A client has recently asked me to send them each individual sound from the short I just worked on. They said it was just in case they have to change something later on. Is this normal protocol or would they normally come back to you and ask you to change it if anything needs to be done?
I would say just give it all away. Session files, sound files, stems, final mixes, m&e. If they are going to make changes or might want to do a remake or a part 2 or 3 or 4 of the film, it would be nice for everybody to have access to the individual files. This way you also relieve yourself from the responsibility to keep all the files for ages and ages. You may want to keep it, but it is a good feeling to know there is another copy out there somewhere, should your harddrive crash or get damaged.
So when they come back in 8 months and they have finally got the funding for the special effects scene everybody has dreamt about, and you are working on your first big feature film for a major studio and don't have any time to help them out, you can just tell them: "Sorry, I can't do it right now, I'm working on this big project, so if you just take the files I gave you, you should be able to open up the project and continue working on it. If you haven't found a sound designer, I can recommend (insert your best sound designer friend here) he/she's very good and I trust him to do the work very well."
What I am really saying is that a positive and open attitude will probably help you more in the long run working with clients. It will give you a good reputation along with your sound designing skills.
Legally, if it's a paid job, the client probably owns the rights to your work anyway. And your work is not just the final mix and the sounds you may have created for the project, but also your sound editing, even if that includes bought archive effects. Technically they are still synced to the project even though they are individual sound files in a session. The client can not distribute the archive effects in their original form outside this production, and if they do it is their problem, not your problem, you haven't done anything wrong.
I rarely use anything out of sound libraries as it is and I much prefer to make custom recordings, but regardless... I do all of the following anyways, mostly because I refuse to deal with clients BS after the project is completed anymore except within a very specified range of conditions. I'm not archiving, troubleshooting or anything for free anymore. You have to draw a line somewhere, otherwise most of them will just continue to walk all over you. So, here are my general "rules" about this matter:
Due to the complexity and differences in EULA's, I don't provide my clients with anything except the agreed upon deliverables: Printmaster, M&E Stems and sometimes Individual Element Predubs / Stems (Depends on the project really, I may only be sending over the score I composed or the Foley Stems). They receive these files digitally via FTP or DVD. They pay the shipping or I charge a $10 "Technology" fee for FTP. I always keep the hard drive.
To keep in compliance with all parties what I do is bill them for their own dedicated hard drive, for yearly storage and maintenance fees to keep their data in the archives from 2-5 years. At the end of the term they have a final notice to have another duplicate of their deliverables sent to them via DVD or FTP. They have 30 business days to respond and they pay shipping/transfer fees once again. The drive is then wiped clean and the files are no longer retrievable. The length of terms is 2yrs Min - 5yrs Max at their request. I keep the terms no longer than 5 years because hard drives may be technologically out-dated after 5 years, so if they want me to keep it in the archives any longer, we'd draw up a new contract with a new drive (I've never had that happen though). In the meantime, while still within the contract range, duplicate copies of the deliverables will be provided at a rate of $20. handling fee per DVD + Postage (again, I charge a $10. "technology" fee for FTP delivery, because servers don't pay for themselves). Needless to say, clients seem to keep better track of their deliverables and I tend to get less calls for duplicates nowadays.
In the interim, if they need changes that I would normally have made if the project were still fresh, I am on contract to do so at my original hourly rate unless it is out of my scope. Typically, if the individual files need to be accessed in any further complexity than what they can get from the stems I have already provided them with; then that is what falls in my scope. Outside of their contract range, if we have renewed the archival contract I now will charge them whatever my current hourly rates are at the current date.
All of this shows up on the invoice as: Archival, Maintenance and Modifications. I then itemize the Hard Drive, Maintenance Fees, Length of Archival, Disposal Options, Modification Rates and advanced archival rates/renewall. ie: Hard Drive: $100. Yearly Drive Maintenance @ $5. per year for 5 Years: $25. Shipping/Delivery Fees, Hourly Modification Rates, Etc.
Sure, it seems like a lot, but it works out. I got the original concept for this from a freelance Video Editor I worked with because I was wondering how he manages such a huge archive for all the HD video files for a multitude of clients. He gave me a loose overview of what I explained above and I just tailored it for audio and what I do. It's definitely a much more professional way of handling such a complex issue and helps keep everyone happy.
Hope that helps.
*Oh, for small projects I only charge them for one single Terabyte Drive (and I mirror a backup for them on another drive of mine for free). For larger projects like a feature film I charge them for two drives since they are paying for their own mirror backup.
For repeat clients I will waive additional hard drive fees after they have two drives to their account if their projects are small enough to use the same drive with the second drive becoming the mirror. However… that drive expires at the end of the terms for the initial project and a new archival contract will have to be made on a new drive if it either expires or fills up.
You own everything unless specified otherwise in your contract with the client. They are hiring your and your facility as a service. It is reasonable to deliver stems, the overall mix, and thats about it. They should already have a copy of the production sound. All of the sound effects within their movie either came from sound effects libraries or you recorded, edited, and mixed yourself. Those are the tools by which you created their END product, the mix.
When you get your car repaired do you own the tools the mechanic used on your car after they completed the job? Of course not.
Now, if you choose to hand over all of the source files you certainly can and there may be very good reasons to do that. Perhaps you have a good working relationship with the client, perhaps you have an agreement that you can also do with whatever you want with the original files, sound effects, etc.
Splits - (if I understand the term correctly) is something I often request from freelancers. Basically I ask for a rendered version of the different elements in the scene e.g. Guns on one stereo track, explosions on another, ambience etc. The reason being that when the inevitable 11th hour 59th minute changes to a cut scene/trailer (or what ever) happens, it means it's easy to edit up the material in house and get it out without having to get the respective freelancer out of bed at 2 in the morning to ask him to start making changes so we can hit the following days deadline. Also when doing stuff in house we often supply the splits to the film editors really early on in the editing process so they can drop them in and edit them along with the visuals. It is not the best way to work as far as creativity is concerned but it means a lot less hanging around waiting for the edit to be locked and then starting work. As for handing over whole sessions that is not something I would request or give out.
You should provide them the sounds you think they have ownership rights over, i.e. what was recorded on set, or what you recorded for this specific project if they "owned your time" (e.g. were paying you)... whatever sound you were able to originally capture/get while they were supporting you. This, you owe it to them for they created the opportunity for you to make those sounds.
Whatever you genuinely reckon you don't owe them, maybe because you gave of your own time to obtain it, you shouldn't provide them with.
Finally, ask yourself: would you ever consider working on this project again? There are projects I'm happy to let go myself.