What to do with a random request for drawing files


A series of short posts summarising something that came up in the office.

The background

A husband and wife client purchased a large Edwardian house. They had just arrived back in the UK having lived in Europe for several years and were excited about their new life in England. They were from a theatrical/dance background, and they wanted to extend the house and build a dance studio, for their own use, in the large rear garden.

We designed both elements and submitted a planning application knowing that the proposals were uncontentious in planning terms.

The neighbours mounted a campaign to stop the dance studio being permitted because they thought it was going to be used for commercial purposes. All this happened at around the time of the Brexit referendum, and a combination of the result of this and the problems with the neighbours meant that the clients regretted their move back to the UK. Consequently, after successfully receiving planning permission for the proposals, they sold the house and went back to Europe.

The situation

We received an email out of the blue from a designer who had been appointed by the new owner of the property to prepare technical drawings for the construction of the works. His email was a simple request for us to send him our computer files of the planning drawings.

What happened

The email was passed on to me, and I replied. Given that we had no relationship with the person making the request, I didn’t want to spend any time on the issue, but I would have been happy to supply the files subject to being paid for the trouble. This was my reply:

‘Thank you for your email which was passed on to me.

I presume you want Autocad files?

In principle, we’re ok with passing the files on but just to let you know that we don’t use Autocad and the files would need to be located and converted. We have a £x plus VAT admin fee for this.

The copyright position will also need to be confirmed.

Let me know if you want to proceed.’

In other words, I said that we’d be happy to help if paid. I also noted that there was a copyright issue without actually saying what the point was. This is because I didn’t know. To find out, I would have needed to spend time reviewing our agreement with the original client and remind myself of the legal position in this context.

In the event, I didn’t have to do anything further as I didn’t hear from the requesting party again.


  • We want to be helpful, but we also need to be careful and professional.
  • We need to understand what is being requested, who is asking and in what context, before deciding what to do.
  • We’re a business, and it is likely that we will want to be paid for any time spent on a request like this.
  • Any time spent would mean time not being spent on something that we were meant to be doing.
  • Had the request progressed, some understanding of copyright law would be required because our drawings were produced for the original client and our position concerning a third party would need to be checked.

Here’s a link to a relevant external article on copyright where you can learn more…

Expertise and confidence builds from overcoming a million and one events and challenges, large and small. The trick is to learn from them.

Andy FosterComment