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Client Digital Asset Storage

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Richard Kuenneke
Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 13, 2011 at 3:32:05 pm

I'm looking for advice about what to do with a former client's digital assets. Am I obligated to store these assets even though they're not generating income? Should I pack up the hard drive and forget about it - or should I contact the client (who doesn't return email or phone calls) and ask they provide a storage device that I will return once I've finished the transfer?

What if the client requests the files? Am I obligated to turn them over?

Does anyone incorporate language about digital asset storage in their agreements? Are we obligated to keep these files forever?

Thank you.

Rich


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Craig Seeman
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 13, 2011 at 4:34:01 pm

It depends on your relationship to the "former" client.
Back in the days of tape, I worked at a facility that would, after a couple of years of a client not booking, would send them a letter stating they had x time to come by and pick up the assets or they would be disposed.

Depending on your situation, if you stored everyone's assets in perpetuity it could get expensive. You could send them a registered or certified letter that they would have to sign for. This way you have both proof of mailing and proof of delivery.

Keep in mind that you may certainly consider charging a handling fee as well as costs to transfer material to a media for delivery.

It's not clear what files you refer to. I wouldn't turn over project files, just final masters and maybe source media.

You could pitch for them to come back as well with a friendly cover letter. Better to avoid animus and use the opportunity to bring them back, stating that without booking you're offering them the opportunity to pick up their source material within a given time frame.



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Richard Kuenneke
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 13, 2011 at 5:04:37 pm

I'll send them another email. If no response in one week, I'll drop them a note through certified mail. In that letter, I'll outline the costs to transfer the media as well as the price tag on the hard drive.

This organization is very dysfunctional. I am talking about source files only - assets that could be used to create another project. In fact, I pitched them on a second project based on those files.

Thanks Craig.

Rich


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Craig Seeman
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 13, 2011 at 5:25:39 pm

The certified letter is your proof that you attempted to reach them and requiring a signature is your proof that someone got it. Then it's up to their internal communications to succeed or fail. At least you'd have proof of communication.

You might include the pitch one more time in the letter so they can connect the deadline to collect the media with the lack of any recent work and the option to continue the relationship with a booking. Better to light a friendly fire under their feet than just burn a bridge.



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Rich Rubasch
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 14, 2011 at 3:15:24 am

Dysfunctional or not this is the communications business. Have you actually spoken to anyone about this. I think holding onto the elements puts you in the drivers seat for the next project. For the 59 bucks a hard drive costs these days I'd back it up and keep it safe...that 59 bucks could turn into a $3000 post only job with the existing elements you have.

I'd play very nice with them. Let the dysfunctional managers know you are keeping their material safe and if and when they need to communicate an idea with the elements you will exceed their expectations with a great video.

Why do people in our industry not know the answer to these questions? It is communication and it is exceeding the client's expectations. Those two things equal success, so do them both well and you'll be fine.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Craig Seeman
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 14, 2011 at 1:55:47 pm

One thing to be aware of is that there are times when storage space becomes an issue. A business is faced with the cost of expanding the physical space or the costs of consolidating the media vs the cost of removing assets. Which one is the "right" decision depends on the business situation but there are certainly times when removing the asset is the cost effective solution.



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Richard Kuenneke
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 14, 2011 at 6:48:41 pm

Rich: I just now heard back from the client. I'm off-loading the content to another drive and plan to deliver to them within the next day or so - for a fee. I believe you took my response out of context. The issue is not my lack of communication - it is their inability to respond to my communication.

Thanks.

Rich


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Rich Rubasch
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 14, 2011 at 7:03:21 pm

When I post a reply I generally try to address the issue with a response that is for a more general audience.....little tidbits of wisdom I have learned along the way. I think that is the way the Cow is used. If someone stumbled along your dilemma and read my post they might have been able to relate to the bigger picture that I was addressing.

Even when communication seems to be going one way, we strive to get the flow going in both directions and hopefully strengthen the relationship as a rule. It has never hurt us and is a good way to do business.

Glad the issue was resolved.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 14, 2011 at 10:29:24 pm

Rich made the right comment at the beginning. You should have spent the $59 for the 1TB drive, backed up their media, and put it in the closet. Why offer to give them back their media "for a fee" - do you want the 200 bucks (or whatever), or do you want THEIR NEXT JOB.

A year from now, they could call and say "hey do you still have the running footage of those cars we shot", and your response is "we sure do - do you want to book another session with us" ?

Bob Zelin



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Rich Rubasch
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 15, 2011 at 1:34:28 am

Bob and I think alike...wait, that's not possible.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Patrick Ortman
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 18, 2011 at 3:39:02 pm

Another general thing: I wouldn't tell them you have their footage safe and secure. Some people are sue-happy, and hard drives fail, get sticky, etc.

Now, in practice, what we do is spin 'em up every now and then, and we've never thrown out footage- that's a part of exceeding client expectations- but at the same time, and maybe it's living in LA that's jaded me, but I could certainly see somebody holding you liable for their footage if you say you're keeping it safe.

---------------------
http://www.patrickortman.com
Web and Video Design


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Brendan Coots
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:46:11 pm

Your only (legal) obligations with any client are those spelled out in your contract. If you don't have a contract with this client, then you have no (legal) obligation to them. As a business, you DO have an obligation to provide good service, but that doesn't include indefinite storage of old files that will never be used again.

Your best bet is probably to just forget the calls and certified letters, drop the files on a $80 external drive and mail it off to them with a kind note.

Brendan Coots
Creative Director
Animatik Creative


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 21, 2011 at 5:47:32 pm

I bill the client up front for a 1TB drive and storage for their project, whether I actually list this as a line item depends, but everyone pays for a drive and storage.

M

Malcolm


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Craig Seeman
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 21, 2011 at 6:15:40 pm

A very reasonable thing to do.

The problem I have seen from the biggest facilities and certainly small home offices, sometimes you have no more space to safely park drives or discs or tapes, etc.

At some point you can run out of square footage and something has to go or you end up having to rent or purchase more property. At some point you're simply out of room and something must go. Sometimes there are just no more closets or nooks to park the media.

Sometimes the closet reminds you of the opening of Fibber McGee and Molly.
Space may be infinite but the hall closet is not.



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Malcolm Matusky
Re: Client Digital Asset Storage
on Jan 22, 2011 at 12:20:46 am

How many years have you been in business? At some point every firm has to dump records and non-performing assets. years ago 1" tapes took up a lot of space and cost a fortune to ship back to clients, today a 1TB drive takes up little space and is cheap to ship back to a client. Go through your oldest stuff first and get rid of that, you will have to make a tough decision what is worth keeping and what you should dump.. No easy solution if you have limited storage space. 20 year old 1", 3/4" and Beta tapes may not even be playable today, that makes your decision somewhat easier.

M

Malcolm


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