My question involves independent contractors in the state of: Florida
Nearly 2 years ago I was hired by a Florida manufacturer to manage sales (of their products and others) on a website they had previously registered and maintained as a retail presence independent of their manufacturing business. The agreement stated that I was responsible for forwarding orders to their warehouse and that I would be paid in sales commission above their dealer cost (or pre-determined markup for 3rd party products). It also clearly stated that I was being hired as an IC with no set working hours, work location, or equipment. Additionally, there was no mention of ownership or "work for hire" in the agreement. Worth noting, no copy of the agreement was ever signed by both parties, but I presume it can at least be used to establish intent?
For the past 2 years I have worked on my own personal equipment, at the hours of my choosing, in the location of my choosing. All order payments go straight to the manufacturer's account, and I'm paid commission monthly based on sales. The manufacturer drop ships all orders from their warehouse, as laid out in the original agreement.
Aside from the drop shipping, I am the only individual who has done any work to further this retail business for the past 2 years. I have completely redesigned and redeveloped the website, while also handling customer service, sales, returns, marketing and advertising. All site content was authored solely by me on my own equipment and is hosted on server space which I pay for. I have spent my own money (not reimbursed) on monthly advertising, and I have represented myself (with the blessing of the manufacturer) as GM of the retail business. Furthermore, ownership of the retail domain name was transferred to me over a year ago. They have effectively run their manufacturing business and left me unsupervised to run the retail store.
Under my management, sales revenue for the store has increased by over 500%, and site/brand visibility has grown tremendously. Most product pages are top Google search results whereas the site previously was not even indexed by Google. The manufacturer is now claiming to own the entire site and all the work I've done on account of the sales commission I was paid. They want me to accept a cut in commission or hand the site over and walk away. Who owns what? And if it comes down to it, am I legally in the clear to return the website in the exact form I found it when this business relationship first began?
Thanks in advance.