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Who really owns your content?

Trapped in contract without content ownershipAfter paying for your website, volumes of useful content, and blog entries, you may be surprised to learn that your content does not really belong to you.

If you are like thousands of other attorneys, you will never know, unless you decide to move to a new service provider – at which point, your legal marketing company may inform you that you have no rights to the content that you paid for.

As many law firms assess their online marketing and look for other options, they generally reach out to law firm marketing companies to do comparisons and provide a competitive quote. Most lawyers do this search with the assumption that they will need a new website, but that the content they have spent thousands of dollars on will be transferable.

Technically yes. Legally, no.

While all content can be easily transferred, the problem comes down to the terms of your agreement. If your web developer or content provider does not explicitly transfer rights to your law firm in your contract, they own your content. Some larger law firm marketing companies aggressively enforce this.

The practice of retaining rights has no value beyond creating a lock that makes it difficult for you to move to a new provider. Such locks are often combined with other barriers, such as:

  • Not owning rights to your design.
  • Not owning rights to licensed stock imagery.
  • Use of proprietary content management systems that will not be transferred to a new hosting provider.
  • Offering free domain names, but only leasing them, rather than transferring ownership.
  • Restricting use of content.

If you are currently locked into a situation where you don't own your design, your content, or your content management system, you can't go back in time, but you can avoid making the same mistake twice.

When getting your new site built and starting a relationship with your new legal marketing company, you should demand the following:

  • A contract which explicitly states that your law firm owns full rights to content, design, and content management system or use of open source content management systems.
  • No transfer or closure fees if you move your website after completing a contractual term.
  • That you own your domain name and have a user name, password and management portal that allows you to access your own domain name records.
  • All licensed stock image rights transferable to your firm without additional fees.

Take control of your content and don't allow companies to lock you in based on tricks and gimmicks. Demand full ownership.