Web site ownership: know this before you sign

Having a Web site professionally designed is a great idea, but before you enter into a contract, there are some things you should understand about ownership. By ownership, I specifically mean copyright ownership. As the customer, you may expect that because you hire a developer to create “your” site that you own it. That’s usually not the case.

According to the United States Copyright Act, you may only claim the copyright to your site if the work is a “work made for hire.” Well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? The answer is no, not unless the work falls into one of the statutory categories limited to the following:

As a contribution to a collective work; as a part of a motion picture or other audio-visual work; or as a translation. Also, if it was supplementary work; a compilation; an instructional text; as a test or the answer material for a test; or an atlas.

Since most Web sites do not fall into these categories, what should you do? The best way to be certain you own the copyright is to take an assignment of the copyright and license back certain rights to the developer. In other words, your contract should declare you as the copyright owner, and certain aspects requested by the developer can be licensed back for use in future projects.

A good Web site developer will be willing to ensure site ownership belongs to you. After all, you may want to make changes at some point and decide to do them yourself or hire a new developer. Owning your site may prevent the added expense of starting from scratch to avoid copyright infringement.

More information (including a sample contract in PDF format) is available from Worry Free Webs at

http://www.worryfreewebs.net/PDF%20Files/Contract.pdf while legal tips and advice are available from Web Law Resources at http://www.weblawresources.com.

Gail Heller, CIW Professional Site Winders www.sitewinders.com. Gail Heller is filling in for Richard Heller’s regular “Bits and P.C.s” column this week. Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail technorh@mindspring.com, or call 243-1162.

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