Who owns my print files?

Print files – who should you get to manage your precious files?

Let me begin by saying, we think we should or your current graphic design company should, we are not being bias, with 24 years running Icon Graphic Design we have seen it all. We have experienced (on many occasions) situations where clients have appointed Icon Graphic Design to create artwork for commercial printing, we have appointed a print company or worked with a print company of their choice. A print ready copy of the master file is supplied to their art department so the project can be printed, in most cases that copy of the artwork is retained by the print company for future use, this is a practical thing to do as clients run out of labels, business cards, letterheads etc. and a reprint (no changes) is required.

Where problems arise is when the client inadvertently calls the printing company direct and orders more printing, this is a particular problem when it comes to labels, for example. Say, there is a change to the nutritional information and ingredients, the customer orders more labels and instructs the print company to make the changes to the supplied artwork, now you have a copy of the artwork with the printer that has become the latest copy and a ‘master copy’ with your graphic design company which is now out of date.

What happens, lets say, in a year from now, the customer calls their graphic designer and says, “I’ve had a falling out with that print company, send a copy to my new printer”, your graphic designer isn’t aware that you have give them instruction to make changes to the artwork and thinks he/she has the latest ‘master copy’, a print ready copy is sent to the new print company, they print the job and the nutritional and ingredient info is wrong! The product is labeled, sent out to market but it’s too late. We, at Icon Graphic Design, actually experience this scenario, the customer called us very upset and asked us to explain why the artwork was incorrect, we couldn’t give them an answer, we didn’t know why. It was only after some extensive investigation that we learnt what had actually happened and the labels had to be reprinted at the customers expense.

Another reason why it is a good idea to store your precious print files with your graphic design company is because they are independent to all commercial print companies, it gives you the freedom to move around to different printers and have the peace of mind that all your (up-to-date) files are kept in one secure location. We know of a winery that had a copy of all their artwork files with us, had their white wines files held at a print company and their red wine files with another print company. They got to a point where they called us because they didn’t know who had the latest versions of their precious print files.

Lets face it, if you have your files held with a commercial print company, it can be an uncomfortable experience to call them one day and say, “can I have my files please as I want to move to another company”. This isn’t a problem if they are held with your graphic designer.

Most print companies won’t charge you to make changes to your artwork these days as this is a way of tying you to their services, they don’t want you to move around. Did you know that you, the customer, don’t own what is held on their computers? This is the same for graphic designers and the reason for this is because, lets say, their business burns down and the files aren’t backed up (unlikely scenario), they don’t want to be held responsible for them to be replaced.

My advice would be to obtain a copy of your files if you don’t have a graphic design company or print company that you can trust, at the end of the day it isn’t practical for you to manage your own files, especially if you have so many, it can be a very complex process managing working files and images that are use in the project. Not one of our customers manage their own files and this is because it’s more practical to allow us to handle them on their behalf, all the files from the last 24 years are held on 2 computers in our Mawson Lakes studio, 2 computers in a remote location and on the ‘cloud’. Also they are backed up to and Apple Time Capsule.

Even though you don’t actually own the electronic files that are held in your graphic designer or commercial printer art department, it’s unlikely they will withhold your files as it isn’t in their best interest. From our point of view, if the relationship with one of our customers broke down and they moved to another company, we wouldn’t consider withholding the files as they may comeback one day so it’s not worth burning your bridges. Also, it’s not worth damaging your reputation for the sake of trying to force someone to remain with your company, bad news will spread fast.

 

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