Who Owns Your Website?

In an August, 2007 issue of the Albuquerque Journal, there was an article about a dispute between a web designer and a business over who owns the design and content of the web site that the designer created for the business. The court ruled that the site belonged to the DESIGNER absent any written contract stating otherwise.

While I’m a big fan of the legal process, I think they got this one wrong. As a designer, writer, programmer and PR professional, I think it’s simple – YOU pay ME, so it belongs to you.

Of course, if you DON’T pay me, you aren’t entitled to anything. Refuse to pay your hosting bill, your web site (and email) will disappear. Refuse to pay your web design bill, all your pages will be removed and replaced with a “coming soon” banner. Pay your bill, it all comes back.

So, to all my customers who have asked if we need to have a contract now, I say “relax…if you pay for it, you own it.”

The Journal article also talked about who should register and renew your domain name and implied that you have to be careful about shady web designers and hosting companies who register your domains under their names. While I admit that there are people and companies like that, this is my standard practice for a number of reasons:

  1. For new domains, the annual domain registration fee is bundled with the hosting package and is provided at no extra charge.
  2. Many customers don’t want to be bothered renewing their own domain names each year, and if they forget, it becomes my problem.
  3. It is a lot easier to manage a large number of domains in a single account than to create a separate account for each hosting customer.
  4. By managing the process for my customers, there is only one username/password to remember.

If my customers already have the domain registered and want to continue managing it themselves, that’s perfectly fine. And, I have NEVER refused to turn over a domain to my customer or another web designer or host if the account is current.

To be prudent, you may want to have a discussion with your web design and web hosting company and see where they stand on this issue. If you work with us, you already know where you stand. If you don’t and you’re not happy with the answers you receive, feel free to give us a call (or at least give somebody a call who will protect YOUR rights to your domain name and your web content).

Copyright 2007 ABQweb™, a division of L&S Marketing, Inc. Feel free to link to this post, but you can’t use all or part of this content without permission.

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