Navigating the Web of Ownership: Who Really Owns Your Website?

Having recently commissioned the creation of your ideal website for your business and compensated accordingly, you might be under the impression that it now belongs to you without restrictions. However, this isn't entirely accurate.

In the realm of web development, the intellectual property typically resides with the creator of the code. Web developers retain ownership over the innovations they bring to life, whether it's through coding in various programming languages or designing user interfaces.

Understanding Website Construction

It's important to note that not all aspects of website creation involve unique source code. More often than not, websites are an amalgamation of various components previously developed by others, which is a pragmatic approach for most businesses. There's little sense in developing new code for functions that already have reliable and readily accessible solutions through licensing.

This approach is far from novel and is a standard practice within the tech industry. Consider the iPhone by Apple as an example. It's not solely an Apple invention but a composite of diverse technologies merged into a singular product. Delve into the legal section under General Settings, and you'll find an extensive list of software licenses from various organisations.

This practice of licensing pre-existing technology to build upon is not exclusive to Apple but is widespread among companies seeking to innovate efficiently and cost-effectively. It enables them to scale and introduce new features without the need to develop from the ground up every time.

What Are You Paying For?

You might wonder, "If web developers are primarily assembling existing code, what exactly am I paying for?" This query is entirely justified. Constructing a website from scratch, with every line of code being original, would significantly escalate costs. It's analogous to starting a car rental business by manufacturing every vehicle in-house.

Licensed code typically offers essential functionalities, such as email transmission. Nevertheless, web developers are tasked with the website's overall layout, design, compliance with technical standards, performance optimisation, scalability, user experience, alignment with brand identity, compatibility across various devices, and foundational search engine optimisation, among other aspects.

Virtually all digital technology, including websites, incorporates some licensed code. Although you are granted the right to use this code on your site, actual ownership is not transferred to you, ensuring that the original authors can continue to license their work to others.

Navigating Copyright Disputes

Copyright issues may arise particularly when web developers create bespoke source code for your website. In these instances, the developers maintain ownership of their work. Often, the boundaries regarding custom code creation and the corresponding ownership or licensing terms are blurred between developers and clients, potentially leading to disputes, especially if there's a need to engage another party for further development or maintenance.

Safeguarding Your Interests

To prevent potential disputes, it's crucial to ascertain whether the developer intends to create custom source code for your site. If so, securing an assignment agreement or a clear licensing arrangement is advisable, ensuring your rights to utilise the content for which you have paid.