As agency owners, we need to be very aware of how we handle any intellectual property we create on behalf of clients. If a client asks for the native files for something you created for them — are they really within their rights to do so?

For more information about Drew McLellan or Agency Management Institute – visit http://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com or check out the podcast – Build A Better Agency available at all the usual podcast host locations.

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week I am coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee. Quick shout out to Josie from Boise, Idaho for sending me this very cool Boise Hawks t-shirt thanks Josie for sharing your favorite team love with me. Appreciate it. So I’m in Nashville this week because I’m hanging out with an agency owner peer group, and one of the conversations that came up, one of the owners asked the group, “How do you guys handle it when a client asks for native files?” And the conversation very quickly went to, “Well, what does your contract say?” So as celebrity attorney to agency, Sharon Toerek, would very quickly tell any of us, if she was with us, is, that you have to assign the rights, the ownership rights, of your work in your contract. So copyright law and all of that says that the creator owns the work. So keep this in mind too if you are hiring freelancers. First, you have to have them assign the work to you. And then you can assign it to a client. So in many agencies, most agencies actually, if they’re going to have language in their contract around ownership, the language in essence says, “We retain the ownership of anything we create for you until you pay us once you pay us. Then we will transfer the ownership to you.” So ultimately, it’s yours to have, but first we have to get paid. But there’s a lot of nuance in that. So are we talking about final files that you would send off to a printer or a web dev team or something like that? Are we talking about native files so that the client can go in and manipulate those files? And in some cases, are we talking about all of the concepts you presented or just the one that they chose? So your contract language needs to be very precise around how you want to handle ownership and how you want to assign that ownership to your clients at some point in time. So I guess my message for you is, A: Make sure that you’re dealing with file ownership, intellectual property ownership, all of those sort of things in your contracts, and make sure that you are spelling out all of the different nuances. So for some agencies, they believe that a client should own it all. And that’s fine. Another thing to remember in your contract is if you’re going to charge your client a fee to gather up the files, it is great to include that  fee in the contract. So X number of dollars an hour or a flat fee, however you’re going to handle that. But depending on the work you’re doing, so I had an agency that a client asked for catalog files. They were still producing a pretty good-sized catalog for a client. So when you start thinking about all of the assets that would go into a printed catalog, that is not quick to gather up and package up and give to a client. So be thoughtful about all of those things as you review as you review your contracts, and make sure that you are dealing with in some variation of a contract, a scope of work, some legal language, around who owns owns what and when that ownership transfers. Alright? I’ll talk to you next week

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