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Re: skip be very careful...
I have been building, designing, modifying, and maintaining web sites for a dozen years...well actually almost 13 years now..
Areas you have to be concerned with are:
1. Content copyright in most cases belongs to the site owner.
If as the site developer I am asked to provide content then, depending on the source of it, I could claim copyright to that content. Generally it is turned over to the site owner and if not then the content will show som where on it that the copyright belongs to me or the lawful copyright owner if I sourced it from some other source.
So in modifying a sites content...as long as you have the owners permission to do so...you are free to do it...Just don't modify or alter any content that is marked copyright by a party other than the site owner.
The owner will be able to tell you if he/she added the content or supplied the content to the developer to add to the site, or if they left it to the developer to add content ....if it was left to the developer to provide and add content then you could have a copyright issue unless the site owner has something in writing or electronically saying the copyright to the content the developer contributed has reverted to the site owner.
Most sites will have a copyright at the bottom of the pages of the site.
If it states copyright is to the company business name you are pretty safe other than for content specifically marked copyright of someone other than the site owner.
If the copyright is only to the domain name then to be safe you should verify copyrights and use due diligence.
2. Design is a tricky area.
The developer could have purchased a template to work with...or done the design him/her self.
Generally if there is a design copyright other than the site owner it will be displayed at page bottom and generally with a link to the designers web site....this is a no touch area without express written permission from the design copyright holder.
If there is no design copyright claim on the page then you have to determine if it is a template that is used.
With regards to templates....if there is any mention on the web site pages of the template source then you need to investigate. Many free templates that require displaying the source of the template have a copyright to the free source and it will require looking at the source (site it came from) of the template to see what you can and can't do.
If there is no mention of the template then generally it was free of copyright restrictions, or was purchased with rights to makes changes etc.
It is always wise to look at the source code of the index page to see if there is any mention on it of template copyright....or where it was purchased from ..... and then investigate any copyright restrictions on the template.
Even if there is a design copyright the site owner still has the right to add content him / her self, or hire someone to add or change content as long as the design is not modified.
a. If the site uses a third party software to power it, it may very well be that the design was from a template supplied by the third party software...and if this is so it is going to be copyrighted....due diligence is needed to decipher where the copyright belongs in this instance and the rights of the user....but this does not stop one from adding, changing, or modifying site content as long as no mod is done to the template itself.
b. If the site was hand coded the code could be copyrighted (but this ties into the design aspect as html code is just html code).....but this does not stop one from adding, changing, or modifying site content as long as no mod is done to the design if it is copyrighted.
c. If the site uses multiple 3rd party scripts (not a 3rd party software that powers the whole site) to power different sections of the site and is part of the coding then the odds are the person doing the site could not claim copyright to it other than for design....and again this does not stop one from adding, changing, or modifying site content as long as no mod is done to the design if it is copyrighted.
d. If the site was developed specifically, and soley, for the web site owner whereas the developer wrote a script (program) for the web site (not talking html or css here) then one would have to very carefully scrutinize copyrights and rights given to the site owner.
Essentially ...unless a contract says otherwise...or unless a developer has 'complete' copyright to the design and content of a web site...the the site owner is free to add or modify the content him / her self, or hire someone to do it (with attention paid to any design copyright, programming copyrights,so as no infractions are committed).
One other are of concern to be aware of....some domains are only leased to the site owner (not by a registrar but by someone else who actually owns the domain name rights for use. Some of these people are rather unscrupulous..... and as most people don't bother to read fine print...there may be a small clause that the content of the site is actually owned by the domain name owner and not the person who has leased the domain name and developed and added the content....due diligence is required.