A designer has done graphic design work for XXX the past couple of years. XXX has now decided to do all the work in house and is no longer requiring their services. Now XXX wants me to contact them and ask them for the ads in a version so that we can ask our internal communications person to make changes. Is that right? Are they obligated to give it to us?I'm glad they asked. It give us an opportunity to talk about this issue.
Files always belong to the designer. The above situation is similar to dining at a restaurant for a while, then deciding to cook the meals at home and asking the chef for thier recipes. The computer files contain "trade secrets;" special techniques the designer uses to execute the design. When you hire a designer you are paying for the right to use their design in what ever manner you agree to. It's the same in photography and illustration. You may own a print of a photograph but the photographer continues to own the rights to the photo. You can't take the photo and reproduce it in a book or an ad, unless you have the photographer's permission.
At the beginning of a project you can request the files be turned over to you. You will get charged accordingly and it must be written up as such in your contract.