You hire a web developer to design or build your website. Do you own the site or do they?
You may own the content supplied to the developer, but the underlying code, stock graphics and
any other material used or created for your website might actually be owned by the web developer, unless your written contract (if you have one!) includes a transfer of copyright.
Works Made for Hire
Under U.S. copyright law, in situations in which an employee creates a website for an employer
during the scope of the employee’s duties, it is the employer – not the employee – who can claim ownership of
the original work. The same is not necessarily true for creative work developed by independent contractors unless the work is considered a “work made for hire.”
Generally, in a work made for hire scenario, the person for whom the work is prepared is considered the author. The hiring party, not the one who actually created the website, would be considered the owner of the work, but only if the work is “specially ordered or commissioned” for certain specific
types of work and the parties expressly agree in writing.
Copyright ownership can also be freely transferred by written agreement between the parties at any time. Otherwise, the web developer may claim ownership of the copyright.
Lack of ownership rights can severely limit your ability to use, modify, transfer, or sell your website.
For your protection, be sure you can prove ownership of all the visible, written contents of your site
by registering the copyright for your website.