Who Owns Your Website?

One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of getting a website designed is the issue of copyright. Who owns the finished website, you or your web designer?

Over the years I’ve seen quite a lot of people burnt by copyright issues. They hire someone to design their website and assume that on completion they own it. This is not always the case. In fact I know of at least a dozen examples where people have come to me after loosing their website to their last web design company when they decided to change designers.

Of course not all web design firms have the same copyright policies but generally speaking you should expect that you own the end product – your website. Bear in mind that there may be some applications that you license rather than own.

The bottom line is talk to any potential web designer and make sure you know up front what you will own when the website is finished. You should also check any contracts you have with them to make sure it’s covered there too. A professional web designer should be open and up front on the issues of copyright and ownership and be happy to explain anything you don’t understand.

4 thoughts on “Who Owns Your Website?”

  1. You have made a couple of really good points there Sophie.

    We always make a point of being open with our customers and explain that they do own their website once everything is signed off. It is important though (IMO) that as a designer or developer you retain the rights to reuse any code in future projects and clearly stated this in your contract.

    I know that some development companies also insist on a clause that a completed website can only be licensed to one domain. This scenario is something that I have contemplated, but it has never been a problem to date. What are your thoughts?

  2. Hi David, thanks for stopping by.

    Retaining the rights to re-use any code is a good idea.

    I’ve not gone down the path of licensing a site to one domain but it is interesting. I’ve not had a problem either but it has certainly occurred to me that you wouldn’t want someone to sell your design to someone else or duplicate the site and place on another domain.

  3. I totally agree, Sophie.

    I also think (without inspecting it much, to be honest) that companies trying to hold on to clients by holding their websites “hostage” are saying more about themselves than anything else.

    That said, what Dave Beck said about reusing code you’ve written is a good point.

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