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Should I except an invitation to gain limited control over my website form the person who developed it?

Portland, CT |

I paid someone to set up a web site for me. They now have stopped updating the site because what I want they cannot do. The problem is they never gave me the user names or password for this site. I have been paying for this site on a credit card along with the web site developer’s personal web site. I have asked several times to have the control over the web site. The web site person is telling me that the web site host company is not allowing the two accounts to be separated at this time. He cannot get a hold of them! I have and am waiting on their legal team.
The web site developer e-mail me yesterday an invitation to gain limited control over the account, If I take the invitation, does this mean that I am admitting that the web site is the developer’s? He is not releasing it to us

Attorney Answers 2


While “limited control” may be a step in the right direction, it is important to verify now (in writing) that per your agreement you (after paying the developer for its services) own both the domain name (website address) and all the code and content that makes the site operate.

A common misperception of businesses that hire an outside website design resource is that the business “owns” the IP (intellectual property) rights because it paid for that work. Absent a written agreement transferring the website code to the business, generally, the developer (an independent contractor) may own the IP rights to the site they created for its client, and the business client is left with a mere non-exclusive, royalty free license to use its own site.

If exclusivity of the website (i.e. code, design elements, search / calculator features) are important, then special attention needs to be made before establishing web development relationship. Otherwise, your developer may be free to sell and develop similar sites for your competition.

As the domain name (i.e. is a key business asset whose value has been enhanced through the business’s marketing and promotional efforts, it’s advisable to verify the business (and not its web developer / host) owns the domain name. A search of the public whois database [] can determine who is the listed owner (registrant). Generally, if the business (or own of its owners) registered the domain name, then it should be the listed owner. If the business is not listed as the owner, then it maybe contractually possible the web developer “owns” your businesses domain name when you authorized it to provide the full service package of registering the domain name (i.e. website address), creating the website, and host and maintain the website. If this has occurred, wrestling that domain name back from the developer (and eliminating their future services) maybe a costly endeavor requiring specific legal assistance.

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Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Paul H Begemann

Paul H Begemann


very comprehensive answer



Very helpful! I understand why this happened and can correct this in the fortune. We were very lucky this time and gain control over our web site! Thank you so much


Seems like there a few things going on here. First, do do you have any sort of agreement (contract) with the web site designer? Second, are you trying to get control of the content ("code") of your website or the actual domain name? If it is the content you should be able to get that and transfer it to a new hosting company. Are both of the sites on one domain or just with the same hosting company? You should be able to obtain ownership of your domain name (if you do not have it already) and your content and then have a new company host it. If you have a written agreement or contract with the person who put the site together, that should have provisions for ownership of the actual content.

This information is provided for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed. You should retain an attorney to receive legal advice on your particular situation.

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