Does paying for code mean owning it?
The thorny issues that surround code ownership

3rd August 2012

Website Design and Website Development Malta - Infusion Solutions - website and IT solutions in Malta

Ten years ago, our clients understood that if they wished to update their websites or solutions, they would need to do so through their software developer or service provider. These days, however, many clients believe that by paying for software development, they would own the source code. On the face of it this seems reasonable: surely if you pay for something then you own it, right?

Many providers would make a comparison of the sort; if I pay a plumber to fix my tap, I don’t ask him to leave his toolbox so I can fix it myself next time. If you give away ownership of code you’re giving away your “tools of the trade”, just as much as that plumber would be by leaving his toolbox behind. Well, this comparison isn`t really fair or relevant, especially when you would rather have the money spent on your Websites or IT solution be more of an investment and less of a cost.

Spending money on building a site or IT solution should be considered as an investment. You are investing time and resources into building your own shop window or in the case of an IT solution, in a tool which will either facilitate your working procedures and in many cases, actually generate income. The more functionality required, the more complex the site and therefore the more costly! The question is, why would you spend money on these unless you also have the peace of mind of owning the code of the actual system? And what would actually owning the code mean for your business?

The code of your website or of your IT solution together with the database that contains all of your files is the actual value of your solution. Without owning these the site is a cost and not an investment. Owning the code provides peace of mind that if, worst case scenario, you are having issues with your service provider, they do not have the right to switch you off, leaving you to move to the next provider to start off from scratch. Although it always makes sense to maintain excellent relations with your supplier and you might never need to resort to managing your own code, you need to avoid getting into situations where your hands are tied before you actually make the decision of which supplier to go with.

Apart from allowing you to grab your code and move on to the next supplier without having to start from scratch and without having to pay the cost of redevelopment in the case that the supplier relations have turned sour, owning the code has other benefits. Having an entirely custom built solution will allow you to integrate with your internal applications (such as stock and inventory systems, etc) without any major headaches. Some clients might already have an internal department who can manage the code of the system following go live. Furthermore, owning the code gives you the advantage of being able to reuse components that have been developed within the system in other systems as well.

 
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