Thursday, July 1, 2010

Is Your Client Asking For Source Files?

Having trouble deciding what to do if clients ask for the original source files for the artwork you designed for them so they can make changes?

There are a lot of opinions out there about this. Some believe that the client doesn’t own the working files, only the end product. Some believe that technically, the client does own the files.

In fact, it comes down to whether your contract clearly states that you own the intellectual copyright to your work as the creator. If it doesn’t, then you are placing yourself in the position of having to defend your position, perhaps in court.

If you failed to discuss this issue in the beginning and now your client wants the files so that in-house personnel can make changes as desired in the future, then it’s possible this is not going to be a long-term client. Here’s where you’ll have to make a customer relations decision. Are the files worth alienating this client? Do you think you will get more work from them?

So, what to do? Deal with the current issue the best you can. THEN, write a contract that handles this issue ahead of time.

•  If you’re willing to give the original source files to your client, then make sure that you state in the contract whether there will be an extra charge for gathering and processing these files and what it will be.

•  If you’re not willing to part with the source files, you have to spell it out in the contract. State that the client is only buying the “final layout” of the design without working files and/or source code. Clarify that the client has exclusive reuse rights of the original design, but you, as the designer, own the full copyright.

The main point here is to think ahead and cover all your bases. Check with a lawyer to make sure that you are protected. It may feel “over the top” in some situations, but it’s better to be prepared. Most contracts include circumstances that never come into play, but when they do, you’ll be glad you took the time to take care of your business.

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