Thoughts on signing IP rights after a (paid) design test?

So I applied for a freelance project here on The Dots and they asked me to do a design test (paid) which consisted on scamping some concept routes for some layouts. Unfortunately they've gone back and said they've gone with another designer (fair). The client has come back to me and said that before he can process my invoice he'd like me to sign and IP form where I give away the rights to what I've produced.

I'd normally won't have any issues with this but I just find weird that the project was for a designer to create multiple concepts for some book layouts and that I am now being asked to release IP rigthts on the bits that I did for the design test project. Albeit they did pay my regular day rate. Am I just being paranoid and is this normal behaviour?

Thanks :)


  • Not a legal specialist in any way, but from experience it makes me feel that they may intend to use some of your work on the final product and want to be covered, which is a nice intention. On the other hand it makes me wonder if they will just pick it up and try to produce with someone else that may be cheaper.

    If this hasn't been agreed before, they shouldn't be able to change the criteria by which you can or cannot invoice. If you're ok in releasing the IP, may be worth asking for some additional payment in order to do so?

  • @Marta Mateu Lloveras What @Geoffrey Bunting says but due to who I work with, they tend need the original files.
    This was because I used to do a lot of design and illustration for animation so I'd layer up my files for the Animators to do their thing.
    Not so much these days as I do the animation too.

    On a regular design/illustration job I'd never give the client the files unless the paid me.

  • @Geoffrey Bunting Thanks Geoffrey, I should say that the "test" was always paid for (well, awaiting for payment now...) but totally agree with you and thanks so much for your advice.
  • @Marta Mateu Lloveras Artwork files are yours unless stipulated in the contract. Clients only have a license for the finished work, you own all your artwork. Both preliminary and final. It is up to you what you deliver. Sometimes you might trust a client and want to give them something they can give to printers or other practitioners when you're not around. But the norm is that clients only get original files if they ask and pay.

    In terms of whether this is similar... not really. It's one thing to ask for files after the project is finished - for a fee - but to do so when you've not started AND are working with a different professional is very irregular.
  • @Geoffrey Bunting@Scott Jackson Now that I have you both here, I hope you don't mind me asking another question. Is this a similar case to when clients ask for artwork files to make further tweaks in-house? I normally say yes if I want to keep a working relationship with the client but always unsure if that's the "correct" thing. Thanks both for your advice :)
  • I'd agree with @Scott Jackson, this is an odd thing for them to come back with. I'd understand if they picked you up for the job and retroactively contracted you for those concepts, but to say "we don't want you and we're not going to pay you until you sign over the concepts you created" is very suspect. They don't belong to them and I don't see why they would want those concepts when they've gone with someone else.

    That there was a test at all is, in itself, suspect but what you've described is a very red flag for me.
  • I would say that's far from normal and it would make me question their original intentions.

    As you probably know, unless it was in the original agreement, designers retain the rights to everything they produce.

    The client then can ask to purchase the IP rights but this is usually after the fact and not as a condition to paying you for the work you've already done.

    It's up to you where you go with this.
    If 't isn't a biggie, sign the rights over, take the cash and learn from experience or put your foot down and negotiate an extra fee for the rights and prepare for battle.

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