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It is largely undisputed in today’s world that a Web site is a marketing necessity. Given that premise, who owns your Web site? Who owns your client’s Web site? These simple questions would appear to have simple answers — of course, you or your client own them — but the answer may surprise.

Many business and professional operations do not have the in-house resources or expertise to design and build a modern, professional-looking Web site. Typically, they turn to an independent contractor or a Web site designer to build the Web site. As a consequence of the limited resource that can be dedicated to the site’s creation, much of the design and implementation, or “look and feel” of the Web site, will be left to the creativity of the independent contractor. While the business may exercise certain rights to modify or alter the product presented, the bulk of the creative work will be a result of the Web designer’s effort. This issue can become even more complicated when the designer contracted by the business contracts with a subcontractor to create the site or write code. In these situations, United States copyright law can be a trap for the unwary.

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