View Full Version : Client wants source files

08-24-2005, 02:41 PM
Hi -

I did some animation work a few months ago; my client has since hired an in-house animator.

They want my source files; source files were not addressed in the project agreement.

Much of the animation is based on my learning exactly how to create certain effects that repeated throughout the animation; I did not bill for this "learning time".

The client does not want to pay anything other than the costs of burning the working files to DVD, though the issue remains unresolved.

I most likely won't be doing work for this client again (not totally relevant in my mind) but still want to approach the issue in a professional manner.

I understand the intellectual property / proprietary files / etc. arguments - I'm looking for reference to any type of industry standards that might exist which address this type of issue.


08-24-2005, 02:54 PM
Without seeing your exact contract with this client (or being a lawyer)...

If your client paid for you to create animations, then unless you specified it is only for the finished animations, they have a good case to say they own any content/files you generated "on the clock" for the time they paid for.

My advice is that if it doesn't kill you to do so, give them what they want with a smile on your face. After all, your rep is very important and you never know what will happen down the road- maybe this in-house guy won't work out, or they may need your help consulting on the files you give them. Never know...

On the other hand, if you really don't want to give them your content/files that go with their animation- get a lawyer to help you out.

One other thing- for any work that you use for multiple clients- be they models, animations, lscripts, etc. That stuff does not belong to any one client- that is yours to keep. It would be like paying someone to mow your lawn and then, as the customer, demanding the lawn mower used to get the results they paid for! :-)

Best advice is to use this experience in generating future contracts with clients.

08-24-2005, 03:03 PM
Thanks Scott.

As a matter of fact, the estimates clearly state what the client is being billed for - animation, DVD mastering, and general project management.

Source files are not listed, and don't believe I need to specify that they're -not- included.... ?


08-24-2005, 03:07 PM
In general unless they ask for this up front I never provide the source files. In cases where they do request the source at a later time I typically charge a fee.

08-24-2005, 03:08 PM
It really depends on the nature of your interaction with the client's company. If a studio hired freelance modelers or animators to create assets for a project that the studio was working on, then the studio would have a right to get any content created in the process. If, on the other hand, a car dealership hired you to create a 30 second TV spot, then all you're obligated to give him is a video master of the finished product.

There are obviously many shades of grey inbetween.

Personally, I would err on the side of maintaining good will. Even if you don't believe you will ever work for this client again, your reputation is one of your most valuable assets. Unless the techniques you developed in the process are really unique and valuable, than you won't be hurting yourself by giving those files to another animator. You'll still have that knowlege.

On the other hand, we all owe it to ourselves not to let clients abuse us. So if this client is basically trying to screw you, which from the tone of your question sounds like the case, than don't just cave into his demands without knowing that you're doing the right thing.


08-24-2005, 03:09 PM
I don't know much about american law to be honest, over here, unless specified differently in a contract, the customer only has the right to use the finished product (heck, they don't even _own_ the right, which you hold as a copyright holder, all you can do is _grant_ usage rights, not the copyright as is).
This may be different in the States though.

But generally, if it wasn't mentioned in the contract it isn't relevant. Compare it to writing a program to fix somebodies problem. If they want the source code as well (especially th unlimited rights to the source code) it costs extra.

If approached I charge 50%-100% of the final price for source files (be they 3D, 2D or programs), basically because you're giving out IP ... knowledge ... etc.


08-24-2005, 03:21 PM
I agree with the general consensus here. It wasn't expressly stated in the contract, then there should be a price for them. I don't see a problem with them having the source files.

08-24-2005, 03:46 PM
This issue comes up a lot in our work. So our boilerplate contracts state "Client shall receive final imagery and/or animation files in a standard format. Internal project work product (including but not limited to CAD or 3D object models, image textures, compositing layers, and scene descriptions) are the property of CB Architectural Services."

But we also routinely ignore this when it makes things easier for a client and isn't threatening to future jobs from them. Most often a client wants composite layers when they want to tweak them themselves for a presentation or graphic layout. That's part of our job too but sometimes it's better to make them happy by giving them a layered PSD and letting them know we're doing them a favor beyond the contract.

We often have to clean up AutoCAD models clients bring in and sometimes, again as a courtesy, we return the fixed up models. But that again is an exception and we let them know they're getting a favor from us.

So a suggestion. Even if you don't expect more jobs from them, never leave a client unhappy because you said no. Maybe you should give them the models but "accidentally" remove the textures, or subdivide the object a few too many times in Modeler so the 2M point landscape is awkward to use. And then tell them how kind you are for providing the models. And then if they ask for more, tell them Hmm, that may take some effort. Do you want to hire us again to put together a full 3D set of objects?

08-24-2005, 04:06 PM
I know of an Illustrator or two who copy write the images and give just limited use somewhat like a photographer would do. Images to be used for a given purpose…

I have provided models and scenes to clients but do strip out all propriety stuff - like my trees, works of art they are. 

Be tuff up front get it in writing then if need be you can soften down the road and be the good guy.

