Who Owns The Web Development Source Code?

  • By: Cris M.
  • Nov 19, 2012
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The question of the web development source code ownership arises quite a lot in the web development industry. Our clients are rightfully concerned when communication with Melbourne based web developers, and discover a clause under the terms & conditions stating that the website agency will own the source code, upon the completion of the website project.

If your project is a straight forward e-commerce website development solution, and there are no unique custom scripted elements the only issue you should be considering is will you have access to the website in case you decide to move away from your current web development provider. This may be for the sake of hosting with a 3rd party company, potentially moving to another web development company or even deciding to employ your internal web development personnel.

Source Code - Web Development
Web Development Source Code

The issue can be quite an important one, especially when the system that your web developer is building entails your own logic and require custom scripted algorithms that are based on your unique online concept. In varying website development agency’s terms and conditions, a clause will often state that they would own all source code and will be able to re-use the code on other projects without limitation. Most customers would understandably be uncomfortable with such a clause.
The line becomes even more blurry when the website developers will utilise parts of their pre- built, custom software to tailor the solution to your requirements.

Questions to ask concerning web development source code

  • What are the limits of the web development source code release?
  • How much should you own and how much will be retained in the domain of your website development team?
  • How much will be reused on their other website projects?

This topic should be discussed clearly and openly with your website development team, prior to entering into any contract. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to discover that upon parting with your web development company you are refused the ownership of the website you have paid for. The reason you are given is the same old adage of the source code copyright: the fees paid cover you for the usage of the system, and not for the purchase of the system in itself- similarly, when photography is purchased the photographer will print the photos for you, and each time you would like a reprint you have to return to them for reprints, instead of providing the images for you on a CD and releasing the ‘copyright’ to you. To release the copyright, or the website source code in this case, you may be asked for additional payment or be refused this option all together.

Website Development
Website Projects

From the website developer’s standpoint, especially if the situation involves a custom built/ proprietary content management platform, the website agency may be reluctant to pass on their trade secrets to potential competitors.

How does Leading Edge handle this seemingly complex and somewhat sensitive issue?

One thing is certain- we do not lock our clients into continued relationship by the way of contracts and fine print, but rather by providing great support and ongoing build the relationship with our clients.

We openly discuss the subject and the nature of our proprietary, custom built content management system and the parameters of its release to our clients. Our web development terms of use can somewhat be customised, pending the negotiations with our clients, and are dependent on the circumstances. If your website project involves highly customised, unique algorithms that our website development team will script for your project alone, that functionality would remain uniquely your own and we will not reuse it, or on-sell the system to your competition.

We also commonly enter into non- compete agreements for selected projects and clients where the requirements for such exist. Our website development platform is not server dependent, and the websites we build can be hosted anywhere. Upon the completion of the project, the source code will be made readily available to our clients, for their peace of mind and extra security such as offsite backups.

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