App Insights

Copyright in apps: who owns what?

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Great mobile apps are built on great code and great content. But the big question is – who owns what?

Many brands with a mobile app don’t know which parts of the app they actually own – there’s been confusion expressed by heritage organisations who aren’t quite sure who the content belongs to once the development contract’s been signed.

It’s a question that affects app owners in all industries – which is why we’ve set out a framework to make understanding copyright in apps that bit easier.

It’s not ‘one size fits all’

Copyright in app design isn’t something with a standardised approach: every contract from every development agency is likely to be different. You’ll find details of ownership of both code and content – the ‘intellectual property’ – in the small print: we can’t stress enough how important it is to check the small print before you sign on the dotted line.

Intellectual property rights may not be something you’ve considered when having initial conversations with a development agency, but it’s definitely a subject that’s worth bringing up from the off. If you’re looking to start negotiations for the creation of a mobile app, this framework is a great place to start.

Four ‘levels’ of content

Generally speaking, apps comprise four levels of content, which give you four areas where you can negotiate ownership with your developer.



Here at Calvium, copyright ownership varies from project to project – set out in the terms and conditions of every app project that we take on.

The importance of relationships

It’s not just about this framework, though: a strong client-agency relationship is key if you’re looking to negotiate potential copyright issues. Look for an agency with a co-creative approach: a partner relationship rather than the traditional agency/client deal.

Starting negotiations for app development is simple: if you don’t like the terms and conditions that have been set out, challenge them!

Want to know how to get the most from your app agency? Find out more here