Here is a scenario: you meet a web design company, they give you a proposal, you pay them, they make a website to match your requirements, and they provide you with administrator access. Now the question is: who owns your website? You are thinking it’s you, however, it’s not that simple.
Let’s look at some of the components of a website to understand what you can and can’t own:
What You Don’t Own
You don’t actually own your domain name. You rent it which gives you exclusive rights to it, but you don’t completely own it. It is the same situation as your phone number. That said, your domain name is your property even if it’s registered by your website company. According to Wikipedia: “Domain name registration with a registrar does not confer any legal ownership of the domain name, only an exclusive right of use.”
The same situation applies to hosting as to your domain name. With website hosting, you usually rent a full server or share a space on a server. You do, however, have control to switch hosting if you would like to move your website to another location.
A CMS is a web application that is used to manage the administration of content on your website. Examples include WordPress, Drupal, and Mighty-Site. You don’t own the CMS web platform, however, unless you write the source code.
What You Own
Design and Visuals:
The logo, colour, interfaces, typography, and images are typically owned by the creator unless they are created by a web design company and then licensed to you.
You can own all the text content on your website plus the photography, images, and videos. Stock photography, however, is licensed to your company. This allows you to use the photographs on your website, but you don’t own them.
You never legally own the domain name, web server, CMS, web platform, database software, or the language used to build your website. Only if you author the website yourself or have a “work for hire” agreement will you own the website source code. Furthermore, if you author your own content, create the design, and create your own graphics, you will own the website’s visual design and content. Most importantly, when you hire a web design company, make sure they are transparent about their terms and conditions.