Lesson 2: I paid someone to design my website. It’s mine right?

Written by Sonal Moore, Moore + Moore

Generally, one of the first things a mum, starting a business, will do is get a website. Some mums may be lucky enough to have the skills to do it themselves but most will probably pay someone else to do it. Your designer may do one or more of the following – obtain your domain name for you, write content, arrange the website layout, design a logo and provide you with images. You pay for something which is hopefully amazing and everything seems wonderful. And in most cases it will be.

website materialsBut issues can arise – you might want to make your own changes to the website instead of paying the designer all the time, or use the logo and the images for other promotional purposes or even have control of your domain name. You should be able to sort things out with the designer, because after all you paid good money and you should be able to do what you like with your website and your logo. Right?

Who owns the rights? The basic rule of law is that the person who creates the works owns the copyright in them, even if someone else has paid that person. The exception is where the designer is your employee. This means that in most cases, the website designer will own the copyright in the logo, the website layout and content unless and until you get a written assignment of copyright. Many designers will not or cannot assign rights in the layout, because for example, they use a standard template. However, you do want to own your words and your logo and know you can use the layout without any arguments.

When things go wrong – a client once came to me with just this problem (although I’ve added in quite a few facts to show how tricky it can get). Her website designer had registered a domain name for her, designed a logo and taken photos and written some content for her website. There was a falling out and when my client reproduced her own logo on some advertising material to be used at a trade show the website designer complained. Why? The designer claimed that he owned the copyright in the logo and although my client could use it on the website he had designed, she could not use it anywhere else. An assignment of the rights in the logo and the website content was going to cost extra money. My client was understandably confused, angry and frightened about what all this meant. An amicable solution was reached between the parties but it still took time away from running the business.

You’ll notice that the Motivating Mum website has a copyright notice at the bottom of the homepage that says: 2010 © Motivating Mum. That’s a good thing because it means Motivating Mum owns the rights in the webpage and that’s what you want as well.

How to avoid the problem – make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting for your dollar and if the designer is creating content or logos for you, make sure you get an assignment of the copyright in this material at the same time.


Sonal Moore of Moore+Moore IP is a mother of two almost grown up daughters and has been advising in the intellectual property area for 30 years. Her firm has no website (because there are not enough hours in the day) but you can find her on LinkedIn or at smoore@mmip.com.au. She is passionate about helping start-up businesses navigate the world of copyright, trade marks, patents, terms and conditions and the Australian Consumer Law.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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One Response to Lesson 2: I paid someone to design my website. It’s mine right?

  1. Hi Sonal,

    There are some great points here, some most people wont have thought of.

    Especially always having to pay a designer to make a few changes here and there. You can feel trapped.

    Thanks for advice


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