Client wants .story (unpublished files) - do they need this?

I'm new to this and have a question about what my client needs. They say that they need the .story file for their LMS. I thought that the published version is all that a client would need. Am I missing something? I want to give them what they need, but also want to protect my work so that they can't just use my files as templates. Need answer asap!

40 Replies
Stephanie Jackson

They have the Storyline program and some staff is learning the program. I'm wondering if they want the files so they can use them as templates. Not sure if I can avoid giving them the files without causing problems, but wanted to know if there's any reason they would actually need them for the LMS.

Alex O'Byrne

Potentially trying to use as templates or ensure that they don't need you for further updates to the material. What sort of contract did you do with them? I would have thought your contract would only really cover you giving them a desired outcome i.e. a complete an usable course and not the whole of the creative material and process?

Harri C

Hi Stephanie,

As Brett said, no they do not need it for the LMS (an LMS wouldn't even know how to read it).

As a general rule we give all source files to the client at the end (afterall they did pay for it), whether they can use them or not - I guess the deciding factor is the value that you yourself add. If they have purely used you to build the content I can see why you would be concerned about them using your templates as obviously that's less work for you, however if they've used your instructional design and graphic design I wouldn't be too worried.

Also it might be worth mentioning that I usually deal with highly bespoke, industry specific content.

Hope taht helps

Ashley Chiasson

Nancy Woinoski said:

I also give the source files to my clients. As Harri says, they paid for the work. It is in the best interest of the client to get the files whether they have Storyline or not because it protects them down the road should something happen to the original developer.

I second this motion. I have worked with clients who have had to eat the costs of re-development because they weren't provided with the source files when a developer left. It sort of leaves the client high and dry (so to speak) if they need to modify the existing story, and in my opinion, it isn't a best practice developers should follow (providing just the output), as it may lead to negative feedback and damaged relationships down the line.

Phil Mayor

Bruce Graham said:


The eventual ownership of the .story file should always be an item written into the Bid or Contract.

Personally, I'd rather have people come back to me because they liked what I do and how I do itrather than because I am holding them to ransom in some way.

I hand over all source files at the end of a project. The client has paid for these.

Jerson  Campos

Same here. If you keep the files, you might think you are protecting yourself, but it could leave some bad feelings with the client. On another point, they could see all the hard work you put into it and realize they are in way over their heads and come back to you because they still don't know what they are doing.

Mike Jones

Hi Stephanie,

I think you may be speaking about my company as your client - are the words "Artisanal" and "Cheese" related to this particular course?

Speaking from a client perspective in a company that is largely new and inexperienced when it comes to eLearning development work, I know that quite a few assumptions can be made by those who do not understand the jargon or specifics that go into development work. This gets compounded more when non-training/Instructional Design/Developer types are the only ones involved in the creation of the development agreement.

In past companies, and dealing with other contractors, I've seen agreements that specifically outline what is, and what is not, considered a "deliverable" at the end of the project. Anyone that isn't intimately familiar with how eLearning is developed, or the difference between a source file versus a published output, can easily assume that they are one in the same. Hence, confusion or misunderstandings like this may occur.

From a contracting developer perspective, I'd always be sure to negotiate what is/isn't on that final deliverable list, but that's just me.

Our team looks for the storyline source file to mitigate any future issues that Ashley mentioned in the case of a developer no longer being available for future updates (whether they fall off the map, or budgetary constraints affecting our options for outsourcing development). I know we've had quite a few project timelines balloon out exponentially thanks to having to rebuild things from scratch just to make an update on one page where the source file was lost in the shuffle. It gives us piece of mind to maintain the source files on our end.

Tricia Ransom

As a client, I always appreciated the source files. Sometimes it was just in case we had to make minor edits (such as that pesky typo no one else caught). Yes we could use the source files as templates, but if we had enough time and resources to do that in the first place, we wouldn't have contracted out.

However, if a contractor gets stingy about sharing the source files with me....the client who paid for them...I get a bad taste, and most likely will not use them again.

So, if I were in your situation (and not knowing all the details), I would use this as an opportunity to try to dig deeper and see if there are any other services you can offer. And going forward make sure you clearly spell this out in your contract.

BUT....If they had been the client from HELL (and we all know they exist)....that's different.

Gerry Wasiluk

Nancy Woinoski said:

I also give the source files to my clients. As Harri says, they paid for the work. It is in the best interest of the client to get the files whether they have Storyline or not because it protects them down the road should something happen to the original developer.

