Who owns your website?
In todays business world, having a website for your business is now regarded as a basic requirement and it is even more necessary when most of your business is done online. A website can serve as a great business tool as it can be a great way to expand sales.
Building a business website can be a whole lot of work, from the process of picking a developer, choosing a domain name and web host to determining cost and content, setting up a website. This article will focus on the aspect of intellectual property rights as regards setting up a website.
Intellectual property laws establish ownership rights and other rules for various types of works such as text and artwork protected by copyright, designs/marks used in business protected by trademark, and inventions protected by patents. In website development projects, copyright is of particular importance as most of the components of websites are copyright protected. So whether you have a written or oral Agreement (written Agreement always preferable) between yourself and your web developer, its crucial that your discussions or contract contains clear and detailed terms of ownership and permissions for any material developed for the website protected by copyright. Other intellectual property rights may come into play, such as trademark and patent.
Materials that can be used for a website that can have copyright includes text, photos, logos, designs, artwork, and photos, as well as technology developed for the website such as databases and programming. A lot of trouble can arise if ownership of any of the materials used on your website is in dispute. The best way to avoid this is by including clear copyright terms in your contract with the web developer.
The basic rules of copyright provides that when someone owns the copyright to certain works, you are not allowed to reproduce it, modify it, or sell the work without permission from the copyright owner. Permission to use another’s copyright content is known as license. When you license content, you do not gain ownership, it just simply gives you permission to use it for specific purposes. You may also decide to buy the copyright to the content you want, this is known in legal terms as an assignment and it gives you the right to use the work as if you are the original copyright owner.
When an employee creates a work during the course of his/her employment, the work is considered as a work for hire, this means the employer and not the employee owns the copyright to that work. A smart business decision will be to have employees instead of contractors as the website developers, that way there are no disputes as to who owns the copyright to the work done. Unfortunately, this is not usually an available option for start up businesses as they may not be able to afford. To protect your website when dealing with a contractor or non-employee, its essential to get a properly done written agreement. In some cases, getting an assignment of the copyright from the independent website contractor will better protect you. This will out rightly give you ownership to the copyright content/material.
In conclusion, to obtain ownership of materials created by a web developer which in turn ensures you actually own your website, you need to ensure the following;
- Hire the website developer as an employee. This is not always an easy option except it’s a job role you already need to fill in your business, otherwise it may just be unaffordable additional cost.
- Secondly, do the legal thing and obtain the licenses to use materials you really need for the website.
- Obtain a written copyright assignment from the web developer where necessary.
- Finally, a properly written agreement can cover the terms you and the web developer agree on.
CEO, 618 Bees
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, no information contained in this post should be construed as legal advise, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or professional advise from the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer.
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