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Releasing Topographic survey to non-original client

Discussion in 'Surveying & Geomatics' started by Totalsurv, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Totalsurv

    Totalsurv 3-Year Member

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    I completed a Topographic Survey and a measure up of a large site and building about 5 years ago for a government housing client who was purchasing the site at the time. I don't think the original client went through with the purchase and somebody else bought the site but I was paid in full. The new owner is a property development company. They are working with a local engineering firm who have now requested from me my Cad drawings. They already have them in pdf. If I just hand them over to them at no charge there is the potential (but no guarantee) of future survey work with the engineering firm. The client is an international property development firm registered in the Caribbean. I hate the thought of them just getting the survey for free.

    If I was to quote for this job in the morning it would be about 8-10k. So my question is should I create a good relationship with the engineering company and just hand over the drawings or insist on a re-issue fee?
     
  2. Bruce Small

    Bruce Small 6-Year Member

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    Relationships are everything. Cooperation opens doors.

    So far this morning I have sent out the AutoCAD file for a survey with topo done ten years ago to an engineering firm that will be working on the site, and pdfs (color, and black and white) to a title company for a large survey done in 2004 and updated in 2008. I also told the title company to let me know if they want a hard copy.
     
  3. squowse

    squowse 4-Year Member

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    I doubt they would blacklist you for not handing them over free of charge. It would be a stupid decision for them commercially.

    Maybe you could charge them a fee for checking they are still valid, check and install new control where necessary, bring them onto current datum etc;
    They should respect you for ensuring the work is still accurate and fit for purpose.
     
    Kevin Samuel and Scott Zelenak like this.
  4. Richard Imrie

    Richard Imrie 1-Year Member

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    I think in this case if it is going to an engineering firm, for the purpose of engineering, then that is likely to have been the original intent of your survey and you would have handed it over as a matter of course to whoever was going to do the engineering at that time. The reverse of that would be if you were engaged or were expecting to do the engineering, then it would be a bit on the nose to hand it over and loose the additional work. As an engineering consultancy we get similar situations a lot - requests for our AutoCAD files - knowing that the client intends to pass them to an incompetent competitor who is promising what looks like a sweeter deal and then our work is going to make someone else look good. It's even more of an issue now that we have been using Civil3D for 10 years - that's 10 years of developing styles and methodologies etc - there's been a few sniffing around trying to get that.
     
  5. JKinAK

    JKinAK 4-Year Member

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    Don't give the drawings away - give the new client a good deal.

    Charge something like 70% of the cost to recreate the work (which may be as much or more as you charged 5 years ago).
    And... don't just give them what you have - give them a product that is valid to develop from: updated and verified to represent current conditions. This isn't the same product you previously delivered - it's updated mapping reflecting current conditions with current certification - suitable for development and defensible.
    You are helping them - It's in their best interest to be developing their design from current mapping.
    - That's a good deal.

    This will give you the opportunity to provide a contract that spells out what the drawings represent and what suitable uses are.
    And... you will have established a client consultant relationship - not just one possibly in the future but now.
    And... they'll have you in the accounting system. It'll be easy for them to have you do additional work.

    If you give them away:
    1. You won't thoroughly check or update them;
    2. You expose yourself to liability - for no compensation - you may have to cough up your P/L deductible if there is simply a claimed problem;
    3. The drawings may or may not reflect current conditions - if they don't - they'll look at you as though you screwed up.

    Help them out - give them a great deal - win-win.
     
  6. Mark Mayer

    Mark Mayer 7-Year Member

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    I first posted this back in June. That time it was a 10 year old survey.

    Practice this speel until it's second nature, until you actually believe it yourself....

    Me: Gee whiz. I'd really like to help you out. Well, all our surveys from that far back are archived. It will take a while to research and recover a file that old. And there was a fire in '08, a flood in '09, a hard drive crash in '11, and a hacker attack in '14. I'm not sure the survey you are looking for is still intact. But I do have all my notes and data going back to when the earth cooled and dinosaurs roamed. So I could reproduce a survey for you. But that will take some time and effort. My cost estimate to complete that work is....