+1. We used to tell our internal customers and Sourcing group to ALWAYS build this into contracts.

YMMV, but ethically I believe this is an essential right for the client.

Donald Ardiel

I disagree with those who say hand over the source files. The question is whether the contract that you signed with the client is for a service or a product. In my opinion, the .story files are  similar to an "instrument of service". They are the subdeliverable of a necessary step along the way. As an example, what would preventive the client from also asking for the font files that you used, the sketchbook in which you formulate your ideas, or all of the images that you used to create the presentation. The client has not purchased the source files, they have purchased your services.

Your competitive advantage is your ability to efficiently and effectively build presentations from the resources you have built and acquired. Don't give your core competency away.  If the client demands the source files, they should pay a fee for your surrender of copyright.,

Donald Ardiel

When you buy a painting or a book, do you buy the right to reproduce it? No. Basically, you have purchased a license to use the physical object. The copyright is still held by the artist or author.  Even though a building owner may purchase the services of an architect and receive a copy of the design drawings for the purpose of maintaining the building, the owner does not have the right to sell those drawings to another owner to reproduce the same building. It is NOT an essential right of the client to own the materials created during intermediate steps towards a finished outcome. It is a business decision that you are making to surrender copyright to keep a client happy.      

Shiraz Contractor-Papas

There are IP implications of handing over source files eg if you use stock photography it is in their End User Licence Agreenent that you can't give the client access to these photos in a format that is easily extracted such as .story file.    Let your client know upfront that you don't own all components of the module and therefore cannot hand over. 

Donald Ardiel

This discussion has only recently been revived.

Tricia, in light of your comment about "stingy" contractors and "the client who paid for them", does it say in your contract with a contractor that you, the client, own the source files? If it is not stated in the contract, why do you believe that the client has the right to the source files by default? But the fact is that if surrendering source files is not included in the contract, you are asking for something and expecting not to pay for it.


david mckisick

I think if a client wants the source file, then you should give it to them in good faith unless it is specifically written into your contract that you should not do so. There are many reasons they may wish to have the source file, not the least of which is if they want to update/modify the content later if things change. This is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion, and again in my view, a client paid you in good faith for a product that should include the source file and the published output.

Shiraz Contractor-Papas

Maybe it depends on whether they've engaged you for a service (to design) or for a product (the final output whether it's published or source file).  I'm more concerned about breaching a licence agreement with elearning assets then having the client update the module themselves. I rather they update it themselves to be honest.  

Veronica Budnikas

I have a stipulation in my terms and conditions that I provide a published product as well as the source file. I think it's fair enough for the client to be able to maintain and update the course.

That said, Shiraz makes an excellent, and often overlooked, point re: licensed assets in your course. Even if the client ends up never even opening up the source file, there is a risk there that I might breach a licence agreement.

Very useful discussion, and I am now going to review my terms and conditions to include something around what the client can, and cannot, do with the source file (for example, can update content, can republish, cannot use the images, audio, video anywhere else or in a template, etc.)

Shiraz Contractor-Papas

The other thing to consider is this:  how comfortable are you with your client handing your source files over to another freelancer to modify, duplicate, repurpose and sell etc?  How comfortable are you with the potential for your client to take your source files, learn your methods (e.g. how do you get the interaction to behave in a certain way) and establish their own freelance business?  Don't underestimate the skills you have in using the software and the value this creates.  Anyone can buy a camera but it doesnt make them a photographer, same with Storyline.   If your client wants source files, i don't think it's a hard and fast rule that they can or can't, but should definitely be charged more. In graphic design land the standard is 300% more for source files.

Phil Mayor

I have no problems with that, my clients get the source files at the end of every project. I have no reason to be protective of my content that was developed for them. As far as IP is concerned I have a contract that indemnifies me.

What the client does with the source files after they are handed over is beyond my control and I do not worry about it.  I am sure I have said above that I hope I add more value to a clients business than just delivering a course/module.  I would hope that same client would want to come back to me because of this, if they do not, I don't want to make it any difficult for them to use another freelancer/developer/instructional designer.

I costs include the source files being handed over, there is no reduction if they don't want them.

I think one of the issues/problems here is that people in our industry get emotionally attached to their files  or are frightened that someone will come along and steal their breakfast, the key thing to look at is what value do you bring to the table, and it is that which will keep the client coming back for more.