I provided all intellectual property files to a former client as each project I worked on for them was completed. All files were delivered and payments were made for my work over 16 months ago. This client has now misplaced all of these files and is threatening me with legal action if I do not resend them all of these files. If I need to access these extensive files from my archives and resend them to this former client in their entirety I feel this client should have to pay me for my time to do so. Is this true?

There was no contract, it was piece work after my original retainer that was completed 5 years ago. However, now they want me to spend hours sending them documents they were delivered over a five year period free of charge that they have mistakenly misplaced or deleted. I am based in CA. Client is in Washington DC. I have not worked with this client in a year and a half.

  • Is/was there a contract and what does it say? There is nothing is stopping you from billing them.
    – Cai
    Apr 26, 2016 at 23:07
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    What makes them think you still have the files? Indeed, if you have handed over all IPR then perhaps you shouldn't still have them. Did you promise to keep them indefinitely? What could their legal action possibly be based on? This seems to me to warrant a response of "I'd love to help, but..." [I don't think I still have them; I'd have to look through archives; I have responsibilities to current clients; the work would need to be scheduled; it would need to be billed; ...] Apr 27, 2016 at 8:50
  • Or wait they start a legal action and sue them XD. Just make sure you did delivered all on the first time.
    – Rafael
    May 27, 2016 at 3:54
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    Threats are just that - threats. They're trying to bully you into doing something for free. Either new management has come along and want the files, or something has changed internally. Either way, as @AndrewLeach states, play the game! May 27, 2016 at 5:48

1 Answer 1


If anyone wants you to "spend hours" doing anything, you should charge them.

If they were requesting one or two files that you have at hand, then maybe just send them over. If you have to spend a significant amount of time going through archives, preparing files, or whatever else, they need to pay for your time, it's as simple as that.

If you neglected to send the files in the first place or if the loss of the files they had was in any way your fault, then maybe they could demand the files without paying for your time.

Since there is no contract in place any legal action will entirely depend on your location, specifically what they are requesting, why they are requesting it, length of time since the work was originally handed over, etc. but I doubt they would get very far. At most you would probably have to hand over the files. But there is nothing stopping you from billing them. If they refuse to pay, you take legal action for non-payment.

This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer.

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