Who Owns a Website

  Jimbo50 10:39 23 Mar 2011

When a website is designed/built for you and paid for, who owns it and what rights do you have if you want to move it from the designers host or other host to another company to administer it?

Also what problems can be associated with this action?

Your help would be apreciated as I am a non technical person when it comes to the back end of websites.

  Taff™ 10:59 23 Mar 2011

This is a tricky one! Are you actually in this position or about to enter into an agreement with a web design company?

  Jimbo50 11:14 23 Mar 2011

Taff,thanks for your quick response.

I am actually in this position, website has been created but I am unhappy about how the designer is messing me about with the hosting (third party) part of the website. He has continually let us down with unfullfilled promises and is virtually holding a gun to our head to have the website published without more funding.

Website has been paid for but before publishing it I had to populate it which took some time and now we are at a stalemate.

  Taff™ 11:38 23 Mar 2011

Ah! It depends on the original agreement and any contract attached to it. You may need to tell us more. Whilst I am not a legal expert I have some experience of this from a business perspective as well as hosting for some of my clients.

If the "Web Designer" agreed a fee to meet your website design requirements and has designed a site which you are happy with and have paid them for he has possibly fulfilled the original contract. Unless that original contract specifically included the hosting of that site for a specific period, usually 12 months in which case he should do so.

Again, depending on the original contract, the content and design of the site, unless supplied by you, I believe remains his copyright unless the contract specifically says that all rights to it`s use are passed to you. (In the past I`ve worked with commercial photographers and always insisted that the rights were assigned back to us for example. This avoided additional payments for further prints or negatives for publications or publicity purposes)

In the real world most reputable web designers will provide you with the right to change hosting and supply you with a copy of the website should you require it. (A backup is essential!) There are some web design companies however that will offer a fixed price design and hosting package for 12 months with an annual renewal, which, if you don`t pay, will result in them removing the site and make it very difficult for you to change suppliers without paying a substantial fee.

What do you mean by "I had to populate it"? What sort of website is it?

  Jimbo50 12:03 23 Mar 2011

Taff thanks again for your quick response.

As I said I am not technical but I have picked up on some of the terminology sometimes without understanding it but have learned a little bit. The designer used open source to create an e-commerce site with layout, headings, sections and so on, I then had to add the text, photographs, prices and fine tune shipping, T&C’s and all the rest of it. I already have hosting with a company as this new site was to replace another site which had become a disaster.

We did not have a formal agreement signed but had discussions at length on what we required and we agreed a price for the completing the site.

  Taff™ 13:01 23 Mar 2011

I presume it`s on a test site somewhere that the Web Designer hosts. If it is complete to your satisfaction you should ask him to transfer it to replace your existing site. Or another domain you own and host) I can`t see why he should object. What`s the issue?

  Taff™ 14:16 23 Mar 2011

Dual posting click here Let`s keep the main answers in this posting because t`s more on the technical side of web hosting.

  Jimbo50 15:43 23 Mar 2011

Sorry Taff
This started out with what I thought was two subjects but now have seemed to merge into one, but I still need two solutions.

The jist of it is I feel I am being screwed for more funding and I wanted to know what it involves to change everything back to me basically. I have paid for it, is it mine?

Yes the new site is on test and can be viewed but I obviously didn't want to put those details in.

123Reg have also questioned the statement:
"I have created a configuration script for your hosting server, which I have tested and does work, which will allow the new site to appear under the original domain name, without having to move the site. This effectively allows the site to go live.”

  Forum Editor 00:22 24 Mar 2011

Generally speaking copyright in the site will be vested in the designer/developer.

When you pay a web designer to create a site, the work will usually be done in server space paid for by the designer, or on the designer's dedicated space. You are in effect paying for a service, in the same way you would pay a graphic artist to design a letterhead, or a company ad. There's nothing to 'own' as far as you're concerned until the finished site is handed over to you by the designer, and that normally happens when the designer publishes the work to a domain name on a web server. At that point the person who paid for the domain name, the server space and the design fee 'owns' the site - copyright passes from the designer to the client - in this case, you.

You've highlighted a common problem when you say "We did not have a formal agreement signed". Many a dispute over web design projects could be avoided if there was a document in existence. You say that "we agreed a price for the completing the site" however, and that's better than nothing; a verbal agreement can make a binding contract.

The big problem in all cases like this is that you have to get your hands on the site - the code that exists on the development server.If you have access to the server you can transfer the whole lot to your computer using FTP (file transfer protocol), and that will preserve the file structure. You can then publish to a web server, provided you have the domain name hosted somewhere, and it sounds as though you have.

If you can't access the site files you have a big problem. The designer is holding the ace card, and although you have a verbal contract it will be a tricky process to enforce it - your word against his.

It sounds as if you're in the right, but that's not always good enough. My advice is to try to negotiate your way out of this. tell the designer that we're advising you, it might help.

  Taff™ 10:26 24 Mar 2011

I was hoping FE might offer some sound advice as he has far greater experience in this. I`d also concur with the negotiation route. In my experience, when a business relationship breaks down, there are no winners if it comes to reading Terms and Conditions and small print and in this case you don`t have any anyway.

Lay down clearly what you believe you paid the designer for and what you expected the end result to be. A website designed and handed over to you.

If you are happy that the site is operational and to your satisfaction on his test server ask him for a copy of it or full ftp access which should allow you to download it to your own computer.

I`d then look at finding another supplier to advise you about it`s functionality and transfer it to your domain server. This shouldn`t cost a fortune and as we`ve said, put something in writing this time. It doesn`t have to be written by a lawyer and plain language setting out the task and your expectations from a reputable web designer should be met with a clear statement that they recognise your needs and that they will do it for a set fee. Let us know how you go on.

  Jimbo50 10:29 24 Mar 2011

Forum Editor

Many thanks for your response it has given me some hope in how to resolve this situation.
The one problem I think I have to resolve is the statement from the designer saying,

"I have created a configuration script for your hosting server, which I have tested and does work, which will allow the new site to appear under the original domain name, without having to move the site. This effectively allows the site to go live.”

I do not no what this means but it sounds like he is going to point my site in some way to the hosting site while still maintining the site on his server.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

iMac Pro review

Illustrator Charles Williams on how to create magazines and book covers

iMac Pro review

Les meilleures prises CPL (2018)