Ownership of working files?

Have worked for a client/company now for near on 10 years, I have hundreds of files, working Adobe illustrator files, working Maxon 3D modelling files, numerous branding and production files, photography etc

This company have recruited internal designer recently and restructured a little, and we get less of their work - If I was to cease working for this client and they ask for all these files what is the normal protocol?

Do they have right to all these? are the files my companies intellectual property? and effectively our tools or trade?? could I charge to release them???


Staff member
Basically it depends on your terms and conditions, you do have t&c's they've agreed to right....

I have in mine that I retain ownership of all files created by myself while working on projects unless specified in the brief, any files supplied to me by the client remain the property of the client but may be archived with the project unless the client objects (I work under NDA anyway). Finished work will be supplied in suitable format(s) for the requirements of the brief and the client is free to use said files as they see fit. Or words to that effect.


Staff member
I'm no copyright lawyer but technically, unless you have an agreement with the client/company that states you've sold or signed over the rights then they are still your intellectual property.

If you design a logo for someone, unless you state that you include the rights to it then you still actually own it.

Paul Murray

Staff member
Also check their T&Cs, they may have a "work for hire" clause giving them automatic rights to the files. Basically if you don't have a written agreement about who owns it (or conflicting terms), they may be able to lawfully argue they should have access to the work files, if not the full rights. You could always charge a small 'release fee' for the files since you still have to deviate resources to handle it. It's only fair that a client pays for that studio time.

If you cease to work with this client in future, do you stand to gain anything by retaining the files? If they're specific to that client then they're of very little real value to you, and by keeping them you're relinquishing any chance of ever working with them again. And who's to say this new internal designer will work out? They may still need to come back to you for the 3D work or stuff the new hire perhaps can't handle.


Well-Known Member
As above really. Any work you produce as originator, you hold the copyright of. They have the rights to what they've paid for, but you have the right to charge a small amount for sending
them any original working files etc. Like Paul says though, keep it reasonable and amicable in case they come back.


Active Member
If you created the files as part of your job then they belong to your employer. So a lot depends on your contract of employment. As always the devil is in the detail.
Neither of ourselves nor client have any set T&C's - does anyone have a set I can plagiarise? Where/how do you tend to present these T&C's to client?

Thanks for the input, not so much that I want to lose relationship etc but more a case of wondering whether I could likely charge to release all backend 'working files' especially the 3D models.

My fear I guess is their new designer could use our files, tweak slightly and use to profit from...