Do I Own My Website or Does My Web Design Agency Own It?

This is one question that every website design company in London has to answer sooner or later. An online presence is a wonderful investment towards growing your business. But many business owners have their doubts when it comes to building a website. Do they own it? Or does their web design agency claim ownership to it? Are there any caveats?

Although you may be expecting a simple yes or no answer, the situation is actually complicated. So we have put together a comprehensive guide to help clarify some common doubts about owning a website.

You Should Own the HTML/Javascript/CSS, Visual Design and Text

Most websites are built on CSS and HTML. They are coding languages that website browsers understand. Javascript is the coding that might modify the CSS and HTML as the visitor interacts with your site.

You should own the HTML/Javascript/CSS.

Your web design company in London should offer an agreement declaring that you own the HTML/Javascript/CSS once the work has been completed and paid for. In the absence of an agreement, if you or your staff did not author it, the ownership remains with the creator of the website and you have a license to use it.

You should also own your website’s visual design.

This refers to the layout, the visual elements such as photography, typography, colours that work together to create the user interface, the videos, and images as well as the content of a website.

The HTML/Javascript/CSS will hold the information so that your browser can display these elements as desired.

Your web design company in London should provide in writing an agreement giving you ownership to the visual design of your website once the work has been completed and fully paid for. In the absence of an agreement, if you or your staff did not author it, the ownership remains with the creator of the website and you have a license to use it.

You own the website copy/text if you or your staff have written the content. If you outsourced the job to someone, ensure there’s an agreement in place that transfers the ownership to you.

You also own the photographs if you clicked them. This refers to the photographs that are used on the site as part of the user interface, gallery, logo, video or slideshow. You own the photographs if you or your staff clicked the photos. If that’s not the case, you only have a license to use those photographs on your site. Be sure to keep a record of this license.

Finished Assembled Work – This is What You Own

Web design terminology can complicate matters unnecessarily. That’s why, sometimes, it helps to focus on the essential things. In this case, what matters to you the most is the “finished assembled work”.

This refers to the visual design, HTML/Javascript/CSS as well as the website content that is delivered to the browser. You can easily save and store all of this finished assembled work. In fact, you can even rebuild it on any website platform.

In your agreement with your web design company in London, look out for a statement that declares that you own the “finished assembled work” of your website once it has been completed and the final payment has been made.

You Don’t Own the Web Server and Web Server Platform or the Domain Name

A web server is the computer system that operates the Web Server Platform that hosts (or stores) your website. For most hosting plans and packages, the data center is the owner of the web server, and it usually leases it out to your web hosting vendor.

Of course, if you have purchased the server, you are the owner. However, this is usually very expensive and most small and medium business owners use a hosting company to host their website.

The Web Server Platform is the software programme running on the web server. Microsoft SQL Server, LAMP, and Windows ISS + ASP.NET are some examples. You won’t own the database per se. You only own the data and the content stored in the database (if you are the author of such data and content or you have hired a web design company in London to author it for you.)

Surprising, is it not? But yes, the truth is that you do not own the domain name in spite of the fact that you are the registered owner. This works very much like your contract with your mobile phone provider.

You Don’t Own the Content Management System and Source Code Either

A content management system (CMS) is a platform that helps in managing a website’s content. WordPress, Magento, and Joomla are some examples.

You own a CMS only if you have authored it and written the source code yourself. This applies to all software in general. For instance, WordPress is owned by Automattic, the company behind the CMS. You get a license to use their CMS platform.

If you wrote a custom programme for a particular website platform, you may own this. For instance, Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that is used to optimise a website’s pages and blog posts. The creator of Yoast Joost de Valk owns this plugin.

A source code is the code written in a language that the Web Server Platform understands, and contains the connectors and the logic to other programmes running on the server. Source code can also establish communication with third-party integrated system servers. The source code generates the Javascript/HTML/CSS for your browser to show your website.

You own the source code only if you wrote it or hired someone to do it for you. In all other circumstances, the creator of the source code owns it and licenses it to you.

Owning a Website – The Facts

You do not and never will own the web server platform, the CMS, the domain name, the database software or the language that’s been used to create your website.

You usually don’t own the web server where your website sits.

When it comes to your website’s CMS platform, you get a license to use it. You own the website’s code, visual elements, and the text if you authored them or have a “work for hire” or such agreement with the web design company in London.

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