Resource type: Blog

Who Owns “Your” Website?

Often small business owners use professional web developers to create the design and sometimes the content for their website. There are many good web design companies to choose from.  It does not require a huge budget and for many “time poor” business owners, saving time and having a more professional and credible site is certainly worth the cost.

But who owns your site?

There are many aspects to any site and ownership can in fact sit with different people or organisations. From design and copy, to the code and digital files to create the site, just because you have paid to have the site developed do not assume that you own all, or any aspect of the site.

If you have not agreed the transfer of the Intellectual Property Rights (IP) then the Web Development Company or the freelancer will own the IP.

Why does it matter?

If you do not own the site you may have the following challenges:

  • Authorisation required from the developer to make changes and no unexpected fees
  • Hidden or locked down code that prevents you from getting other developers to work on the site
  • Material that you have provided becoming the copyright of the developer
  • Website developer could replicate and resell all or any aspects of the design and copy to others including competitors.

It is important from the beginning of your planning and choosing a supplier that you factor in an agreement on ownership of all aspects of the site.

Have you breached the IP of another organisation or individual?

It is very easy to copy content from the wide variety of easy to access material, images, copy, design features, but just because you can does not mean you should. Using material you do not have a legal right to replicate can put you in breach of the law. Get clarity and agreement from the developer that all of the correct permissions and licenses are in place to prevent you breaching the IP of others. This is particularly important in the use of technical tools such as in e-commerce systems as they are invisible to the non-technical user it can be easy to overlook.

For an excellent guide from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (U.N.) see Intellectual Property and e-commerce: How To Take Care Of Your Business Website  http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/sme/en/documents/pdf/business_website.pdf

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