Expert opinion: Is your website really yours?
The question of website ownership is not as straightforward as it seems. Our clients often confidently say “yes, of course we own our website…” only for us to dig a bit deeper and find out that’s not the case.
The repercussions of this all-too-common assumption can be severe: often, the businesses can end up stuck with an agency because their website cannot be looked after by anyone else.
What’s in a site?
Looking at the different aspects, a website consists of the following:
1. The domain name
2. The text
3. The images
4. The look and feel of the website
The domain name
If your company has purchased the domain name directly in the name of the company, you should have no problems. However, if you have used an agency, are you sure that the domain name is not registered in the agency’s name?
If your website text has been written by your own employees as part of their normal duties, you will automatically own the copyright in that text. However, if you used a professional agency to write the text, or to amend it to such a degree that it is unrecognisable from the original draft, then the copyright in the text may be owned by the agency.
It is highly likely that the copyright in the imagery used on your website is owned by the photographer or by an outside agency. Have you got a written agreement in place with the copyright owner or licensor to allow you to use those images?
The look and feel of the website
Even if you have been careful to make sure that you own the text and the imagery, are you sure that the agency that designed your website does not have rights over the look and feel of your website? Might this cause a problem if you change agencies but want the look and feel of your website to stay the same?
The simple solution to the issues raised above is to make sure that all third parties involved in the creation of your website sign agreements which state that all intellectual property rights of any kind in the website that they may own are transferred to your company.
David Cavaliero is a partner in Withy King’s technology and media team. For more information about website ownership or any other aspect of intellectual property law, email email@example.com