Recently, the J. Paye website was converted into a WordPress site. My graphic designer explained the benefits of converting to a WordPress site such as the ease of customizing and updating the site. As a copyright attorney, my first question was who would own the copyright to the site. With previous versions of the site, I had a contractual understanding with my graphic designer and web developer that their contributions to the site would be treated as a work-made-for-hire and J. Paye would own all copyrights to the site. Converting to a WordPress site did not affect the copyrights I retain in the site design and content. But, moving the site to this platform did affect the copyright I held in the site code.
WordPress is an open platform that allows individuals to contribute codes, templates, and plugins that can be incorporated into a WordPress site. However, all contributors to the WordPress platform retain the copyright to their code. Under the General Public License users of the platform are allowed to copy, distribute and/or modify software files posted on the site.
As a result of converting to a WordPress site, I no longer own the copyright to the code used to build the site. This is not a critical issue for me, because the purpose of my site is to provide legal information. WordPress is not the best option for an individual or company seeking to develop a website that offers some novel or unique web technology.
This is because the technology incorporated into the website and the code that powers it is valuable intellectual property. By making this code publicly available on an open platform like WordPress, the individual loses the ability to effectively protect his intellectual property and license the technology or code. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook utilizing an open platform the code he wrote would be freely available to anyone using WordPress. In turn, they would be able to use the code to create social media sites identical to Facebook. If your website offers innovative technology like Facebook it would be better to hire a developer under a work-for-hire agreement to build the website.
Before building a website, it is best to seek the advice of a knowledgeable copyright and/or internet lawyer.