It’s a common question and also a far too common problem.
In my view, once a project is paid for, a client should own it. But it’s not always the case as I explain below.
We hand over the ownership of the finished project upon completion, so while we’ll most likely host it and continue to maintain it, the client could ask for it to be moved to another development company or host.
We’d take the necessary backups and send it over, no ties.
Now there are sometime third-party restrictions, so for example postcode address finders, WordPress plugins that need to be licenced, but it’s still an easy move.
When it comes to bespoke systems, the client owns the finished product, we can’t duplicate it and give it to someone else. We do however have multiple clients in the same industry, but we ensure that we maintain a good moral compass, there will be similarities in how the client wants a system to work, as they’d have done competitor research and picked the good bits from each, but we wouldn’t suggest competing functionality that we could copy from another project.
I’ve come across many problems with ownership in my time too.
A graphic designer who retained copyright over a logo, so the client had to pay a fee if he used another company.
A web development company who retained a licence for the code, which cost the client £23,000 when they wanted to get another company to develop the system.
A common issue is a shared CMS – your website, built on a CMS that the company developed, but it’s not portable. So for the website to work, it has to use their system, and remain on their servers – you’re tied.
When you engage a company to build you a bespoke website, mobile app, or web app, please make sure you own it, and not just that, you can move it, in it’s entirety, without penalty or issue.