Occasionally I’ll be talking to a prospective client and find that they believe that they have bought their company domain name and it is theirs for perpetuity. Or that the fancy, personalised CMS facility is part of the expensive website they paid for.
With regard to the domain names most, if not all, are only registered with the appropriate authorities for a set period of time. This can vary from a year to a decade, with two years most common. If not renewed the ownership will lapse and the domain lost. Even if the domain matches your company name and would be of no use to anyone else.
The issue regarding website design and CMS (Content Management Systems) is rare, but can and does happen. I have encountered cases where the website development company has designed its own, bespoke CMS which is only available, on lease, via their servers as part of an annual or monthly hosting package. Clients can, of course, take their website content should they decide to move to another supplier but are surprised to discover that they are unable to keep the CMS which makes the site go. It is advisable to know which CMS your developer is using before starting on a project just to ensure that you can move it in the future if required. Look for Drupal, Joomla, or my favourite, WordPress.
Its not just in the digital sphere that you may need to keep an eye open. I have also come across companies who have paid out for a new logo design only to find that the agency still own the copyright and charge their clients should they wish to use it elsewhere. These creative agencies aim to keep a tight control of the use of ‘their’ logo design and don’t allow full ownership by the company for which the logo was designed. If you have having a new logo designed check to make sure that, once approved and paid for, that you will be able to have access to copies of the design should you require them for use elsewhere. Even if you don’t plan to move to another agency if can be useful to know if there are any restrictions or additional fees before going ahead.
It maybe rare, and if encountered it can be infuriating, but if you are investing in traditional or digital design and media always ensure that your know what it is you are paying for, what you are getting for your money and who will own the end result. All good agencies will be happy to discuss this with you and put your mind at ease.