Who owns your congregation’s website? Occasionally a congregation finds out the hard way that it doesn’t.
If a congregation’s website is registered to an individual in the congregation, and that individual pays the monthly fee, then the church may not have any legal right to it if that individual becomes disaffected. In one case in recent years a member who controlled the website also maintained the congregational email lists and other databases. When a dispute developed, the individual proceeded to empty everything out.
The test: If a webmaster pays the bills each month for the website domain names and site hosting with her personal credit card then chances are good that the site host will recognize that person, and not the church, as the owner of the website.
InterConnections reported on a situation a few years ago when a congregation’s webmaster, who had registered the church’s domain name in his own name, was asked to leave the church because of a personal indiscretion. In retaliation, he blocked access to the website and posted negative information on it. It took the church six months to regain control of its domain name and website.
A UUA staff member in a district where another of these incidents took place reminds, “Congregations must always insist that ownership in electronic assets, including websites, databases, and all their content, is vested in the congregation, not the manager. And they should always have more than one person authorized to access and exert control over these resources––just like paying attention to authorizations for bank accounts.”