Expert Advice

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2006

Q. If I hire an individual to design my company Web site, do I automatically retain the copyright to it?

Douglas A. Cherry Not necessarily. "If I pay for it, I own it" is a common and dangerous misconception when it comes to works of a copyrightable nature. When you hire someone to build your dream home, you intuitively have the right to do pretty much anything you want with it, such as later remodel the home. Not so in the realm of copyright law. How surprised was my wife when I explained that our wedding photographer actually owns the copyrights to our photos. We can't copy them, convert them to black and white or scan them into our computer without her permission. We can only buy copies of the pictures from her., an attorney with Wilson Jaffer, P.A., who focuses on intellectual property and technology law, answers:

The same holds true for your company Web site, custom software or marketing materials, unless it is considered a "work for hire." The Copyright Act's "work-made-for-hire" doctrine is the major exception to the fundamental principle that copyright ownership vests initially in the individual who creates the work. If it's a "work made for hire," the employer or person commissioning the work will be considered both the author and copyright owner.

If the person or company designing your Web site is not considered an employee under copyright law but instead an independent contractor, you do not own your Web site unless you secure a work-for-hire agreement (or provision) or a later written assignment. Without one, you only have permission to use one copy (i.e. a nonexclusive license). The independent contractor/off-duty employee can market similar designs of your site to others, modify it, improve it and resell it, whereas you cannot.

It is very important to ensure that any Web-development agreement contains the proper intellectual property provisions.

Douglas A. Cherry can be reached at (941) 955-5800 or [email protected]

Q. I'm new in the business community and am looking for a clearinghouse for helpful ideas. Any suggestions?, project manager for 21st Century Workforce Study through the Suncoast Workforce Board, answers:

Allyson O'Connor A new Web site,, has an entrepreneur resource guide, with links to people and organizations, such as area chambers of commerce, that can help a newcomer start their business. For those people who need help growing their business, a link gives detailed information about economic redevelopment zones, business training programs, finding apprentices and recruiting employees. Other links connect to people who can help finance your business and help you find employees.

You'll also find a start-up model guide, which includes a self-assessment to help people decide why they want to be in business and whether they really have a niche. A section on financing describes various financing models, explains credit, how to calculate breakeven point or write a loan proposal. There's also a section on public relations and e-marketing.

The Web site gives a detailed outline for a business plan, with checklists and fill-in-the-blank sections that can help people write one for their own businesses, as well as links to agencies that can help procure tax ID numbers and occupational licenses. Rules and regulations regarding employees, a glossary of real estate terms, tax and insurance information and government regulations are also included.

The Web site will be constantly updated with information about classes, seminars and events, and chat rooms can help people bounce ideas off each other.

Allyson O'Connor can be reached at (941) 361-6126 ext. 128.

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