I have been designing a 60 page publication for over a year for a client and they have all of a sudden asked for all of the editions working files for 'safe keeping'. I have advised them this will come with a release fee. Can anyone help on how to work out what the release fee will be or what it should be based on?


4 Answers 4


Source files don't come cheap with me. If a client states they want all copyrights upfront, I charge them 150-250% extra. Yes, 250 to 350% of the original price.

Why so much?

My standard contract states that I retain copyright over everything I make, and that the client gets a license for its use. This ensures (and spells out) that the client is not allowed to change (or have changed by a third party) the work they received from me.

The contract terms even specify that that client owes me a hefty fee it if turns out they actually did use my work beyond its license or had it changed.

I do this to protect the integrity of my name as a designer. I put my utmost in my designs and I make decisions about all kinds of things. It's called a profession and I'm a professional. If some third-party designer or—shiver—the client themselves edits a work, they are likely to not be aware of the decisions I took, or at the very least not be fully aware of my reasons. It is very likely that they will change things and break those reasons.

The result of them changing it without my involvement is likely less appealing or 'correct' than if I had done it for them. The problem is that they will still display it and tell people that I made the design. Yes, they added another paragraph in Comic Sans, but they still tell other people that it is Vincent's design. This could potentially damage my reputation.

The huge fees I ask for source files are an insurance against that reputation damage.

  • Sounds great if you can get all your clients to sign these terms. Does this mean you will refuse to work with clients who request a handover of copyright with their payments?
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 16:56
  • @Lucian On the contrary, they are welcome customers and I will even do more effort because they pay so much more. I've had these terms for eight years now and never had any problems with them.
    – Vincent
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 19:38

I like Vincent answer. The fee will be more than the original price.

Some analogies first:

  • When you buy a car you buy a finished designed product. A car.

You are not buying:

  • The molds that produce it to fabricate any spare part you can need in the future.

  • The machinery to fabricate it.

  • The asambly plants of the factory or the factory itself.

  • The rights to fabricate a "pirated" copy of the car.

Can you see how this prices augment exponentially?

A design has at least 4 levels

1) A final product. The Edition of July of 2016.

2) A template. Working files so you can modify it as you please... See how this is totally diferent product? But you can sell this template to another client too. That is how web templates model works.

3) An original design. Yeap you prepared the Indesign from scrach. But also the concept, the proportions. There is a chance your product is simmilar to another magazine out there but that is a different matter. You could charge a looooooot on this case, because it could mean you would not use that design for another client. This is almost a self suicide, unless your are an App designer and you sell it to google.

3a) There is a open area here, for in the web templates, you can relase the usage of a template for $60 usd (case 2). You can sell it for $2,000 usd and remove it from catalog (case 3), but you still can use the same model for another kind of business. You won't make the same design for a "pet store" but you can make a simmilar for "health care".

4) An exclusive design. This is almost impossible to make, to protect, to guarantee in the case of a magazine design alone. This could be an art pice for example, bounding the original lithographies of an artists, for example in a limited edition.

In most cases the "design" depends a bit on the masterpages and grids (a process which you can not relase because is from public domain) and the content itself.

5 or 2b) Another business model could be "find me a template that I could use for my business, and adapt it a bit". This case would be charged as a consultant. And it is charged by hour but it is not a cheap hour.

Relasing the working files is

  • the same as charging for a custom made template system plus the adaptation of it for that month.

If they want to "safe guard" them send the print ready PDF files.

There is a chance, as a professional courtesy, that you can send a lower resolution RGB version for a website publication.


I have been faced with the same issue a couple of times, and the country you are at and it's laws are a very big issue, as well as the contract and what you agreed with them and many more factors. That being said I can explain the logic I go with.

If the client pays me for my "working hours" (meaning an hourly fee) I immediately consider anything I made during that time as their property, whether it's the final PDF or the working InDesign file, since they paid for my time.

If the client paid a "fixed price" for the final result, the only thing that belongs the is that, the final result, and anything else will be with a fee, and extra fees for me are always worked out against the extra time they take me multiplied by my hourly fee.

Now your situation is a bit tricky because you are basically giving up the dependency they have on you for any of those "extra requests" and allowing them to do them alone.

So I would think about what they might want to change, assess how much time it would take me, add the usual 30% security extra, multiply it by my hourly fee and charge that as the release fee.


I have been faced with similar issues a few times and the best answer is, it depends on your relationship with the client, if you had a contract initially which ideally should have covered this issue explicitly, if this is a potentially on-going job or was a one-off, etc.

If you didnt have a written contract or no explicit terms regarding delivery of editable sources, i guess its fair to say its up to you to decide.

You could charge anywhere between 30-50% of the job price to also hand over the sources, of course this would probably mean they could update future material in-house.

Personally i had a job recently where a 24-page brochure was delivered and the client had to choose between not getting the INDD source, or getting it for an additional 50% of the job price. They eventually chose not to get the INDD since this is a potentially on-going job, meaning they could come back for brochure updates in which case i will handle the job again and charge them only for the updates, which in this case could be cheaper than 50% of the initial cost.

On the other hand i know other designers who just hand out their sources free of charge, and myself did this until a while back. So whatever works best for you!

Hope this helps

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.