Who Owns Your Website
Everything’s Fine – Or Is It?
Seems like a silly question, perhaps. Sure, you have a website. It’s working well. You’re happy with the way it looks, and it’s generating some leads. You’re even converting some of these leads to new customers. So, that’s all you can expect from your website. Right?
However, to ensure your website keeps on doing its job, you want to be in complete control of it. You need to own it. And that’s the BIG question for today – who owns your website? Let’s find out!
What You Need To Know About Website Ownership
Understanding who owns your website can be broken down to a number of factors
Who Owns Your Domain Name?
If you own your own domain name, like “www.yourbusinessname.com.au”, then that’s a good start towards understanding who owns your website. But you should check.
Most people believe they own and therefore have control of their domain name. In some cases we’ve encountered, the domain name you wanted has indeed been registered for you. That’s why your site comes up in your browser when you enter your domain name. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prove who owns the domain name. There are unscrupulous web operators out there. Sure they’ll register a domain name for you – saves you the trouble of doing that yourself.
The problem is when they register “your” domain name under their own account, without you even knowing until it’s too late. When you find out – and you will, sooner or later – you discover that there’s little you may be able do about it. The domain name can be a valuable commodity. It’s an integral part of the way your website is contributing to your business. If you don’t actually own it, you’re at the mercy of whoever does.
You might want to check ownership of your domain name here. Enter your Lookup Address (domain name) without the “https/s” or “www”. Fill in the control text and press enter. If you’ve done this correctly, you should see a stack of information about your domain name, including who owns it – the “Registrant”. If that’s not you, you certainly have a problem.
Who Owns Your Website Hosting Account?
Ownership of your own domain name is not the only factor determining who’s in control.
To be visible on the Web, the website has to be hosted somewhere. For that, you need a website hosting account. Obviously there is one, or you wouldn’t be able to see your site online. But, do you own your hosting account?
Usually, whoever owns the hosting account has the ability to log into it online. To do that, you require a “user name” and a “password”. You also need a URL that you can use to get to where you can login in. The URL may be as simple as this one. Or, it may be far more complicated, and look something like this. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, only that it gets you to the right place.
If you own your hosting account, you should have received your a user name, password and URL. Usually, these are provided to you by email when your hosting account is first created. If you don’t have these, it’s a sure bet someone else is in control of your hosting account.
You can double check. If you can get to the account login page, you should see an option like “Forgot your password?”, and “Forgot your username?” Enter the one that applies. The system will ask you to confirm your email address linked to your hosting account, and if verified, the system will allow you to progress through the process to getting access to your account. But if progress is blocked, your email is not registered. That means you don’t own or control your hosting account, and that means you have a problem.
Who Owns the Content of Your Website?
Owning your own domain name and hosting account means that technically at least, you also own the website itself. In that case, you may own all the content of the website as well, unless some of the content copyright is held by another party. If so, and you have that party’s consent to use the material, that’s fine. If you don’t have permission, remove that content from your site.
Owning the website means that you can log into it if you want to, and once logged in, you can update the content of the site. To do this, you would have been provided with, once again, yet another set of login credentials – password, username and URL. Some clients do indeed use these to get access to edit their own content, while others choose to leave that to a contractor. Either way, being unable to log into your own website means you have no direct control of the website itself, or the content it contains.
Who Owns Copyright
In the end of course, legal ownership of the actual content on your website will always be determined by who has the copyright to it. Copyright is automatically held by the original creator of the work. However, copyright can also be assigned to someone else.
Make sure you own the copyright to the content on your website. To be certain, you’ll need to either create the content yourself, or if someone else created it for you, get their written confirmation that they have transferred their copyright to you.
Finally, make sure your copyright notice is placed on the website. These generally appear in the footer of every page of the website, and look something like this:
© 2023 Webinate – The Geraldton Web Design Studio – All Rights Reserved
The last thing any website owner needs is a legal fight over copyright. For example, imagine only discovering when you come to sell your business (and the website with it), that you can’t because someone else owns copyright and lays claim to it.
Are You Only Renting Your Website?
Paying a monthly fee for your website is becoming more common. As long as your monthly payments arrive on time, you can be reasonably confident your site will remain online. However, if for any reason your payments stop, so will your website. Paying a monthly fee is usually a good indication that you don’t own the site. You are in fact renting it. If payment is outstanding after a certain point, your site will be taken off-line. After that, if no payment is made, the site will be completely deleted. You will not be able to be reinstated even if you make good on any outstanding payments.
Be aware that should the provider shut down (insolvency, technical issues, buyout), your site and all your content may be lost forever!
Why Does Owning Your Website Matter?
Let’s say you actually do own your site, what advantages does that provide to you?
- your domain name can’t be sold to anyone else as long as it’s renewed on time
- you can register other domain names and redirect them to your website. If your site is running under “yoursitename.com.au”, you can get the “.com” version to prevent anyone else from tricking visitors to their site instead of yours. The same applies to the new Australian domain extension “.au”. Whether people look up “yoursitename.com.au” or “yoursitename.com”, they’ll still arrive at your website.
- you can transfer your domain name to another Registrar who is offering a lower annual license renewal fee
- you can sell your domain name – in some cases for a substantial amount
- you can easily move to another web hosting provider – perhaps with lower fees or better performance, services and support
- you can move to another web designer/developer at any time
- you can sell your entire website – your site can have a real and provable dollar value
On the other hand, not owning your site means you have no control over most if not all these factors. That leaves you at the mercy of unscrupulous operators.
Of course, owning your own website doesn’t mean you need to do all or any of these things yourself. There are plenty of contractors who’ll handle it on your behalf for a small fee. All you have to do is tell them what you want done.
A Handy Tip
You can get a lot of information about how your website is controlled from one convenient place – and it’s free. For Australian domains, here’s where to get more information. Here’s where you can also get more information on the ownership of international domain names.
So perhaps there’s some work you need to do to find out who owns your website. Let’s hope it’s you!
Before committing to a new website, look around online and compare various contractors.
Find 2 or 3 that seem to tick all your boxes. Talk to them – either in person or by email.
Ask them questions including whether you will own and and control all aspects of your site. If you like what you’re hearing, ask for a quote. Check the quote to ensure your complete ownership and control is confirmed in writing.
If you need help setting up a domain name for your website, we can help. Just get in touch here.
WARNING: This article is for general information only, and is not intended as legal advice. For your particular circumstances, you are advised to conduct your own research and for legal advice, you should seek independent legal counsel.