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Freelancing -- Ownership Issues???

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Freelancing -- Ownership Issues???

OK, I've been doing some contract work and just wrote up a proposal (Flash/After Effects motion graphics video) for this one guy. In the proposal I have my basic blurb about how I retain ownership of all source files and grant world wide license for use of video/executables to the client for its original intent.

I've never had a problem with this clause before, but this client wants the option of editing the video in the future should the product change and I am "unavailable or become too expensive".

This doesn't seem right to me, but perhaps I have a skewed view towards this sort of thing.

Curious what other freelancers (not Work for Hire) provide to their clients. Do you deliver source material if requested? Do you charge more if you hand over the source material? What (if anything) do you retain ownership of?

Much thanks in advance!

Editing by clients

Do you deliver source material if requested? Do you charge more if you hand over the source material? What (if anything) do you retain ownership of?

Until and unless you sign over the copyright, you still own it. If you hand over source materials, you are making it easier for your licensee to modify, change, alter, etc. those materials and therefore you are providing VALUE to your client. If this is not part of the original deal, then you can rightly charge more for the source material. When you set the price, consider that you will effectively be giving up any future income stream from those materials from that client. Price accordingly.E

That said, they should have the right to edit the material for length or to bring it into compliance with any local laws. (e.g., blurring naughty bits, adding closed captions, dubbing in alternative dialogue for "swear words", etc.) However, they should not have the right to edit it so much that the final product is unrecognizable from the original. Unless, of course, this was the terms of the original license. Similar to what some music artists do with samples of previously released music.


I think if they want to edit your animation/video, that's their right. They are cutting down what you have provided them. If they want to add to it with out your consent, that's different and I'm not sure what to do.

I try not to give source files to the client if I can help it. I have in the past if I know the client and have good dealings with them in the past. I don't like giving my Flash files away because I've spent time and money setting things and organizing everything. I don't want them to then turn around and hand all those files to some underbidding hack and make their life easier.

It's like doing illustration. A lot of illustrators own the actual artwork, but the client owns the image of it. When the project is done, the client gets digital copies of the artwork to put on shirts and ball caps, and the artist keeps the painting and can then sell it or what ever. So yes, charge extra if they want your source files.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

Great thanks, Ape!

This pretty much echoes my gut feelings about this.

Thanks again!

Sorry for the thread resurrection, but I stumbled across this while researching something and it got me thinking.

What if they actually require the source material? For example, I client I was working with required me to animate something in flash, then it would be passed on to the code monkeys to make it work for their instructional application or whatever it was.

I never thought about this before :\

Hey, Amanda. Fancy seeing you here!

I've learned a lot since I first posted this. Though, so much more to learn.

The situation you're describing is a "Work for Hire". In a Work for Hire contract the artist owns nothing. All source files and artwork go to the client or organizing body. You can't put your name on it, and you can't register it for Copyright. If you're lucky, they'll give you credit and let you put it on your portfolio, but this doesn't always happen.

Because of the obvious crappy-ness of a Work for Hire situation, there are specific criteria needed to qualify one. Most important are

1) The actual words "Work for Hire" must be in the contract

2) The work needs to be a collaboration between a group of individuals (films are a good example).

The Graphic Artists Guild discourages Work for Hire, but admits it's part of the system and should be considered, but for a 100-400% premium over the normal cost.

I've done some Work for Hire when times were slow. Not particularly proud of it, but you've got to do what you've got to do sometimes...

Hope this helps somewhat...

Isn't ALL animation work, "Work for Hire" if you're doing work for someone other than yourself?

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

Isn't ALL animation work, "Work for Hire" if you're doing work for someone other than yourself?

the Ape

Heh, yeah that's a good point...if you work for a studio or something like that, it really is. But in that case you're more of an employee...even if technically you're freelancing.

But most of my business is self-contained, almost as a studio unto itself. It's like an illustrator or photographer. A client hires you to produce a work, but it's not a collaborative work. The illustrator, photographer, or animator retains ownership of the property and licenses its use to the client in a certain market for a certain amount of time.

Ownership of characters

Another thing to consider is if you are creating animated characters... say dancing California Raisins, in completion of your contract for your client, you may wish to retain control over those characters.

This is sometimes(often?) part of contracts involved with movie scripts, especially for a "franchise" work. For example, I believe that when Matt Groening created The Simpsons, he licensed the shows to Fox while retaining ownership of the characters. So he retains an interest in future use of those characters in television, movies and merchandising.

Some screenwriters will stipulate that they "own" the characters that they created to the extent that they get "right of first refusal" for any sequels or spin-offs.

Not specifically about source code, but it is something to think about holding onto the value of your creativity.

I'm not really worried about character copyright as yet, though I'm sure it will come up in the future. So far it's been characters that have already got a concept, albeit not terribly great. It was my job to make this last one "better" and follow the animation briefs for the dvd.

I do have another volunteer job at the moment, where I have to create a character from scratch for someone (volunteer because it's for uni assessment and I'm not allowed to be paid, bah!). It's their mascot, so I guess they're supposed to retain rights for that?

Oh yeah, hey Kris :3