Website Ownership Laws: Your Rights And What These Protect
Here’s a common situation many business owners—and you might be included—find themselves in: You sign on with a cheap website designer or seemingly reputable marketing agency to improve your web presence. The plan comes with a “free website” on a fancy “proprietary platform,” or the price is built into monthly marketing payments. On the surface, it sounds like a smart, cost-effective way to grow your online presence, right?
Wrong. While it might seem like a good way to start, you’re in for a rude awakening when you try to exit out of that agreement in favor of a more robust or results-oriented approach.
And here’s the thing—you may not even realize you’ve been trapped until you try to leave. What we usually see happen is when you want access to your website files, you’re hit with a huge fee or a point-blank refusal. If you stop paying monthly fees, you risk having your website ownership laws pulled with no way to recover it. Oh, and all that data and analytics you’ve been so carefully curating? That will disappear, too.
The worst part? There’s nothing you can do about it because you technically signed away your website ownership laws in the contract’s fine print.
Website Ownership Laws and Contracts: What You Should Own, and What You Never Will
Understanding that your website ownership laws are made of parts, below are the basics of what’s in a website ownership contract—and what you should legally.
- Your domain name – One of the most common questions I get is “who owns my website domain?” Well, technically…not you. You won’t ever “own” your domain name. You pay your hosting provider a yearly fee (or monthly, depending on your provider) to obtain exclusive rights to it. However, you can (and should) secure rights to it apart from your web design company.
- The design and visuals of your website – You should own this—within reason. For example, you can’t own the color blue, but you can own design aspects on your website that use the color blue. Your website ownership laws and creator should provide a clause in your contract that transfers ownership upon payment and project completion.
- Your website’s content — You should own this. You should make sure your website designer allows all content—even if it was written by them—to be owned by you after completion of the project.
- The source code – You should own this—within reason. Many foundational elements of a website’s source code are open building blocks for most website ownership laws, making it almost impossible to guarantee 100% ownership. At the minimum, however, you should be given exclusive rights to your custom programming and any files associated with your code.
- The CMS system – You don’t own this. A content management system like WordPress is owned by, well, WordPress. What you should control is the ability to choose your CMS and ask for a website ownership laws that can be easily transferred from one CMS to another.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHO OWNS YOUR WEBSITE’S DOMAIN NAME
If you’re not sure who claims the ownership rights on your domain, go here, type in your website, and look at the registrant contact information. You should see one of three entries:
- You, your business, or someone at your business is listed as the registrant contact – This means you own your domain name.
- The registrant contact is listed as private – This means it could be you or someone else, but the contact information is private. It’s worth it to do some recon on who exactly the owner is.
- The registrant contact is listed as your website designer, marketing agency, or someone else – This means you need to call whoever is listed ASAP and see what’s up.
After you know who owns the domain name, it’s time to dig into your contract and see what else you’re missing.
The Dangers of Losing Licensing Rights to Your Website Ownership Laws
There are two serious dangers of losing the rights to your website:
- A loss in SEO rankings and authority: When you have to build a new website, all those rankings and authority you built up are gone. Then there’s your domain age. While domain age is a topic of debate in the SEO world, it does have an impact on your rankings. The older a website is, theoretically, the more authority it has.
- A loss of all historical analytical data: This can happen even if you DO own the rights to your website ownership laws. We’ve had cases where the former digital marketing agency refused to release historical data and others where the data was simply wiped when the old website was taken down.
Don’t Own Your Website? Here’s What to Do About It—And How to Avoid an Ownership Headache in the Future
First off, if you’ve just discovered that you don’t own your website, you have four options:
- Hire a shark of a lawyer and take those suckers to court (Don’t really do this. You probably wouldn’t win and would waste a bunch of money in the process).
- Contact a reputable vendor and attempt to rebuild an identical version of your website ownership laws based on visuals and the files you do own.
- Contact a reputable vendor and have them start from scratch building you a newer, BETTER website.
BEFORE SIGNING YOUR NEXT WEBSITE CONTRACT
Follow these tips before you sign your next web design contract:
- Talk about the elephant in the room – The very first thing you should bring up to a sales representative is whether or not you will own your website ownership laws up-front. If they give you a vague answer or start saying, “Yes, after a certain period of time,” it’s a red flag. Drill into them about whether you will own your source code. This is CRUCIAL because if you can’t take the website ownership laws source code with you upon exiting the agreement, you’ll never see your beautiful website again (unless you rebuild it from scratch)
- Ask about hosting – If hosting is included and you are not consulted about it, it could be that you’re leasing a spot on their proprietary platform—meaning you can’t make a fully functioning site with you when you leave.
- Ask how much your website will cost – Before you sign on the dotted line, ask about the total cost and payment structure of your website ownership laws. This is a way for you to see behind the curtain at all those fees they may be hiding.
- Really READ the contract – If you aren’t a reader, then hire a lawyer to translate it for you. As a business owner, you need to take responsibility for your website ownership laws instead of delegating it to your IT or marketing team. I get that you don’t have time—but this is one thing that’s worth taking the time to dig through. The price of not reading it could be FAR higher than the price of taking an hour out of your day to make sure your company isn’t getting screwed.
Your website ownership laws is arguably your number one business asset. It’s the source of data you use to profile your clients and of the analytics you need to track your business’ success, it’s your online sales representative, and it’s a monument to your brand. In short, you should approach it like your growth pipeline. Make sure you own it, make sure you’re tending to it, and make sure you’re building it up as a lead and sales-generating powerhouse.
Invest in Reliable Web Development Services
Now that you understand your website ownership laws and how meticulous that partnership is between a web developer and the web owner, you might be on the lookout for reliable web development services. At Privacy Ninja, we ensure that our designs in Singapore have achieved accessibility through various platforms. In addition, our team of web developers focus on the integration of design, technology, and marketing for the web and mobile to achieve elements re-positioning. Go check it out and let us know how we can help you in this area.
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PDPA Compliance Training
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