Who owns your web site?

Yet another less for the “Web Based Horror Stories” file.

Way back in 2003, Bill (not his real name) hired a company to create a web presence for his brand new business. Bill wasn’t real web savvy, so he was grateful when his developer took care of everything for him. His web developer registered the desired domain name for him, built the site and hosted it for him. All was well for a while…. then, Bill wanted to make changes to his site.  He called, he emailed, he wrote but his requests to his web developer went unreturned and unacknowledged.

As his frustration mounted, he took a class with my colleague. My colleague offers teleseminars on web marketing and during the class Bill learned about Word Press blogs. He learned that with a self-hosted Word Press blog that he could have it all. He could have an attractive web presence that was easy to update and maintain without having to contact his web developer every time he wanted to add content or change current content on his web site.

He contacted his web developer. He wanted to move his site.  He wanted to use the same domain he had been using for years to promote his business and he wanted to use key images as well.  That is when his horror story began.

Bill’s web developer replied quickly to this request.  The web developer informed Bill that he didn’t own the copyright to the site, they did. (Intellectual property must be transferred in writing and since Bill never signed a development contract with the web developer, they were right. It was still technically THEIR web site.)

More bad news, the helpful developer had registered the domain name in THEIR name. Not only did Bill not own the web site he’d paid to have developed, he didn’t own the domain name either. The four year old domain name could have provided a nice launch pad for Bill’s new blog… but he didn’t own or have rights to the domain name.

Believe me, I UNDERSTAND the temptation to just register everything in my name . It would be SO much easier not only for me, but for the client as well. However, it’s times like these when I want to point out to MY clients why I “force” them to go through the indignities of registering their own domain name.

Bill finds himself starting from scratch all over again with the whole web development process. His content… lost. His domain name… was never his.

Who owns your web site?  Who is listed as the administrative contact on YOUR domain name?  Did you sign a contract with your web developer?  Does it transfer ownership of the content of your site to you in writing?

I’ve heard it said that business savvy is acquired through experience.  Why is it that experience is most instructive when it’s most DESTRUCTIVE?


  1. That is really a horrible story. I guess he made a deal with a scammer. I did a lot of websites for my clients and done hosting registrations for them. But as soon as the hosting is set up, I made it to a point to make a different access for me for uploading purposes and informed my client to change the main password for him. So he will get full ownership and control in case he wanted to do it by himself. Scammers are out there and clients should be very careful when making business online.


  1. […] which potential clients/customers can observe.  That’s why I write about some of the “horror stories” I’ve come across in my practice.  It helps me to point out to my own clients how well […]