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Legal Nuts and Bolts

While we focus on many legal issues involving websites in the Law and Ethics chapter, there are a few issues specific to hiring contractors that you should keep in mind.

Who Owns What

Your contract should state clearly that your contractors are creating a work for hire and that they give you the copyright to all parts of it.

Some developers may want to retain the right to the programming, to certain design elements or even to some of the writing done for the site. If this is the case, make sure that you have a clear, broad and unending license to use what they made for you. For example, you'll want to be able to use screenshots of the site in brochures, advertising or manuals. You'll also want to be able to modify any of the programming and be able to reuse it on any other site you might want to start.

Properly Cleared Material

Of course, before the designers can give you the rights to your website, they must be sure that they have the rights in the first place. This means you should ask for some sort of warranty that the pictures, the code, the design and any other material they include are either public domain or otherwise safe to use because they have been cleared with the owners. Ultimately, if you're the one using the material, the copyright owner is going to go after you, so this is a critical protection.

General Caveats

The usual legal warnings should naturally apply. Make sure that:

  • Your contractor signs your contract or scope of work agreement.
  • The court venue for resolving any disputes is in your neck of the woods instead of theirs.
  • There are clear deadlines and specific reasonable penalties for not meeting the deadlines.
  • The conditions for breaking off the agreement are clear and not too harsh for either of you.

None of this should be something you'll end up dealing with, but the company that's willing to consider these details is one in which you ought to feel more comfortable placing your trust.

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