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Should I Own the Source Code to my Software?

When you work with a custom software partner, ask them what assets you will own at the end of the project. Having ownership of the source code is important, as is the documentation, pictures, graphics, and data that was created while building your software.

You are hiring a software partner to act on your behalf and deliver a software solution for you and your business.  But not all software firms can or will provide ownership to the application code.

Below we share the reasons why you want to own your source code, and what to ask your potential firms about your future software application.

Why It Is Important to Own The Source Code

Owning the source code lets you stay in control of your software over the long-term.  If you are ever uncomfortable with how the project is going, or would later like to enhance and support the software in-house, you need to have the option to take the source code and use it in any way you see fit, at any point.

Source code includes many of things such as:

  • Web User Interface (HTML, style sheets, images, fonts, javascript)
  • Backend Code (C#, Java, PHP, Ruby, etc.)
  • Database (The database schema, stored procedures and the data itself)
  • 3rd Party Libraries (Code written by 3rd parties that is used to speed up development)

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What You Need to Know About Third-Party Licenses

Your software may be written with certain components or libraries that require the purchase of a license when you take over developing the software.  Writing software from scratch is expensive and difficult.  The more you can leverage code that is already written and proven by others, the faster and more cheaply you can finish your project.

Third-party components and libraries are nothing to be scared of. They are actually a good thing, especially when they give you exciting features that are beyond the capabilities of most development teams. As long as you too can buy a license and use the component/library if you choose to take over the software, it is a win-win.

During the early phase of your software project, ask your software partner what components and libraries they will be using, their experience with these components and libraries, and the availability and licensing cost of each.
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The ability to manage and control your software application in the future is critical.  If your contract indicates your software vendor owns the code, or if your software partner plans to build your app on top of an existing software platform where they have exclusive rights, consider finding another way of getting your application built that doesn’t box you in for the future.

The great thing about software and technology is that there are multiple paths to creating a great application.

If you are considering a custom software application and want to learn more about the process, feel free to reach out to us. We are happy to answer your questions and to see if we might be a good fit for your project.

We want to help every software project begin on solid ground. In The 5 Pillars Of A Successful Software Project, we share the five essential ingredients of every software project.


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