If you paid for marketing, SEO, or similar services, you’ve probably asked yourself, who truly owns my business’s site? Well, the answer is complicated, as most modern websites use many different technologies and a myriad of services.
Who Owns the Domain?
The domain’s owner is the person who registered the domain. If you want to own for your business, you need to be the person who registered the domain and is in possession and control of the domain name.
If the marketing company acquires additional domains for marketing purposes, then the marketing company would own those domains as well. This would be the case if the marketing company developed ancillary domains or websites to support your business.
One other option is if you have a contract with your marketing company that gives you ownership of that domain. Otherwise, the person who registered the domain owns the domain.
Hosting is the term that describes where and how your site’s core files are being hosted (physical location). Most of the time, hosting is provided by third-party vendors and not being physically hosted on-site. If it is, then it’s under the ownership of the marketing firm.
Who Owns the Code of the Website?
The owner of the background code depends on many different factors. Does the code come from another source that has a license to use, or is the code unique and made specifically for your website? The source code could come from third-party vendors or the developer’s library of software or is custom made for your website.
Most modern websites use a CMS, content management system, which gives licenses to use the software. You do not own this content management software. But you may own some of the custom design of the website, again with a copyright transfer of the various coded files (HTML, CSS, Theme Plugin, Drupal Theme Plugin, etc). If this is the case, then the business owner would own the design.
Custom made CMS (software), developed specifically for you is another story. A contract describing ownership and transferring ownership is needed. This case is typically rare, as most developers understand time is better architecting and designing websites via CMS, typically WordPress or Drupal.
Who Owns the Design of a Website?
Typically, the design would be under the ownership of the developer, unless there is a contract signed by the developer that transfers the ownership to you. However, most designs on websites that use CMS, bases off themes. These themes are owned by the third-party vendors, who grant a license to use. Many times marketing and development firms will customize this ‘theme’ specifically for your business. But this is typically not copyrightable – as it is not unique enough – and relies on an original source.
Who Owns the Content of the Website?
The owner of the content is automatically applied to the person who wrote the content. This copyright protection is automatically set in – as soon as the author writes it. In order to own the copyrights, the original content creator has to transfer the copyrights over. This must be done in a legal document. Without it, the copyright is typically owned by the marketing firm.
Photos and videos copyrights are owned by the author of these contents. These copyrights are automatically applied. If the marketing firm took these photos for marketing purposes, then they will be the owner of these pieces. If they sign a copyright transfer contract these can be owned by you.
However, most sites will utilize ‘stock photography,’ who’s copyright is owned by the original author or stock photography company.
To know what SOURCiS Policy on Site Ownership is Contract Binding Agreement.