You pay for your domain name every month. You're also the system administrator and your name is on the WHOIS database fact sheet. But, do you really own your website? Maybe not.
We will go into the details of copyright ownership on this blog in a few days when a particularly interesting interview is published – stay tuned! For now, though, let's cover the basics of website ownership when using a site template given to you by a cheap web hosting company.
Is That Site Template Really Free?
Some cheap website hosting companies also offer complete site building packages. If you don't have a HTML bone in your body, these templates can seem like a godsend. All you have to do is choose a template, enter your content, and you're ready to roll. There's just one problem: that website company actually owns your site. Completely. Every detail of your site. How can this be?
Unless the template developer has handed you complete rights to that template you are using (and this is largely unseen when it comes to cheap hosting companies and free templates), all of your content is owned by the site you're using. This means that your site could be overtaken at any moment. Yikes.
It's All In the Contract
When you sign up to use a template or hosting company, you will have to sign some documents or agree to terms electronically. Make sure to read those documents. No idea what they say? Hire a lawyer to read through them for you. Is it worth the money? Absolutely. Why? Let's say your site takes off, and that hosting company wants a slice of your revenue pie. You'll have no ground to stand on.
Or, alternately, you get into a fight with your hosting company, and they decide to shut down your site completely. Legally, they own your site. Clearly, you will want to make sure that your name is on that site ownership paper. How can you get the rights to your site? It won't be easy.
Getting the Rights to Your Site
The reason why free templates are free is because they are owned by someone other than you. To simply call a hosting company and say: “hey, I want to rights to this template” isn't likely to happen. What you can do is ask for limited rights, or ask for some kind of contract that lets you maintain the rights to the content on your site. Wait, content? You may not own that either.
Since this site is in no way a legal site, it's best to let my next interview subject (someone that's very familiar with Internet law!) weigh in on the true legalities of site copyrights and ownership issues. But, I will say this: you don't own as much as you may think you do! Trust me, you'll want these nitty-gritty details before you set up your next site!
For now, keep this in mind: if you don't have a contract with your site owner, developer, or template creator, you probably don't own your site. Stay tuned for that amazing interview – and, remember, if you have questions for any of my interview subjects, sound off below!