Client wants .story (unpublished files) - do they need this?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

Yes, I agree Phil. Anyone wanting to become a freelancer doesn't really need my source file to do that. They can learn most of what they need to do that right here on this site! 

What they can't learn from a source file is reliability, creativity, punctuality, professionalism, etc etc etc. and these are, as Phil says, the very reasons why my clients hire me, us, time and time again.

Walt Hamilton

The point about the camera is valid.

Face it, if the client is good enough at design and creation, and nefarious enough in intent to want to use your design to steal your business, they are good enough and nefarious enough to steal it by looking at your finished product.

They hired you because they can't or don't want to do this sort of thing; after all, they have a business to run.

When I was much younger, I did some opinion writing for newspapers. My biggest worry starting off was that editors would change my output and maybe make it say things I didn't say. An editor who was also a friend laughed at me. His point was that the last thing the editor wanted was more of that kind of work, any editor that has that kind of time and inclination will write the pieces himself.

That said, if it is as much work for them to get a product from you, and in the end it looks like something they would have done, then yes, they probably don't need you.

There is something to be said about being good enough to make it look easy, but in the end Phil is right. When they look at your product, they need to say "We couldn't do that," or  "We couldn't do that that fast," or "We couldn't do that that well." Those are the reasons they hired you in the first place, and if you prove them correct in that original assessment, your work is safe.

Terry Kull

My 2 cents, as an Architect with 30 plus years experience.

NO, I do Not turn over my files.. EVER.

Design copyright laws are to protect designers (yes, you guys are designers), They are (as stated) part of the service, but they belong to me; just as my computer, my pencils, my sketch pads. If I want to turn them over (for a fee) they will also sign a document stating that if anything goes wrong with the files, that I am in NO way responsible. And that they hold me, my  family, my business 100% harmless. They do NOT have the rights to the files.


Good read here regarding Design Copyrights


Donald Ardiel

Speaking as another architect, Terry is 100% correct.

This forum speaks of nice customers and respectful relationships between clients and contractors. From the past 30 years as a consultant I have found that a not insignificant number of clients are not respectful of the work done by designs. 

You are a designer. Your ability to create engaging, rapid e-learning solutions is your core competency and therefore your competitive advantage.  If a client insists on receiving your source files and it is not stated in the contract, they are neither respectful of your effort or your work. 

A number of forum contributor's who are on the client's side have expressed the views that they have bought the services and have therefore are deserving of the source files.  The notion has also been expressed that without the source files you cannot edit the work at a later date or turn the files over to another developer should the original developer not be available.  There is a clear solution to this problem; hire a developer/designer to work full-time. Firms hire contract developer/designers because it avoids the financial overhead burden of a full-time employee.

If you are a  contract developer/designer, make no mistake. Source files you give to a client without receiving appropriate compensation for surrendering your copyright will be given to someone who is cheaper.     


Phil Mayor

All of my clients are aware at the offset that they will receive the source files and that the price reflects this. My core skills and ability is not within those files. Clients who want to give these files to cheaper freelancers to replicate my work are free to do this. All of my work can be reverse engineered from the source files it will just take a developer longer.  What cannot be replicated my creativity and ability to produce bespoke engaging interactive content and that I hope is why I am employed.

I work with a lot of clients who develop their own work and need templates, training and assistance they hire me to provide those skills and hopefully at the end of it are competent.

When I develop a course I do not want a client to feel they must come back to me for update, they should want to come back for further work because of the value that I added to the project/their business. If I look at that situation my source file for me, hold no value, but to my client are valuable, I am happy to lose a small proportion of repeat business by satisfying my clients needs and building a relationship with them instead of arguing over who owns what.

The other side of the coin is that although I have robust backup solutions in place, I am not responsible for my clients files (I clearly state at the end of the project that is their responsibility).

I have also worked in situations where companies/organisation have paid £100,000s for bespoke databases etc only to find the company goes bankrupt and they did not have access to the source code to start again.  

david mckisick

I think in the end I agree with Phil. I think what he is not saying is that this is a competitive market, and if you wont share your source file, others will, and yes, maybe do the work cheaper. I think a company chooses the developer for their skill and expertise, and that is not something that can be replicated by someone else.

Bruce Roberts

Just a thought to ponder on.... when you bought your copy of Storyline, did you expect Articulate to send you a copy of the source files with it?  I would suggest that a client might want the source files, but the value in them is far higher than the content output.  Storyline can be used to create some fantastic content.  Are you happy to let your competitors receive your hard grafted JavaScript as a gift from your client?  Of course, if you don't mind, please feel free to attach your best *.story files to this discussion forum :-)


Nicky A

Hi Phil,

Let's say you hand over all project files for storyline after effects and illustrator then the client comes back and says: "how did you get this execute javascript trigger to work" or "I can't load the color swatch illustrator?" 

How would you handle that? If you would charge an hourly rate, would it be more than your standard rate?

david mckisick

The customer dictates the terms of the contract. These types of issues should have been worked out prior to acceptance. For my part, I would hand everything over to the customer, and if they need help making things work, or understanding javascript, then I would offer them that assistance in good faith. I think the only time that becomes an issue is in cases where it had been worked out beforehand that the customer did not get the rights to the source file, then maybe you could charge them an additional fee for that.

Phil Mayor

I do offer training :-)

Honestly depends on the client and the the nature of the relationship, something simple would be free anything else would likely be chargeable. There is always an opportunity to build goodwill.  Agree with David sorting this out before starting work helps with any confusion.

Jeremy Kelley

I do have an issue giving away my story files. 

Let’s say, I pay a local baker to bake me a cake for my daughters’ birthday. Upon pick up of this cake, I pay the baker the amount agreed upon. The baker does not hand over his recipe to me when I pick up the cake. This is the baker’s intellectual property. The baker has spent years and years developing this recipe that’s popular with his customers, which is why they come back to him to get more cakes and how he stays in business. Handing over that recipe to another person can very easily jeopardize his business. His client and anyone that client shares the recipe with can easily duplicate his delicious cake without ever having to go through years and years of training, trial and error and countless hours of hard work improving their skills to get to where the baker is now. In addition, the customer may decide to start making their own cakes, leaving the baker with one less customer.

Another example, when you buy a movie from target, you do not get the get the source and developer file with the CD. Doing that would jeopardize all the years of experience it took for the artistic crew to create an award-winning movie. I could take that file and insert my own media and now with little to no experience could recreate an academy award winner for design putting hundreds and hundreds of artistic developers out of work.

When you ask for the developer file itself you’re also asking to purchase the years and years of experience it took for that developer took to get to that point to be able to create a dynamic course that the client loves. As you can imagine that is costly. This should be industry standard for all professional content developers to keep the source files as their own intellectual property. 

Math Notermans

Although i symphatize with all opinions and do feel everyone has solid points, personally i always want to make projects where i actually can handover source files, so the client can do small changes themselves when needed. In fact i think its the greatest succes if i am not needed anymore :-) I donot want to make small changes myself. I love the challenge of new innovative solutions.