So, you think you own your website? You may be surprised!
Let’s explore the “Truth” about who actually owns your website.

Website ownership is often overlooked and can be much more complex than you might imagine. There are a few myths out there that when you design a website or you pay someone to do it for you, that you then own everything. The reality can be a bit daunting because in many circumstances you own very little about your website.

Here we will use the example that you are about to embark on the journey of building a new website:

Let’s start from the beginning. First, you will need a domain name, usually, it reflects the actual name of your business the nature of your products. So, let’s use “yourcompanyname.co.uk”.

You can register a domain name on many of the registrar sites existing on the web or most web designers can register one for you, but do you own it? The answer is No. Much like your mobile phone subscription, you are renting the exclusive rights to use that service for a set period of time.

If after that you fail to renew your domain name you lose the rights to it altogether. Someone else might decide to register that same domain name after you have failed to renew it, pushing you into having to pursue a costly legal battle that you may not win in order to try and get it back.

Another thing you should be aware of with your domain is your company email requirements. Addresses such as yourname@yourcompanyname.co.uk are directly tied to your domain. If you fail to renew these will stop working.

So, now we have a domain. You will need somewhere to put your website so that it can be accessed on the world wide web.

This will involve finding a hosting company where you will need to rent a small space on their servers. Sadly, you do not own this space either! Larger companies may decide to purchase their own server, in which case, yes, they will have ownership over most things on it. It is very unlikely for a small business to own their own web server due to the associated costs.

Now that you have a domain, hosting company and the space to accommodate it, you will need to start forming your building blocks to construct your website.

Most businesses choose the simple route and use a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress or a template builder site. In which case you will never own the software, it belongs to the respective developers and is usually licensed to you.

Remember, if you employ a web designer or use a template, the original developer will retain ownership over the design and layout of your site. With designers, you can often have ownership transferred to you upon completion and final payment. This will be down to your contract terms.

Note: Some businesses might choose to build their own website by developing their own “code” from scratch. If the code is created by you or your employee, you will own it automatically.
So, you now have your building blocks ready to go, but what about the content.

Usually, you will have ownership over the content, but only if you or your employee creates it. If, however, you instruct your designer to create your content, they will own it. This is where you will need to read through your contract carefully, as this will often only come to light if you try to leave their services.

You should also be aware of the ownership of images used on your site. Once again, if you or your employee took the picture, you own it. In the case of “stock imagery”, the development company or the original creator will retain ownership, but grants you license to use it. Be aware of your contract content again, some developers will not allow you to use these images if you leave their services.
In the event you decided to employ a professional photographer, your ownership will be down to your contract terms once more. A lot of photographers will retain ownership of the images they take, you are only paying for the license to use them unless it states otherwise in your contract.

Our advice to you is to employ due diligence to your contracts and know what you are getting into before you start and at each stage after that. We have seen first-hand the frustrations of business owners who are not aware and suddenly get stung.

Sadly, there are unscrupulous people in this world who will take advantage of your lack of understanding and are likely to take your website hostage. With a little knowledge, we hope that you can develop better relationships with your website and know exactly what you are entering into.

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