Course 'ownership' - do you retain rights or hand everything over?

Hi there

Having just launched into freelance work using Storyline, I wondered what other Freelancers do in terms of 'course ownership'.

Do you:

-give all rights over to the client or retain rights to use in your portfolio as 'examples' of your work?

-hand over the published content only or all source material as well (i.e. so that the client could edit the work themselves in future, if they also have Storyline)?

and how do you phrase all of this in your proposal?

thanks for the help all!


10 Replies
Brian Allen

Speaking from the other side of the picture, as someone who works with outside vendors/freelancers, it is common to work under agreements which: 

  1. Allow the vendor/freelancer the ability to showcase part or all of the work in a portfolio, granted the content isn't proprietary or confidential, and
  2. Allows us (the customer) to receive the content as is and pay the vendor/freelancer should updates be required later, or pay an additional amount to receive the source authoring files in addition to the published content files.

Hope this helps!

Michael Leimbach

Also, speaking from the other side, it all depends on the wording of the contract.

If the contract states that this is a "work for hire" then the client owns all Intellectual Property (IP) rights. Thus, legally, you have to turn over the source code, and (unless specified elsewhere in the contract) you can not legally us it for your own example portfolio.

Each client will have different expectations and it is valuable to make sure the proposal and contract specifically state your desires and the clients expectations.

Alex Santos

Hi Anne,

Great question.  I normally transfer copyright to all of the published files and source Articulate files after I have received final payment.  I feel its something that can be discussed at the start of the project, and if the client wants the source files you can include them in the proposal as a deliverable.  I also know designers who add a little bit extra cost to the project seeing how it is another deliverable. Clients don't normally own a copy of the Articulate software, so source files become useless for them.  

That being said, if you want to use their work as part of a portfolio that is going to be displayed publicly for you to market your services I recommend getting the client's permission.  Some clients have even told me it's ok for me to use their project as a sample of my work on the condition I remove their company logo and any trademarks from said work.  Easy enough, but it really depends on the client's sensitivities.  

As for the above, I have a clause in our proposals under the heading "Copyright" that goes something like this:


When we receive final payment, copyright is automatically assigned as follows:

You own the published course in .html format, written content, images and any other visual elements that we created for you.  

You also maintain ownership of any written content, multimedia assets and other data you provided in order for us to complete the project.


If the client wishes to also own the course in the Articulate Storyline format, you can simply add it in there as well.  One thing about me is I try and limit the legalese from all agreements as a matter of principle.  

Hope this helps,


Anne Pead

Thanks guys! Very helpful answers!

Another question then, along a similar line - if you purchase pictures from a stock image company and use this in your course, then hand over the course and all IP in the course to the customer, do you still retain the right to use those images in other courses (potentially for other customers)?



Michael Leimbach


This is an area that a lot of people have questions about, and if they don't have questions, they should.

While a lot depends on the license agreement you agreed to on the stock image company site, but for the most part, when you purchase the photo under your license, you are often the only one with legal rights to use it. So, if you are building a course for a client, and the course ends up on the clients website, or in their LMS/LCMS, this is, legally, a violation of the license agreement. 

What I have started doing is, once the final choice for photos has been made, we have the client directly purchase the images, send them to me, and I embed them. This fully protects the client from legal issues with the stock image company, but it also means that I have no rights to the photos.

Alex Santos

Morning Anne, I'm 100% with Michael above on this one.  

I create a first draft of a course for my clients with watermarked royalty-free images from whatever sites they came from (iStock,, etc.).  When I give my clients the preview of the course, I include a spreadsheet listing the image file name, slide no. where it was used, site URL where the image came from, and the price of the image based on the size of the image I need to purchase.  I do this in a spreadsheet so I can just sum up a price and the client knows I stayed within their budget.  Once approved, I have the client buy the images and put them in my Dropbox account.  

So- no, I don't have rights to use the images from one project in another.  That said, I work with a variety of clients in different industries and rarely find myself needing to re-use images from one project in another.  

mike mcdonald

Great points people!

For 2014 I tweaked my basic contract template, as last year a client asked for the 'source files', but when I asked them what exactly they wanted, they didn't actually know! Turns out they were told to ask as a matter of course (for commercial or IP reasons) by their contracts dept.

Typically, I use my own external assets such as original images, WAV files etc.(I had licences for some and some were royalty-free), so I stripped them out first! having said that....I have just finished a project where the client provided all the images, and I did the language voiceovers and story-building.

So for sure, it is worth making it crystal-clear which of the two parties provides which assets, what use they are for, who has rights to them in the future, and what about any assets developed during the project...else there could be a bit of grief when it comes to final handover.

And of course, those of us that are freelance individuals have to careful to both stay within the law as well as protect our IP. 

And on that last point...that's what makes this community so amazing....everyone here is so willing to collaborate!

Chantelle N

Hi all!

I have a similar question as Anne, but it kind of goes a step further - I am working with a client who wants to use the course I create in order to re-sell as a product (online course) to his customers. I realize this means I need to be very careful about what content (such as graphics) I use in the course, and want to check if there's anything specific I need to keep in mind in this situation.

For example, if I need images for the course, will having the client purchase them (under the appropriate licensing, which I'm assuming would be commercial) and provide the files to me to put in the course be enough?

Also, in a case like this what do I need to do to protect any of my IP while still being able to give them rights to re-sell the content? I will definitely follow Brian's advice for the copyright clause as that seems to align with my thinking, but should I include a clause for anything beyond that in this case or should that cover it (for example, do I need a clause that protects me from any issues a customer of MY client might have with the product? Or would handing over the rights - while maintaining ability to use in a portfolio - keep me covered there since then my client owns it)?

Thanks all.