switch must also be killed.
I wonder what percentage and type of web professionals incorporate this into their business process. This is a controversial issue for sure, but I think people can avoid the unnecessary drama if their intentions are sincere. What do you think? Apart from a contract and this kill switch, are there any other ways to protect web professionals from clients running off with their work?