Recently a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter asked me for some input for a story on what to consider when you want to create your business website. I was glad to help, gave her my thoughts and pointed her to some other people to interview.
Every once in a while a reporter will come back later with a question that a reader has submitted, and that’s what happened here. I thought the question was especially interesting. So I will pass it along here, together with my thoughts on the answer.
The reader’s question was:
Is it standard industry practice for Web designers to retain ownership of the design and code for a business website? In other words, who typically ends up owning the site, the developer/designer or the client?
Well, in my experience once the designer has been fully paid for his or her work, I do not think it is common practice for the Web developer/designer to expect to retain ownership.
More to the point — in most situations that would not be a good outcome for the business owner. As the business owner, you want to own the elements that make up your website. After all, you paid for it.
However, this question of ownership can be tricky, legally, if you do not take the right steps to protect your interests. Unless you have a written contract with your Web developer/designer, you may find yourself in the never-never land of ambiguity on the question of ownership. (For the long complicated version of the legal issue, see Wikipedia on Work for Hire.)
To protect yourself as the site owner, get a written contract stating that you will own the code, design and other intellectual property that your developer/designer creates for you. A consultation with your attorney up front can save a major headache later on.
How would you have answered the reader’s question? Weigh in by leaving a comment below — we’d like to hear your perspective.