Buying Existing Websites

January 16th, 2007

If you are thinking about buying an existing website like I am, there are many factors to consider. Sitepoint, which hosts an existing sites marketplace, has put together a great set of guidelines, and so I'll refer you to that, as well as add a few of my own thoughts here. N.B. - That's all I'll provide here: thoughts. If you need advice, seek the help of a professional.

  • Intellectual Property - what is the current state? Is the IP owned by the existing site's owner?
    • How will the IP be transferred, via a license (exclusive or non), or assigned, meaning its totally transferred?
    • If its not owned by the site owner, how do they plan to transfer it to the new owner? Do they have a license? Is it transferrable?
  • Indemnification - is the existing site owner willing to provide indemnification against property claims to what they sold you, in the order of giving you a refund?

These are things you have to think about. Since websites are entirely intellectual property, most likely copyrights, possibly trademarks, and potentially patents, you have to play by the rules.

Intellectual property gets very sticky when you have community driven content, like in a wiki or a forum. What's worse, is that almost always those sites are powered by existing software licenses, which cannot be included in the sale of the site. Thankfully, some of them are open source, so you can have your own license for free. :-)

The Sitepoint marketplace guide I read, and found very useful, can be found here:

Guide to buying a website (PDF)

Again, if you are considering the purchase of a valuable website, you may want to consider consulting with a lawyer before you do so.

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