Websites are the product of creative work – and as such are covered by the same creative copyright that any other creative works are. This means that whoever creates the work, technically, owns that work.
This issue may well affect your own website, so I thought it would be useful to talk about the issues this prevents and how you can easily address them; now.
What are the issues you need to be aware of when instructing a web designer?
As I said, who creates it, owns it. This is no different a photographer taking a photo, videographer shooting film or designer creation a design – all of that intellectual property is owned by the creator. You are permitted to use that creation within the context it was instructed. For example, asking a designer to create you a logo for the promotion and marketing of your new business is fine, but you aren’t necessarily allowed to sell that artwork to someone else.
This is the same practice in place for websites. If you provide the copy (The copy is the content for the site (like the text on the page)) to the designer, that’s your intellectual property (and that designer would not be able to use it elsewhere without your permission). So when your designer creates you a bespoke theme, it’s their work and you aren’t necessarily allowed to use it outside of the agreed usage.
Who cares who owns my website?
You may not, and that’s fine. But this can sometimes become an issue if you want someone else to work on your site. You may want to change hosts, or just have another developer add some functionality to your site – this may not be permitted.
As with lots of stuff in business, it comes down to the wording of the contract. Just as with the examples we’ve looked at above, I would expect the intellectual property to transfer to the client at the final payment – but we can’t just assume this. So, check the contract and make sure that the provision is allowed for.
What if there’s nothing in my contract about intellectual property?
Ask. For the most part, web developers are awesome people and more than happy to have a conversation. It could just be that it has been overlooked – you may even be helping nudge them in the right direction. But, it’s definitely worth having that conversation.
If they say no, and that the work will always belong to them…well…now you know – and you can make a decision based on that information (personally, I’d move on).