Who Owns Your Website? – A Complete Guide Of Domain & Site Ownership
One of the main reasons you get in contact with a web design company is to have them design you a website. You tell them what you need by giving a brief description of what you want; then, if everything goes smoothly, they send you their design, and you accept it, and the work starts.
Finally, the company has built a website that is tailored precisely to your demands, and, if you choose to manage it, they’ll provide you with all credentials and administrative access. At the end of the day, you’ve paid for the whole process, didn’t you?
So far, it seems that you are the owner of the website you have paid for. Or are you? Well, the truth is a bit more complicated, and it all depends on the type of service you choose.
Generally, these are the three fundamental types of service you can choose from.
Work For Hire
‘Work for hire’ is when the developer builds the website from scratch, according to your needs. In this case, the final product, e.g. the site belongs to you. Moreover, all including elements such as videos, stock images and graphics, and even the database programming are yours. It is a web design service that provides the simplest type of ownership.
Licence To Reuse Software
In the majority of licence to use software cases, you have limitations in the contract concerning the level of your ownership. Most of the time, digital agencies have their own self-developed hosting platform and proprietary software components.
If that’s the case, the company might give you administrator access and licence you to use your website, only for as long as you make recurring payments for the royalties involved.
Nevertheless, this is also a pretty standard method of web design services. You don’t own the site’s content, and your website depends on the web agency for all the ongoing services.
Therefore, if you leave the digital agency without discussing a replacement assignment or if you stop paying their fees, your services might be cancelled or suspended. If that’s the case, you should be aware of the contract and its terms, to avoid such potentially unpleasant situations.
Software As A Service (SaaS)
Sometimes, digital agencies are using a collection of pre-licensed elements and digital components that allows them to build and operate websites.
These digital elements are often found in DIY website service providers and web building platforms such as Wix.
In this case, the digital agency (Wix) leases the rights (to you) of editing and managing your website. However, regardless of the content of your website, it is critical to know that the software company owns your website.
If you have a contract with such service providers, you’ll have to pay for a licence that allows you to utilise their product. Most importantly, if your website violates their terms in the contract, if you stop making payments, or if their business is suspended, your website is gone; the service is revocable.
Now that we have established how websites are owned, according to the type of design and designer services employed, we have to look at website ownership from a website construct, in case you have chosen ‘work for hire’.
Simply put, a website is the sum of several parts, and below we’ll have a summary that seeks to clarify who owns what part of your website, after its completion and delivery.
Who Owns My Website? - Parts You Own
1. Design and Visuals
You typically own the visual asset combination, which are the core components of your website. These include and are not limited to own fonts, typography, colours, images, interfaces and other visual elements.
You should own all of the text content on your website. In most cases, the content aspect includes multimedia elements such as photos and videos. In case you or your designers have chosen stock photos, your company should be licenced to use them. That means you don’t own them but have the right to use them.
Who Owns My Website? - Parts You Typically Don't Own
1. Domain Name
It might be surprising, but you don’t own your domain name. Even if you’re the registered owner of your domain, there’s always a domain registrar that only gives you a licence and exclusive rights to use it, for a period of time.
It is like a mobile phone service provider that gives you a mobile number. You have all the rights to use your phone number, it is appended to your name, but basically, the service provider owns it.
2. Content Management System (CMS)
Content Management System (CMS) is an application which allows you to edit and manage the content of your website. Access your site, log in with a username and pass, and start changing pics, text, pages, etc.
In most cases, the CMS is owned by a dedicated software company, a community (if it is open-source), or the developer if your website is built from scratch. You might use the CMS to upload photos and text to your website, but, you are the owner of your content and not the software used to create and make the CMS function.
3. Custom Source Code
In most situations, you don’t own the source code which builds up the functions and the features of your website. Web developers and digital agencies often reuse their codes.
On the one hand, such an approach is advantageous for both, you as the customer and them, the designers. The codes and solutions have been tested several times before, are safe, and can be deployed cheaper & faster. On the other hand, it means that you can’t claim ownership of the code or these custom-made software solutions.
All things considered, it is evident that it is nearly impossible to own your whole website. In most cases, the key is to study the terms and conditions of the web design contract.
It’ll give you a better understanding of who owns or manages the rights to your website, and even some aspects relating to your website, such as what happens when unexpected things happen.
Finally, if you are looking for an expert web design company that can build your website from scratch, do not hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated team of web developers, here at the IT Hub in Bicester. Give our web design team a call today for a free consultation!