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Copyright and Web Design

Reply with quote Having done some initial investigations about this, I've found a lot of information - most of which is confusing.

Can anyone point me in the direction of a definitive answer to the following question:

Who owns the copyright to a website; the designer/developer, or the person who has paid for the site?
Reply with quote
fogey wrote:


Who owns the copyright to a website; the designer/developer, or the person who has paid for the site?


Depends on what the contract says.
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Reply with quote In my experience, the site owner owns the copyright to all the parts they made or paid for. Developers are just helping them publish and distribute their work.

With designers, things can be different. The site may be owned by the client but the design and certain graphics (such as icons) may be owned by a designer.

As Jake says, if it's likely to come up then the contract should make clear who owns what.
Reply with quote Thanks guys, that's cleared a few things up for me! Smile
Reply with quote Developers own the copyright of the code and this should ideally be in the contract but not necessarily. The client only pays for the ability to carry out tasks and functions. This is to avoid simply skinning of a website or part of the website and selling it on as another product by the client (when really you should be the one re-using your code and selling it on Wink )

However web graphics are sold to the client as part of their brand.
Reply with quote
Johan007 wrote:
Developers own the copyright of the code and this should ideally be in the contract but not necessarily.


Except that if the contract says the client owns it -- then the client owns it.

Something I learned a long time ago -- don't assume anything when it comes to business arrangements. Wink


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Reply with quote I guess you don't want to learn the hard way such always take a deposit before starting work Evil or Very Mad !
Reply with quote
Johan007 wrote:
Developers own the copyright of the code and this should ideally be in the contract but not necessarily. The client only pays for the ability to carry out tasks and functions. This is to avoid simply skinning of a website or part of the website and selling it on as another product by the client (when really you should be the one re-using your code and selling it on Wink )

However web graphics are sold to the client as part of their brand.


Technically/legally, only the licence to reproduce those web graphics (for the purpose of displaying their website) is sold to the client by default. Copyright technically remains with the creator (designer/design agency) unless specified in the agreement/contract.

In practise, and for the sake of smooth running, many designers/agencies choose to relinquish copyright of the site's artwork to the client without due notice. (Unfortunately) This has led to the general, but incorrect assumption amongst clients that copyright legally and formally passes wholesale to them when the job is signed off and paid for (without being specified in the agreement/contract).

It's not entirely uneasonable to charge something extra to hand-off copyright along with the job, but that's a call that's down to the designer/agency and how they feel it might impact on their current and potential relationship with the client.
Reply with quote Wow! Really good post everyone. As a budding web designer, these questions have frequently come up. I guess the thing to remember is to put it in writing. With out a contract you are pretty well screwed. A contract protects all parties that are involved. Intellectual copyright protection is maybe a good career choice for those thinking of heading to college in the fall!
Reply with quote
uranusstars wrote:
generally copywrite it belongs to the person who paid for the site but designer will enter their names while desigining .i think that copywrite is belong to the payee only but the desing portion is owned by desingner.....
Nope, it's what Bill said above. Copyright remains with the designer/creator unless this is transferred as part of the contract.
Reply with quote I was actually wondering if I should reuse the templates I have made for a client. He is planning to resell my designs, which I made for him for a meager fee, and my friend thought it is a bit unfair that he gets credits for it. What I want to know is how can I have the copyright for the designs I make?
Reply with quote Hi People. Very interesting topic of course, but I have a special situation which you may be able to help with.
A local very amateur theatrical company has their own website, developed by one of it's members as a favour. No contract involved or implied. The developer wants to claim copyright to the textual content, with a notice on the site saying so.
The question is: if nothing is done about registering etc, who actuall owns the copyright to the textual content in this situation? The company or the developer?
The discussions here are getting a bit heated so I would appreciate any help please. Thanks
Reply with quote
bobjury wrote:
A local very amateur theatrical company has their own website, developed by one of it's members as a favour. No contract involved or implied. The developer wants to claim copyright to the textual content, with a notice on the site saying so.
The question is: if nothing is done about registering etc, who actuall owns the copyright to the textual content in this situation? The company or the developer?


The IPO site has some useful pages explaining copyright in the UK.

It's difficult to say with pro bono work like this. I'm not a lawyer, but my thoughts are this:

If the developer wrote original copy (textual content) for the site, then the copyright is automatically theirs as creator, unless they are employed by the theatrical company. If the copy was written by someone else, the developer cannot claim that as their work.

As people have said in previous posts, there should have been an understanding that copyright be granted to whoever commissioned the site. The law seems blurry here, because it is unclear whether or not commissioned work is defined as involving payment in some form.

Either way, the developer reserves the right to be credited with their involvement.

[edited for clarity]
Reply with quote Thanks dotjay. What you say sounds right, so I'll proceed on that basis.
All the best
Reply with quote This copyright section on out-law.com has lots of useful information.

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