plate rights?

does anyone know who retains plates when printing for a customer? is it common to give plates away to clients if they want them after the printing is done? i am working on business cards for someone and they want to know if they can own the plate afterwards in case they need to use a different printer in the future. im inclined to sell them the plate quality pdf, so the next printer can make plates to their own specifications.? i there a protocol for plate ownership?

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As I recall from “printing trade customs”, the plates, cuts or film, etc. belong to the printer unless they’re billed separately with the job. Can’t think of to many shops that I worked in that refused to give away the plates down the road if the customer asked. As a final act of goodwill. Plus what good will they do you if your customer never comes back.

Let the customer have them, they paid for them, then its their responsibility if they get damaged or lost you get to charge them again, its a win win for you. Dick g.

I agree, as once a shop owner, to give the customer the plates etc. It is always better to give to the customer items that are only used for their job.

Back when shops set their own type in metal and had to make engravings of artwork to print a job, the shop kept the type and engravings.

On the other hand, photopolymer plates don’t last as do photoengravings or litho plates, and even if properly stored may be useless for re-run. The important image carrier is the negative. If your platemaker did not provide you with the negative, then definitely give a pdf.

Whatever the client was billed for is theirs.


If the client doesn’t want them and over the past 10 years only two clients asked for plates. I keep the plates for 6 months in case someone asks for a letterpress sample.

Inky Lips Letterpress

We do Foilstamping, Film and Polymerplates. If a Client wants their Stamping Die, we wrap and mark it nicely and hand it over. Otherwise they get stored properly in a Filing system. Usually Client returns and they misplaced the Die. We re order the Die (all digital Files - unless confidential Designs - which by Contract are deleted by Job finished- are stored,) We charge again Die cost. Same with Polymerplate.
They paid for it ! Negative too. Otherwise we keep the Negative on File. Plates only last so long. Usually we re-run the plates if re-order or even re-run Film if needed,
Client is billed for it. As long as you can explain it correctly to the Client, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Most customers don’t want their plates. With a business card, I’d give them the plate with the instructions on how to store them for future use, they paid for it.
Sometimes a bride will like the plates to make shadowboxes with so I’ll release it to them as well.
Most invitations and such are one offs so I’ll keep them for about 6 months before I toss them.