    And then you really do need to re- walk the site, recover your control, etc. before reissuing. I think you can release this for a lot less that the full price of redoing it, but I don't think you should just surrender it for love and affection. Not if your creditors are as cold and hungry as mine are.

    All that said I really respect Bruce Small's opinion, and if he has been successful doing something than I'd give that a lot of thought. I guess it all depends on what you think it means to this particular relationship, and whether there is a real future in it.
     
  7. Kent McMillan

    Kent McMillan Banned

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    What is the future in providing services for free? Land surveyors are in the business of selling reliable information for specific purposes. There is absolutely no point in not being quite upfront about that. If the new client for the data isn't willing to pay for it, then it has no value to them. If it has no value to them, giving it to them free of charge merely makes the point that it truly is nothing special.

    On the practical level, the question for me boils down to what level of effort will be required to make certain that the old information provided is in fact reliable and useful. If that doesn't cost money, I've been doing it all wrong. CAD data seems to have a life of its own once it hits the computers of others and the downside is that all inappropriate subsequent uses get blamed on whomever provided it, regardless of whatever disclaimers came with it and the price tag.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
    Mark Mayer likes this.
  8. Colekracker

    Colekracker New Member

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    I typically never reply to postings but was very interested by this post. I believe your only obligation is to your original client. You may have or may not have released the original CAD file to them at the time of the survey. If the original client wants to release it to the current engineer, that is well with in their rights. I have been in this situation and asked them to contact the original client to grant its release. Otherwise, I have asked the new client to pay for the cost of redoing the survey. Pass along a discounted cost. Explain that this ensures accurate data for design and covers your liability. You can use your old data since it's intellectual property as long as you verify its current accuracy. If the new client is unhappy, then that's a client you probably don't want to be doing business with.
     
    John Putnam and JPH like this.
  9. Totalsurv

    Totalsurv 3-Year Member

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    What is the opportunity cost of either option?

    This is the main issue, the value of the survey. To me the survey is worth x amount that the client will have to pay to get done regardless. If they get me to re-issue the survey at a cost it will still be considerably less than to pay someone to get it done from scratch.

    Then there is the value of the new relationship with the engineering company. That could have considerably more value than the survey. I think this is what Bruce Small has in mind above. I think it is reasonable enough to charge a re-issue fee but whether any of us like it or not it will probably always be seen as unreasonable in their eyes.
     
  10. Totalsurv

    Totalsurv 3-Year Member

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    It was always generally my opinion as well that some form of charge should be made for issue to a new client. But like surveys in general each situation is different and requires individual consideration.
     
  11. chris mills

    chris mills 5-Year Member

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    Colecracker is correct. Professionally and ethically your primary duty is to the client who paid for the work. There may be a clause in your original contract regarding copyright and, if so, then that takes priority. If not then you may hold the copyright (which applies to the finished product and not necessarily to the activities undertaken to make the finished product). Thus you could generally use, say, the coordinates of control stations for future jobs without referring back to the original client and you might, in any case, have surveyed outside the formal survey area for the original clientt to provide context. That information could be used freely for other jobs.

    In my experience the vast majority of organisations will respect the fact that you refer the request to the original commissioner of the survey. In most cases you then pick up further work from the new organisation who need additional information and realise that you are a professional business and also from the original client who appreciates that you have taken his best interests to heart.
     
  12. Totalsurv

    Totalsurv 3-Year Member

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    I disagree on this. I consider that I hold the copyright not the original client. By the original client paying me they have bought the right from me to use my survey data.
     
  13. chris mills

    chris mills 5-Year Member

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    I would generally agree with you but iIt all depends on the contract. We use a clause which states that we retain copyright, but the client (and those with whom he contracts) can use the data freely for the purposes of the original survey. Some clients ask for the copyright. Where the contract is silent on the matter then it will depend on how the local jurisdiction treats such matters.
     
