Do You Own the Rights to Your Site?

I can’t help but hear… “You’ve gotta fight… for the right… to own your site” in my head. I can’t help but have that ’80s group Beastie Boys who remade You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party playing in my head from time to time. {Taps head to try to get the song out.}
Travis Vocino brought up an interesting point in Paige Eissinger’s Do You Own Your Web Site?
Paige talks about owning your domain. Travis brings up an important point in response about owning the content on your site. The credit for the rest of this entry goes to Travis. Of course, consult with your legal experts if you need to take action. We’re just the messenger sharing experiences.
“Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer and derivative works might sometimes be the subject of legal issues in the future.
“One of my clients had this type of issue with their previous designer who was basically holding some material hostage. Our legal team who we introduced through my consulting took care of it but not without some substantial cost. Intellectual property law can be a bit tricky.
“That’s why it’s important to accurately document who owns the entire rights package of the work and whether that is handed over upon payment of the final invoice or if it’s a situation where the designer is considered to be your employee and any/all works default to your ownership. Also, once those contracts are in place, it’s much easier to require things like source files (e.g. PSD, AI, FLA, etc.) that will allow you to have an exit strategy in case the relationship with your developer goes south.
“After hearing a couple of these stories and being directly involved in helping a client out of one, my company has begun including specific verbiage regarding the issue in our consulting agreements. This is primarily for the client’s peace of mind, more than anything, since we do give them the ownership rights.
“I’ve also been in a situation where the company was sold based on technology developed. The people that were contracted to bring the original concept to market still technically held the intellectual property rights and when they saw there was money to be made, they came knocking.
“Usually it’s not a problem until the relationship with the developer goes sour and the company goes on to great success. That’s when the phone starts ringing with someone wanting a cut.”
I think you get the moral of the story here.

3 thoughts on “Do You Own the Rights to Your Site?”

  1. Before I took up web design, I used to design and develop customized training packages for businesses who received funding from the state to provide training for their employees. Since the training was customized, the companies I worked with almost always wanted to make sure they owned the finished product and could do with it what they wanted once the initial training was finished. In that case, the state owned the training material since they were paying for the design/development. In some cases, the companies actually bypassed funding in order to own the finished product. Thanks, Travis, for making the difference between owning a domain and owning the website content more clear. Yes, you always want to own your domain but you also want to make sure you own the content of the website that’s attached to it. Nothing is worse than having someone design a logo for your website that really identifies your business, then finding out that you lose that logo if you decide to change web design/development companies.

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