It’s YOUR Website. . . or IS it?

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handcuffed by your web developerWhen you go to the store and buy something new, there is little doubt that you own it after you have paid, right? That new laptop or DVD player is yours and you can take it home to do with it what you want. Well unfortunately, the same is not always true for your website.

Who owns Your website?

It can be very difficult to understand one of the most important issues of exactly what you are buying when you hire a company to build your website; the question of who owns it! Owning your website and having the ability to ‘take it with you’ is a real issue in today’s world. Many web development companies handcuff their clients because they build a web site that is ‘owned’ by the developer and ‘leased’ by the client – and in many cases these web sites will not even work if they are moved outside of the web developers internal framework.

If you are planning to build a new website, enhance your existing website or otherwise expand your Internet marketing presence, here is the number one question to ask your next web site developer: Who owns the site once it is launched?

I am sorry to report that in most cases the web development company owns the website (its creative work product), even if they were hired or otherwise contracted to create a website for a specific client. In a lot of those cases, when a web developer builds a database driven web site ownership becomes even more complex because the actual code base may not even work outside of the web developing company’s environment without a significant amount of additional database set-up.

From a creative standpoint, the look and feel of your site may not be owned your company unless ownership and copyright of that creative work is stated explicitly in the contract with the designer. Artist’s maintain the creative ownership of their ‘art’ unless they specifically transfer the ownership rights to the client. The right to use or license to use is typically what is transferred when nothing is specifically stated.

In other words, if your web developer does not mention ownership and you don’t ask, they own your code and the web site, your graphic designer may own the look and feel, and all you have is the right to use it on their servers at their location.  Also in some cases (and this next part is very common among both small template web sites and large, extensive database driven web sites) even if they give you the ownership of the website, they won’t release the database or infrastructure so that your site will operate in a different environment.

A lot of companies handcuff their clients by building websites in this matter as it creates such a high barrier to change that clients simply suffer through a bad experience so that their site does not go down.

Make sure to read the fine print when you are shopping for a new website, you need to own it, control it and be able to move it if your relationship with your web developing company goes south.  And just to be clear and transparent, mRELEVANCE clients own the sites we develop for them and they can take it with them. In our standard hourly rate, we will either put the entire site on a DVD for them with instructions on how to get it to work or we will set it up in an alternate location and give them the credentials to remove us.