    Totalsurv likes this.
  14. Kent McMillan

    Kent McMillan Banned

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    What sort of a relationship is built upon giving something away for free or deeply discounted? I may be quite mistaken, but I suspect that most of the maps of surveys that Bruce is willing to give copies of for free are land title surveys of the sort that are commonly required in connection with commercial land transactions such as sales or refinancings. In those cases, it is expected that eventually one of the parties will want Bruce to issue maps of the properties with his certificate to the effect that they reflect conditions as of some current date and matters reflected upon a specific commitment for land title insurance.

    So, distributing copies of the maps is a good way of assisting some land title insurance company in preparing the commitment as well as letting the eventual client know that Bruce would be able to provide the maps that will ultimately be needed without starting from scratch.

    However, in the case of a topographic map, once the data is released in a form ready for design use, what is the likelihood that the end user will want to have a product with some professional assurance as to its reflection of conditions as of some current date? Is it nearly zero?

    The way I work the problem, I think that the designer would actually want to use the free information as provided and would most likely not advocate for an update. The reason being that the money saved on surveying can either be diverted to pay design fees or can be cited as one of the ways in which the designer is saving the client money. Naturally, if the site conditions turn out to be different in any respect, it won't be the design firm's fault or the clients. It will be the surveyor's.
     
  15. Chris Bouffard

    Chris Bouffard Member

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    Personally I would not just give them up for free for two reasons, the first being that if you don't already have a business relationship with the engineering company the chances are more than good that they already have a surveyor that does all their work if they are not doing it in house. The second being that the survey is 5 years old and should be updated to assure that there are no changes. By simply giving up your information for free you are rolling the dice as to whether you see any sort of remuneration and extending your liability to parties not involved in the original transaction at no cost to the end user.
    Absent a quid pro quo situation I would not release the digital files. If you do, have both the owner and engineer sign an iron clad release form relieving you from any and all liability prior to providing the files.
     
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  16. Peter Ehlert

    Peter Ehlert 7-Year Member

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    This problem I have seen is a full copy of the Original .dwg going out he door. Working drawings usually have a bunch of rough data on layers that are turned off and/or frozen. Consumer Cad Techs have been known to unfreeze, and turn on all layers, (and then change all to layer 0)... then they go to work.
    Please think, clean it up first. (I believe the function is "write block") That time and cost may or may not be significant.

    The decision on what to issue, and if it should be a promotional item, is a basic business decision.
    I lean towards issue, at no cost. This is how relationships begin...
     
  17. jim.cox

    jim.cox 7-Year Member

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    I disgaree

    How relationships begin is how they tend to continue

    Give it to them for free and they will continue to expect free

    As has been said on this board before "Charge what it is worth to them" - but maybe discount a little if you want to continue to work with them
     
    R.J. Schneider likes this.
  18. Jim in AZ

    Jim in AZ 7-Year Member

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    You actually have clients who ask for the copyright? Never heard of that before...
     
  19. Bruce Small

    Bruce Small 6-Year Member

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    Correct on the land title surveys. I hand them out freely knowing perfectly well that somebody is going to want an update, and updates are lucrative. I keep a careful eye on my accounts and I know this is a way to make money.

    In my case, the same applies to the topo I handed out yesterday. I know they are going to have to plat the land and are going to want me to do a lot more surveying to satisfy the plat requirements.

    Note (and this should generate some comments): Short term you want to gather in the bucks any way you can. Charge for everything; give nothing away. Long term, building relationships is so much more important, and lucrative. Trust me on this. All of my business comes from referrals and that is where the gold is.
     
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  20. Peter Ehlert

    Peter Ehlert 7-Year Member

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    all true Bruce. Might I add some will follow you into retirement... sweet bonuses for some new discretionary money.
     

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