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After years of providing press ready PDF files to my customer for extensive revisions to a yearly catalog, they are asking for the InDesign "working files," which they think they are entitled to, as they want to use another designer. I would be happy to sell them these working files, I'm just not sure how to word the email I would like to send them, without getting too wordy, and not sure if I use the phrase "buyout" or "IP property release" or "transfer of IP rights"...etc. Just trying to make it as simple and elegant as possible.

Would anyone like to chime in and tell me their thoughts (or improvements) on the following email?


Dear [name of customer]:

For many years, I have supplied ABC Company with "Final Deliverables" of the yearly ABC Company catalog, with Final Deliverables defined as press ready PDF files. Each time, I subsequently received payment in full from ABC Company. The business transaction was thus considered completed to your satisfaction.

Any native or working files created by me to produce those Final Deliverables remain my sole property as the graphic designer. This is my position, and always has been.

If you are interested in a full buyout (which would include the working files and full transfer of IP rights), the release fee will be $XXXX.

Sincerely, [my name]

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    Possible duplicate of Long term client wants working files – Lucian Nov 21 '17 at 6:05
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    My advice would be: Try not to sound like you need to justify why you need to sell them the work files. If I buy a car, I can't get the factory for free later. I might just leave out the first 2 paragraphs. If you sound too apologetic or unsure, they might see and opening and try to sweet talk you out of it or be like "I get it, here's a penny for your troubles". But if you firmly state that this is the price, it leaves them less wiggle room. – Joonas Nov 21 '17 at 8:21
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I somewhat agree with the comment from @Joonas There's no need to justify pricing until you are confronted with an argument about it. Your default mindset should be... "Sure, here's the cost"

My response would be similar to....

Hi [client],

I'd be happy to provide files.

The fee for native file delivery and purchase of the intellectual property rights associated with the files is $X. I request this payment in full before files are delivered.

Please be aware, third party items such as fonts and stock imagery are licensed to [company name or "me"]. I am legally unable to provide these items or transfer the associated license(s). You will additionally need to purchase these items in order to support the current design. My cursory research estimates third party item costs at approximately $x in addition to the fee above.

If you have any questions or concerns I'm always happy to discuss the matter.

Thank you, etc.

With that... you wait for response.

8 out of 10 times it will be the "Didn't we pay for everything" argument. In which case, you've got another matter on hand....

See this question: How do you explain the value of native files to an uneducated client?

Really, disclosing that native files are not part of design fees as early as possible with every client will always go a long, long way. I put it in my estimates, quotes, and contracts - even as a separate visually impactful "Dos" and "Don'ts" sheet so it's as clear as humanly possible. If they ever argue about it later... I just point there. Their argument dies a quick death. It will anger some clients, others will understand.

Do your level best to not get sucked into the argument about the fees. You know you own the rights. You know they have value. The client just wants things cheap, that's all. If they don't want to pay you for the files, they are going to have to pay someone else to recreate the design from scratch (if possible).

That's where this question may be helpful: What should I do if a potential client claims my pricing is too high?

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    yes, yes, yes, this, a hundred times this. Have this in your future contracts and don't apologize for charging what you charge. Those files have value precisely because they are allowing your client to leave you and deprive you of income. You are not morally, ethically, or professionally obligated to make that cheap and easy for them. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Nov 21 '17 at 11:39
  • @Lauren Ipsum Yes, I know the files have value and why the customer wants them. I just wanted to know if my wording of my email to them covers all my bases. – shydeer Nov 21 '17 at 16:55
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    I tend to revert to "If you hire a chef to cater an event, you don't expect the chef to give you his/her recipes. You pay for the food, not how to cook it." – Scott Nov 21 '17 at 17:08
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    By the way this is a good reason to use a top notch font catalogue. – joojaa Nov 21 '17 at 17:09
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    Agreed @joojaa - I've had several client want files up until they realize just the fonts alone are going to cost them 4 figures.It's never why I buy a font. But it is one of those things that means nothing as a business expense to me, but is often a surprising untenable cost for the client. – Scott Nov 21 '17 at 17:12

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