Releasing Source Files

I’ve just been asked by a client of mine to supply him with my 3D files for some displays I designed.
I understand from him that his client wants to use them in a promotional video of the displays (they are for a big washing machine manufacturer).

I have seen somewhere on here before that releasing such files usually involved a secondary fee above what he already paid me to design them and supply him with flat images.

What is the done thing is this situation ?

In my phase one I am obligated to deliver JPG or similar files only. The 3D files are a separate phase and defined as such.
Both phases have different dollar figures assigned to them.

My thinking, and it seems to have been accepted by all clients, is that I choose to use a 3D prigram ( SolidWorks ) to better define the concept and to render in. That is at my convenience and my choice an tends to dictate a somewhat less detailed 3D file just to get to a rendering. The 3D file for modelmaking and more finished display purposes is a different more time sensitive body of work.

That being said, I always inform my clients that if they want the concept work AND the final 3D file they are welcome to it as quoted which would be a higher price. And then I ask them if thats the case than why would you want to pay for an unwanted concept and its 3D file ?

I’d say it depends on the client and project. If they could potentially be a repeat client, do them a favor, mention that you are doing them a favor and that it would normally costs X extra. You already have it done so aren’t loosing anything and may gain a client that feels they owe you one.

Plus you gain in exposure and can get some good portfolio work.

If they already area good client, same thing perhaps goes.

Another option might be to give it for free this time, but as for a credit someplace in the video or on the website.

If they are a pain in the butt client and overwork you and don’t want to do them any favors, kindly explain that this is normally extra (ie. not covered in the original agreed deliverables) and tell that how much more it will cost.

Overall though, I’d keep in mind that likely they don’t know these files normally cost extra to release and may feel you are working them over charging for something you’ve already done…

as I said, it depends…


There is a difference between selling a concept and a final fully defined design. They paid for a concept and now want the fully defined product for the same price. And don’t forget the people you give it to will make money off of it too and in the end you lose all the way around.

I’d explain that the file really only was done to show the product from one view and to give it to them for 360 degree 3D use you would need to go back in and clean it up which will take x hours at your normal rate = $. Explain it nicely and give them a proposal. Wait three days then bill them for what it’s worth.

The notion of giving a client something for free as a favor or a onetime event is dangerous. It tends to defy human nature for them to not want that every time and then you’ve lost out.

I have never had a client that would ever feel they owed me one. You are the only defender of your income and rights.

I use a 6 page contract that spells out almost every eventuality – especially one like this.

Tough call.

I was in the other side of this situation recently. My vendor (a reputable, big-name firm) did 3D work for the purpose of 2D renderings only. Later on one of our ME’s asked for the source files to ensure he constructed his engineering model as accurately as possible. The vendor was happy to hand over the files, and the benefit was that the design-intent was maintained–a win-win.

In the future, definitely build this into your contract. It’s certainly reasonable to ask for an additional fee, but don’t expect everyone to agree to it. For now, I’d probably hand it over–what do you have to loose? Just be sure to gently let them know you’re doing them a favor this time around.

you’ve already received excellent advice. Part of that is the infamous “depends on the situation”.

It is very difficult to maintain good client relationship if you request additional fee after submitting deliverables on the same project. You believe it’s extra, client believes its his as he’s already agreed on price or paid you for the project. The key word there is project: client sees the project, you see deliverables.

You should have a contract that spells out what you will do and what you will deliver. How you word it, deliver it - paper proposal, email, napkin, is up to you. Indeed some people lace contracts with negatives, itemizing what isn’t included. Personal style, I don’t think it’s necessary if you are otherwise thorough.

Give them all the source files, but first ask “I’m preparing the source files but I really need to know what you’re doing with them because…” and then politely and professionally explain you created them only to communicate aesthetic design intent for later / other’s completion, they are not suitable for engineering, animation, video, etc. Then, depending on response, you can go on to say files as is are no problem, much further work is X hours at X rate.

This is turning your questionable situation into a benefit, indirectly asking for more work. Request to contact the video company so you can do the follow on work efficiently. And regardless, follow up at later date “How did it go with those files…”

Generally, if people know exactly what they’re receiving, you will maintain good client relationship. I am not in favour of letting people know you are giving them a break, doing something special. To the recipient, there’s just no way to interpret that properly to your benefit.

Above all else if we don’t treat it like a business our clients wont. I like to retain all the design intent I can for the love of the craft but I’m not about to do it for free.

I haven’t had any resistance from a client to a separate charge for the files on the basis of them knowing that there is a difference between the 3D done to create a JPG and the 3D done for tooling or a model. My logic to them is – “ Why pay for all that extra time creating a finished 3D file when you may not want the concept “ . I use a proposal that is a la carte and allows the client to terminate by phase so that if they pause for a while they don’t prematurely pay for 3D. All clients like that.

Rather than corrupt the relationship now I’d turn over as little as possible and advise them of the value accordingly but don’t bill for it. But the way the world works the people receiving them are gonna call with questions and then you’ll get dragged in for free user support and revisions…. That’s when you state the hourly rate ( I hope it was in your original proposal ) for revisions and your time to walk these people through it. Now that can add up.

It took me about 5 years to get a handle on how to run a design business. Next, we’ll cover collection calls and getting paid.

Do what for free? Hand over files they paid you to create?

This idea of owning the sourcefiles comes from the photography industry doesn’t it? Photographers keep ownership of the negatives, but license the use rights? Then make money on selling you prints? That doesn’t seem to translate to CAD. Maybe someone can explain it better.

Let me explain it this way –
Scenario 1 – Proposal to deliver 10 concepts in JPG format with the files done at my option in 3D. Files are sloppy and full of errors but sufficient to render with in SW. You can’t make a model with them and you have to override to save them and by prior agreement they are my property . These files are largely useless. We will however be able to identify a concept direction and client has no further obligation if we cant. $ XXX

Scenario 2 – Proposal to deliver 10 concepts in JPG format with the files done at my option in 3D. Files are perfect in all aspects ( and have all details refined including all revisions ) and capable of modelmaking and or tooling and by prior agreement they are client property. Client has the capability to tool 10 products and as a function of having paid for 10 files client gets virtually unlimited support. $ XXXXX

In what I’ve described the files files in scenario 1 are really the digital equivilant of hand drawn thumbails or the same as renderings on paper. We agreed to a rendering and its my choice as to how to get it done. I’ve never had a client specify what method they wanted for a concept rendering. In fact they seem to expect hand drawn.

I completely agree with this. If your mission was to originally give them 2d images, how you got them was up to you and could have been done as the equivalent of painting. Those 3d files may not be reusable to them at all.
If they want actual 3d files that can be used, that’s another billable phase. But of course that should’ve been discussed and fleshed out previously. After the fact, I’d say hand them over this time but explain that the files may not be accurate enough for them to use for other purposes (you just made them for a 2d presentation). A sneaky way of emphasizing that point would be to muck up those 3d files before you hand them over and say you did the rest in photoshop :smiling_imp: