What if? Business ethics metaphor #3

What if restaurant customers thought that they were owed the recipes in addition to the food because they pay for the ingredients.

Like a design customer why wants my .InD/.AI file after paying for artwork. They realize they don’t know how to cook, and they haven’t the right cookware.

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As far as my clients are concerned, the files belong to them even if we design them, so this one is kinda moot to me. All of the content and usually the imagery belong to the client anyway. It’s sorta like, maybe, a restaurant patron bringing in the ingredients for the cook to cook the dish. The patron has to have the recipe in order to do that.

As far as the files themselves, They’d have to pay extra for them. They do have to pay for my time to dig them out, sort them, catalog them and somehow arrange to transfer them. I don’t particularly care if they can open them or not.

I assume you’re drawing a comparison to design clients getting all the files, sketches, etc., associated with a job, right?

I’m not sure the comparison holds, though. Unlike a restaurant, where there’s a menu of available items made from already existing recipes, design clients typically pay to have separate recipes invented especially for their needs.

If I went to a restaurant and, for a few thousand dollars, hired the chef to create a brand new kind of chocolate dessert that had never been made before, yeah, maybe I would feel entitled to the recipe in addition to the dessert itself.

Intellectual property is dead.

I also have always felt that the practice of withholding the original files is a bit unfounded. Maybe there is a difference in point of view because of the fee philosophy (if that is a thing) and payment structure used. I view my work as being commissioned. I charge them for all the time I spend researching, sketching, hunting down imagery, creating graphics in software etc.

Being advised as such by a wise old designer, after moving to freelancing, I took to creating an agreement with each customer that any project over $150 would be paid for based on milestones. I usually ask for a significant deposit too, in order to test their commitment. First milestone would be research. (e.g. for a logo/business identity, research on demographics, competition,etc) I would do a very detailed written report which we would then discuss, and then I get paid. Then I would do sketches. Then refinement of those, and then I got paid. Then I would create the digital version of the project, make revisions then require payment. After the final payment I would turn over the original files and according to the contractual agreament release my claim on the IP / Copyright. Sometimes there were 5 or 6 milestones based on the type of project. I had very few clients that did not like the payment structure like this, as I always sold it to them as being for their protection as well as mine. It has served me excellently over the years.

I know some designers fear that their clients will take those files to someone who is cheaper if they need future work done, but I think the key is that I work very hard at building a good relationship with each client, treating them with respect, being helpful at every turn. I rarely had someone run. (That I know of :slight_smile: ) Either way I got paid what I wanted for my time and skill in the first place so I did not bother me when someone did go else where.

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That’s very much the same way I run my contractual payment schedules, and it works very well.

As for IP, I see the restaurant/recipe scenario as a false equivalent. Like a sandwich maker, i make my clients the best sandwich possible with the available ingredients. They pay for all of it, and I serve up all of it for them to eat, share, recook, or toss out as they wish. The “recipe” is the amalgam of my methods and techniques, and by nature it’s not transferable.

I typically spell out exactly what the deliverables are in the contract, and only give them what’s been agreed upon.

I see no reason to give them preliminary sketches (and can’t remember ever having been asked for them). But if they want the finished files, well, I don’t usually turn them down.

I figure it’s best to keep a healthy, cooperative partnership going than to be overly possessive about the details.

There’s no perfect analogy. Working files are somewhere between the recipe and the mold for a sculpture.

In case of text-heavy designs clients ask for open files (that’s what we call them here) so that if there are any minor tweaks that need to be made for a reprint or revised edition, they can just take care of those themselves. It’s faster and also cheaper.

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