08-26-2005, 12:01 AM
In Australia, the law is very clear that the cient only owns the final master. The issue is often raised and tested. In live action footage, they only own the final footage that is actually used in the tvc. In animation, the creator of the charachter is deemed to own the copyright of that charachter unless it is specificly signed over (which happens now as a path of the course on long form work).

Although the law is clear, goodwill leads to clients usually recieving far more than what they pay for. The law itself becomes a good form of protection when the client dosen't want to pay.

In your case, I'd insist on charging a fee, and there's no way I'd release the material until recieving payment.

08-26-2005, 01:08 AM
Sure give them the source files. For a hefty fee! Anytime a client asks for something more after the end of a contract, you have the right to ask for more compensation.

They didn't negotiate for them up front, and they'll be cutting you out of future work with them. Don't let them do that for free.

08-26-2005, 05:46 AM
They didn't negotiate for them up front, and they'll be cutting you out of future work with them. Don't let them do that for free.

If at all...

08-26-2005, 11:00 AM
I'd definitely charge for the source material, if you provide it at all. I have offered a "exclusivity" agreement with clients where I won't use the same models in other client's work, but otherwise, they're paying for imagery, not the mechanisms by which the imagery is created.

The "source material" for an animation can get pretty complex. If I write a plug-in to animate the wings of a bunch of birds in a flock, or a particular shader, or an Image Filter, I sure don't expect to give away the plug-in source code as part of the resulting imagery.


08-26-2005, 11:14 AM
I would not give away the source files. The files contain insight into the processes you went through to create the animation. Those processes are "trade secrets" which you use to make a living. Like Toby said, if you give your source files away, be sure to charge a hefty fee to compensate you for revealing your "trade secrets." :deal:

08-26-2005, 11:30 AM
Hi all -

I've decided to let the source files go for a price. The client says it's not their policy to pay for work they've "already paid for" and that it was an oversight at the project start.

Their oversight obviously doesn't require me to work for free, nor does it mean that had they stated their requirements up front, I wouldn't have added a fee to the project estimate.

I've come down a little bit on the whole cost for the transfer to try and maintain a bit of good will, but the adjusted quote was sent as Final and not negotiable.

Sure, I don't want it to be the case that they pass over me in the future or don't recommend me to someone else, but the project's been done since May and I haven't heard a peep.

Hopefully they'll be satisfied with my quote; we'll all have a better weekend that way ;)


08-26-2005, 01:35 PM
Hi Andrew,

what you did sounds reasonable to me. After all, you know your client, how it might affect future work, your rep etc...

If the client is a PITA anyhow, stick to what you want. If you had a very good working relationship on the other hand, it never hurts to give in a little.

In the end, you have to feel good about your decision.

The best of luck to you!


08-26-2005, 07:01 PM
I agree with the consensus here - Don't let them have your toolbox for nothing. I've seen clients with "in house" artists struggle for weeks to create an effect - and I've subsequently done it in minutes. I have been using computer graphics software for 19 years now and have many possible solution ideas when faced with a problem that a rookie wouldn't have clue about - but after seeing the solution it would be easy to re-create. So if they want your hand crafted paint brush and custom stencil as well as the finished art - make them pay.

Just remember there are window cleaners that can take home £35,000 a year ( I know my sisters husband is just such a one ) and you would never ask a window cleaner to give you his tools (even if they are cheap as chips, and you can learn the job in about 12 minutes).


08-26-2005, 09:47 PM
Thanks again!

Call from the client today - all is good, and they understand my cost for the
"extras" as being reasonable. The quote indicated the total as being due before any of the transfer work is done.


Always nice for everyone to be happy in a transaction.

Have a good weekend!


08-27-2005, 05:03 AM


08-27-2005, 06:10 AM
Thanks... but....




08-27-2005, 10:20 AM
interesting topic...
i havn't given 3d models over to a client unless it was part of the contract at the outset.

your compromise was a good one though... :thumbsup:

other than that, the subdivided [frozen] baked keys low rez textures approch may or may not by another method! ...depends if they see what you've done! :cool:

same with print design...never give over you photoshop/freehand files :cat:

Nigel Baker
08-27-2005, 10:28 AM
Hello Turner,

For good relations with the customer, why not just give them the LW object files and not the animation, if there is any or lighting set up.
If they have brought in their own team now, why not let them do their own work.
Remember the source material is always yours.

From my many years of experience, the client will mostly always true to get you to work for nothing, and will then still complain.

08-27-2005, 10:32 AM
For good relations with the customer, why not just give them the LW object files and not the animation, if there is any or lighting set up.
If they have brought in their own team now, why not let them do their own work.

Well, why give them the object then as well? After all, you want the new team to have something to do as well, don't you? ;) After all, they're probably 3D guys just like us....


08-31-2005, 11:17 AM
When you purchase an automobile, do you get the blueprints or schematics along with your vehicle? Do you get the instructions on how to build your own homemade spare parts for it? I don't think so...

08-31-2005, 02:13 PM
Yes I absolutley would not give them source files unless they paid... and in most cases PAID DEARLY.

Unless I'm under contract for ALL WORK I never let anyone have my source files... period.