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I have worked with a client for 5+ years, operating my S-Corp Graphic Design studio. Do I retain the rights to my native files, if I signed a standard PIIAA?

The language reads "I acknowledge that all original works of authorship which aremade by me (solely or jointly with others) within the scope of my employment and which are protectableby copyright are “works made for hire,” pursuant to United States Copyright Act (17 U.S.C., Section 101)."

I understand they hold the copyright on the final designs, but are they also to be granted the rights to the native files (including non-chosen designs) used to create the final artwork?

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works made for hire

Means you do not exist in a legal sense. Nothing which was created pursuant to the final designs/product is yours.

I am not now, nor have I ever been a lawyer. You need to seek legal advice if you wish clarification - or there's any dispute - regarding any contract terms.

To me.. work-for-hire means they own the native files as well. They were created in order to facilitate the final work.. and would be no different than preliminary sketches on paper. Work-for-hire essentially means you are only an agent for the company, not a separate entity, and nothing is yours. Copyright ownership or "authorship" under work-for-hire extends to the creation of all things not merely final designs. It would be similar to an employee. In fact, all employees are seen as work-for-hire. The company owns absolutely everything created which was initiated during the course of the contract - whether that's a sketch of a frog on a cocktail napkin, a 400 page InDesign file, Illustrator files for 3 logos designs they never used, a script created to process jpgs through Photoshop, etc.

.. this.. is why work-for-hire agreements are often not accepted, or incur more client costs when dealing with freelancers.


I have, in the past, entered work-for-hire agreements with special stipulations that no native application files would be part of any transfer and would remain the sole property of [my company]. This, essentially, limited the ability to easily reuse and repurpose any of the work. But I had to negotiate the inclusion of this, non-standard, clause.

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  • Thanks so much Scott! I will definitely be extremely wary of any 'work for hire' or forms thereof that are not financially compensated on the front end! I appreciate your speedy assist!
    – Anton026
    Feb 1 at 0:24

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