Own Your Home Business Website

You paid a web designer to build your home business website for you. This means you own it, right? The answer might surprise all you iHubbub members - and not in a good way...

The issue is a murky one because of copyright law. You need to understand the basics of copyright law to make sure you own your website or, if not, whether you can rectify the problem. 

Lawyer Richard A. Chapo explains to our members who are starting up a new business and setting up a website business, why it's so important to ensure you own your home business website.  


Lawyer Richard A. Chapo explains to our members who are starting up a new business and setting up a website business, why it's so important to ensure you own your home business website.


Copyright is the right of the owner of a tangible, fixed "work" to exploit it. When J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, she owned the copyright to them. Her publishers then paid a royalty for the right to copy and sell each book. Movie producers paid her another fee for the right to convert the books into movies and so on. 

Most people view copyright as attaching only to books, photos and music. The scope of coverage is much broader. For instance, copyright attaches to the graphics and code of a website design as well as the photos used on it and any video or audio recordings. Yes, you read that correctly. 

This causes an odd problem when it comes to home business website design. If you hire a third party to design your business start-up website, they arguably own the copyright because they wrote the html code. Ah, but this transfers over when you pay for the site, right? No. 

In most countries, a transfer of copyright can only occur if it is reduced to writing. If you hire a designer from Argentina or India off of a freelance site, you are faced with the prickly situation of which law applies and what is required to affect the transfer of the copyright? Get it wrong and you have a mess on your hands. 

Why It Matters

How likely is it the web designer is going to sue you for copyright infringement if you don't obtain a written transfer? Not very likely at all. If nothing else, it can be argued the designer has granted you an implied right to use the design in exchange for the money you paid them. This is still not ownership of the elements of the design.

Ownership of your home business website design is important for two reasons.  The first is you need to be able to show you actually own the design if someone offers to buy your site. Would you buy a car from someone who didn't have papers on it? Of course not and nobody is going to buy your site if you can't show ownership. 

The second reason ownership is important is you want to stop the designer from reusing parts of your design on other sites. Let's assume you come up with a great optical illusion graphic idea and your designer codes it for your site. Do you really want to be browsing the web a few months later and see the same illusion on another site, perhaps the site of a competitor? 

In Closing

Most people rightly believe if they pay for something, they own it. While logical, this actually is not true with website designs. Now you know it. If you are already using a design you don't have ownership of, consider going back to the designer with a copyright transfer agreement to cure the problem. 

Richard A. Chapo, Esq. is a lawyer providing legal services to online businesses via SoCalInternetLawyer.com.

There is a lot of information out there to help you get your home business website up to scratch; why not have a browse at the selection in the iHubbub shop?  

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