As your project with Nicely Done Sites is nearing completion you, the client are probably pretty excited. You are about to get a new website or a new logo or a new set of business cards or something else. You are also nearing what can be one of the most contentious times in the client/developer relationship and it has nothing to do with money but instead it has everything to do with your source files.

Source Files?

During the course of a project there are a lot of files that are created. They could be graphic files that contain your logo from Photoshop or video files created by the developer or anything in between. All of these were necessary to build your website and give it the look and feel that it has. These are known as source files and the big question is who owns them?

Who Owns The Source Files?

It may seem like a question that shouldn’t need to be answered but who does own the intellectual property rights to a source file (sometimes also called native files)? Is it the client who paid to have it developed or is it the developer who put in the time and effort into creating it? It can be a sticky situation and it has led to many fights in the business world. Both sides have good arguments but only one can be right.

Since you the client paid the developer (Nicely Done Sites) for the project they should be yours right, to do with as you please? On the flip side the developer can argue that you only paid for the finished product and the individual parts of that project (the source files) are theirs. 

Which stance is correct? The latter is. The source files are the developer’s intellectual property (with a few exceptions) and thus they can control what happens to them. This is settled US Copyright law.

Why Would The Client Want Source Files Anyway?

This ultimately is up to the client. Some clients may want to make their own changes down the line to a logo or something like that. Simple changes, like say changing a year in the logo, can be done by anyone and saves them a few dollars since they can do it themselves. If a developer is busy with other projects there is nothing wrong with that.

Of course there can be more nefarious reasons, like hiring a different developer and using a template that was already created to save money with that new developer. That developer might be your 18 year old son, or it could be another professional service that has cheaper advertised rates. This might save you some money now, but it can strain a relationship and that could come back to bite a client when they need it most.

We hope that all of our clients are the former rather than the latter. In reality few clients do want the source files in the end.

Many clients of course feel that source files are being used as leverage so a client has to return to them when more work needs to be done. This is a benefit certainly of using a developer that you have worked with in the past but it does not prohibit you from working with someone else in the future. While this is a benefit for the developer, this is not the reason why many are reluctant to part with source files.

Legal Issues

The biggest issue with a client owning a project’s source files is licensing. Some of the assets included in building the end product may not be available as part of a piece of software’s default package and requires purchasing the assets as well as a valid license to use them. Assets like these can include font packs, graphic illustrations, stock photos or more. 

A client simply using these without license could lead to legal issues or they may not be able to use them since they are not included on their computer. Many of these assets can cost hundreds of dollars to license, a serious cost for a one-time project for many but something that a developer can use over and over and over again thus making that purchase worthwhile. 

This licensing issue is one of the benefits of working with a professional developer.

Avoiding An Ugly Situation

Most parties can come to a mutual agreement so that there are no misunderstandings when it comes to a project’s source files. It is best that this agreement be made before the project begins so a project’s price can be adjusted accordingly and all expectations are made known. It does take time to put all of the files together and transfer them to a disc as well as resolving any issues with licensing. 

If a client wants to do this with the end goal of future editing in-house, Nicely Done Sites has no issue with that and we can accommodate your request. If a client decides after the fact a source file fee will be implemented. 

What Does The Client (You) Want?

At Nicely Done Sites we want to be as accommodating to our clients as possible and we want to have as few misunderstandings as can be. Many clients do not think about their source files when a project is beginning and this is something that you (the client) needs to think about. There is nothing wrong with wanting them but getting them to you does require extra labor and thus, it needs to be priced accordingly. Whether you, the client, wants the source files at the end of a project should be determined in writing before the project even begins. We bring this up with all of our clients and hopefully now you understand why we do that.

We want to have a good relationship with all of our clients and we hope that the work that Nicely Done Sites does for you is of the highest quality so when more work needs to be done we are the first place that you turn in the future. Since the source files are already being stored by Nicely Done Sites it will not be hard to pick up and get started back up.

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