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Providing clients with graphic files

11:22 pm on May 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I was recently faced with a dilemma on my last project.

The situation was, I requested the graphic designer I work with to relinquish authoring files (PSD, AI, IDD) in order to provide them to a client for which we'd co-operatively worked on a website.

His answer, in a nutshell was, "no". Various reasons given:
- If this client were a high-paying client, then it wouldn't be an issue. But for "small potatoes" clients, they don't get the authoring files.
- What if they want to modify the work? I have copyright entitlement to the graphic.
- It's just not done.

My own argument is that, if the client has a logo created for them, it's theirs, it's part of their business function, it's part of who they are. To refuse to give up the authoring files, simply leaves a bad taste in their mouth when, months down the line they suddenly require the files for some reason, contact me, and are told that the files cannot be given up without a hefty price-tag associated with it.

I've done a bit of digging on the web, and have come across a couple of instances where graphic designers really seem to take exception to the idea that the work they do is somehow entitled to special treatment above, say, the Javascript-enabled user interface for a website that makes its usage particularly attractive, a really well-designed database layout, or the flowery description entered into an ecommerce application.

Coming from a programming background, when I write source code for a client, the source code, ownership, and everything related to it becomes the ownership of the client (whether they request it or not; it becomes a part of their business function). For me to fail to relinquish "control" over it only serves to reflect arrogance and a severe lack of professionalism on my part.

I'd really like to hear from both sides (for and against) of this opinion-divide, as well as from graphic designers and non-designers.
1:48 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Unless it was agreed upon, it's not my experience that the client has any rights to the .psd The copyright remains with the creator, unless stipulated otherwise.

More common is that the work for a logo is delivered as a vector graphic (.eps, .ai .svg). But, even so - all you get is its right to use.

Coming from a programming background, you should know better than to undervalue your intellectual capital.
1:53 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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"Work for hire" belongs to the person who paid for the work to be done.

What was the wording in the contract?
4:03 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Agree with buckworks... these issues should be addressed in the contract before work is done. Graphics designers are very protective of their work and, like photographers, are leery of letting their work files leave their possession. If client really wants the work files, not just the end product, negotiations should be made.
5:27 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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welcome to WebmasterWorld, waterlooweb!
8:45 pm on June 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I've been on both sides of this one. Graphically speaking, I wouldn't allow my guys to release a PSD file unless it was agreed upon beforehand. Usually customers only ask you for this when they want to alter your work without paying for it and this can be problematic. They take that sweet looking logo you made and paste a picture of a flower pot on it and say "Yeah, that's the logo digitalv made for me isn't it great?!". I don't want my name on that crap!

Second issue: there is more than one way to skin a cat. I've been doing this since 96 and know that customers like to make changes and revisions. Heck, if you've been doing this for 5 minutes you already know that. So when we design a logo, no matter how simple, we take the time to do it in layers because we know certain elements are going to be changed. Those layers exist for US to be able to satisfy your changes - if we knew that it would be a start to finish job with no questions asked, we wouldn't take the extra time to do it that way. You didn't pay us for that organization, you paid us for the finished product, and that's what you got.

There is also a legal issue. Sometimes a logo will contain stock photography or clipart or a font, which we paid a one-time license to use for that one specific project. If we turn the PSD over to you, we are now in violation of that single-use license. It's no different than paying for MS Office then copying the CD to you.

As for source code, I've gone both ways on it. If someone wants a compiled program, they get a compiled program. They only get source if they ask for it, and the process is handled completely different if they do. If we release the source as part of the agreement, there will be no support for the product at all. We turn over the compiled app upon payment, the customer has a fixed amount of time to review it and sign off, then we give them the source after they've signed off. The main reason for this is because we're not going to waste time troubleshooting an application that you may have modified.

Generally though this only pertains to compiled applications. Any script-based languages like Javascript or ASP, you're ALREADY giving them the source just by turning the project over so it doesn't matter. We have no claim to the contents of a .js file.
10:12 am on June 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

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A contract or any agreement for deliverables (verbal, written, implied, assumed) would claify this but in the absensse of anything a court would almost certainly disagree with the first 2 points and agree with the third as long as the supplier disclosed this fact to the client.

I always make sure I have the PSDs for work I buy, but they are only provided on final payment. Same goes when selling