View Full Version : URGENT: website design copyright query

17-06-2002, 10:20 AM

a designer recently did a site for us - we provided all imagery, text content - the lot.
however, we've had a slight fall-out with our webdesigner - who is now saying that the site design is their copyright, and therefore, we have no right, without prior admission, to make any changes. what if we want to make some changes now - could the web designer potentially have us up for this?

for informatin - there is no contract in place and the designer built the site on a one-off basis.
what are our rights, as the owner of the domain and site, and copy right holder of the imagery the designer used to develop the site?
any response - very greatly appreciated.
with thanks.

17-06-2002, 11:18 AM
Hi There

First Of All What Is Your Domain Name Ill Check You Own It

Second If You Have Payed For The Design, Aslong as there was no contract saying no changes allowed you should be fine. Web Designs Are usually Designed Given To The customer And Then Is Up To Them If They Change Them Or They Have A Maintenance Contract With The Designer To Do Updates For Them.

Hope This Is Of Some Help


17-06-2002, 11:22 AM
thanks for this - I will email you privately, as i don't really want to disclose too many details here (incase the said designer recognises my post!).
Many thanks :)

18-06-2002, 02:52 PM

As long as you have paid all costs for the development of the site, in right you own the copyright. Again unless you have signed a prior agreement.

Hope it works out!

12-08-2005, 05:01 PM
As far as I understand it, a designer always has the right to 'identify themselves as the author' of work and refuse to allow it to be used for purposes they don't agree with.

For example, if I designed a graphic that the purchaser decided to use on an adult website, I believe I could legally refuse to allow it to be used for this purpose. This may be an issue that affects you.

Also, if the designer has used images that he is not the copyright owner for, then he is in breach of copyright. You might also expose yourself to action if you make the site live.

12-08-2005, 05:19 PM
^ So wrong...

You own the copyright on the supplied images.

However; unless formally agreed otherwise, the designer owns the copyright on the 'completed work' i.e. the entire site - as it was his or her artistic creation (albeit with your supplied elements). They also have the right to retain the source files unless agreed otherwise - that's industry standard practice.

The fact that you have paid for the design of the site matters not one jot. Unless the designer formally assigns copyright to you in writing then you are stuffed to be brutally honest.

Copyright assignment and supply to the purchaser of the source files should have been negotiated prior to commisioning the work.

Sorry! :(

12-08-2005, 05:43 PM
I used to work in copyright law, so this is my view:

As a designer they automatically hold the copyright, but if you commisioned them to design the site then you should be assigned this copyright. This is usually assigned in writing, which is the safest way to do these things. But it could be argued that if the fee you paid them covered more than just the nuts and bolts of doing the site, you may be able to prove that it was a commissioned piece of work.

If they are arguing that they were not paid to design the site (i.e. NOT COMMISSIONED), and that you only paid them for the actual work of writing code, uploading images, text etc. then you do have a problem. Also as a designer, they retain artistic rights (e.g. if something was morally against their principles they could object) even if they sold you the copyright, like in the porno graphic detailed below. They also retain the right to use the work as a portfolio.

Do you have any emails or correspondence relating to the design of the website that would indicate what their fee covered? I'd print these off immediately & keep them somewhere safe (esp. if they have access to your mail servers!!!). Do they have usual terms & conditions or fee structures you could use to argue that you paid them for design in addition to building the site?

As for standard industry practice, yes the designer usually does retain source files, but this is for ease rather than for legal reasons.

I'd try proving that their fee included a design element, which means that the site was commissioned and therefore you retain the copyright. But this really should be in writing BEFORE you commission the website designer!

12-08-2005, 06:24 PM
1 line

""there is no contract in place and the designer built the site on a one-off basis. ""

No contract! - You should always try to put things in writing... But he also has little to gain from taking this any futher because there's no contract in place.

Make your changes and tell him the laws about Extortion, with no contract in place it's your word against his and should he try anything this is the countermove you'll make on the grounds His Proposal never mentioned about Copyright ownership which you believed was transfered with payment.

It just sounds like he's trying his luck, and considering this case had no contract if you push I think you'll dig a black hole of no taxes being paid... (And I bet he doesn't want the IR on his back but pressure him with it anyway. - Did you get a receipt for the job?)

All the best


15-08-2005, 09:40 AM
Eagle has hit the nail on the head with regards to the copyright staying with the designer unless otherwise stated. It like buying a painting - you don't get the copyright, it stays with the artist unless it is transfered in a contract.

It is no use saying that copyright is "normally" transfered to the client - normally there would be a contract saying what happens!

Not nice when a business relationship goes sour, but contracts tend to keep supplier and client happy as they both know what to expect and deliver.


15-08-2005, 05:32 PM
...regarding the use of fly by night and "bedroom" designers as opposed to contracting a professional company with contracts, scheduled and established working practices.