If you're not careful, someone else could end up owning your Web site. Be sure to address these issues early on:

Who has the intellectual-property rights?

A hired designer may want to retain the copyright to elements such as icons, graphics or layout. Expect to pay more for designers who are willing to part with copyright. In addition, if you aim to include scanned-in artwork from any outside source, you should negotiate the use of material protected by copyright. And, if your site too closely mirrors another, you could be looking at trouble. Recently, White Rabbit Toys, a small toy store chain based in Ann Arbor, Mich., sued another company for copying the look of its site.

Who owns the code?

If you use the proprietary software of your Internet service provider (ISP) to design your site, the ISP may not let you take certain elements with you should you leave. That's because those Internet specialists own the "architecture," or software that supports what you've designed. You can negotiate for a license to use the software permanently or temporarily once you leave.

Who gets the data?

The data you collect at your site might not be yours to keep unless you have an agreement specifying ownership. Your contract should also forbid your ISP from showing your data (for example, hit rates or transactions) to anyone but you. An ISP may be tempted to use such data to impress prospective customers.