A fairly sizable client whom I’ve done a few jobs for over the past several years has recently contacted me for a new job. We have never had a contract for any of the work I’ve done for them (I’m a freelance designer). In his most recent email, he said:
“By the way, I am requiring that all files in their native form belong
to [my company] and are to be delivered to me upon completion of the
project. The files must not be password protected and are to be in
their ‘collected-for-output’ form before payment will be made. I
consider what we pay for to be the intellectual property of [my
Aside from the fact that this is a little insulting (considering I’ve held nothing hostage, have been perfectly civil, and complied with every request I’ve ever received from any client I’ve had, including providing original working files), I understand that this is not standard practice… Most designers, it seems, do not hand over copyrights or intellectual rights to a design. But I don’t feel that it’s worth losing a fairly good client over something that may make him feel I’m somehow taking advantage of him. (The designs I do for them are mostly advertisements, flyers, small brochures, etc.)
What would you do? What do you recommend?
I wouldn’t necessarily be insulted. Your client is simply coming to the table with some terms. You can accept them, deny them, or counter.
I’d recommend countering with a formal contract. Typically designers do not deliver the work files for a number of reasons (the least of which is that the client usually has no use for them). But it’s not unusual either. Sometimes designers will charge more for that. Sometimes not. It’s up to you.
But I’d suggest you make your contract very clear and consider some thoughts:
you will deliver your working files as-is meaning in the file formats and conditions you typically use. If the client needs the files in certain formats, or in certain cleaned-up conditions, then charges will be incurred to accommodate.
only working files themselves will be transferred. Ancillary licensed content (typefaces, stock photography, etc) due to licensing can not be transferred. If the client would like you to manage the purchasing and transferring of additional licenses, you will need to charge as needed to accommodate.
And the one thing I’d probably not balk on is WHEN you’ll hand them over:
- all work files will be handed over when project is paid in full. Not before.
In the end, it’s your call. You need to weigh the long term relationship against how strict you want to be with your contract.