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Few questions about the legal part of a game company


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#1 Odin1985   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 11:14 AM

Me and a friend are working on making a project that would be essentialy a game, a mmo in this case. For this we are planning on getting some legal advice or atleast hav a lawyer that we can turn into when we need help.

for this i wanted to ask if there are any tips or advice on how to find the best lawyer for us.

We are near Fort Myers, FL well he is, I'm in Venezuela and will look into relocating to that location next year.

What would be the best way to look for a lawyer and approach one?
What questions do we ask in the first meeting?
does a specialist in game law is the best to look for , or any general lawyer can be as good?
what kind of expenses are we looking at when getting a lawyer?

Also we will be consulting this person in the creation of our company entity (at the moment we only have a fictitious name registers, and not updated).

Also we are looking to finance our project using Kickstarter a crowfunding service, where members would pledge money to our project in an effort to help the creators and also hey do receive a reward for the pledge. Would this give us trouble later on in a legal way or in a taxing way?

Thanks for your time,
Gustavo

Sponsor:

#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18874

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 12:46 PM

1. Me and a friend are working on making a project that would be essentialy a game, a mmo in this case.
2. we are planning on getting some legal advice or atleast hav a lawyer that we can turn into when we need help.
3. What would be the best way to look for a lawyer and approach one?
4. What questions do we ask in the first meeting?
5. does a specialist in game law is the best to look for , or any general lawyer can be as good?
6. what kind of expenses are we looking at when getting a lawyer?
7. we will be consulting this person in the creation of our company entity (at the moment we only have a fictitious name registers, and not updated).
8. we are looking to finance our project using a crowfunding service, would this give us trouble later on in a legal way or in a taxing way?



1. That should set of warning flags. "MO" (multiplayer online) is probably fine, but adding that M for "MMO" means you are looking at several millions of dollars in infrastructure. Are you sure you understand the business well enough to make that leap?

2. Yes, you will need a lawyer. For an MMO you will need several lawyers.

3. Direct referral from another game company or another game attorney would be best, but barring that, a simple search in Google gives a reasonably long list. Read about them, then pick up the phone and call them.

4. Why do you need that lawyer? You are hiring him, you ought to know why you need his services. Do you need assistance in starting the business, in registering trademarks or copyrights, in reviewing the game for risks, or expanding your market, or something else entirely? Whatever you need them for should guide what you ask them about. I imagine you won't ask your business lawyer about the risks of getting eye surgery or the pain in your shoulder, but you can do that too if you want.

5. Why do you need that lawyer? If you need help with simple business tasks, then any business lawyer can probably get the job done. If you need help with game industry specific tasks, you will need someone comfortable with the industry.

6. Ask them what they charge. It varies by location. For a general non-specialized business lawyer in that area I'm guessing they'd be about $150/hr, but if you look at nearby cities you could find a general practice law firm you may find someone for a bit less per hour. How much they charge and how long it takes are things you should find out during phone calls.

7. That is a general business activity and does not require a game industry specialist. You may be able to do it without a lawyer if you are willing to do a bit of work yourself. There are many books out there detailing how to register a business in various states. There is also the Small Business Administration, which has offices and a web site at SBA.gov, that can help you.

8. That depends entirely on your agreement with the funding group. You need to review the contracts and understand all the the legal implications for funding and taxes, or pay a lawyer to do it for you.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8668

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 01:21 PM

Odin,
Check out http://thegameattorney.com/ - I don't know if Tom still maintains an office in Florida or not. If not, check out http://www.obscure.co.uk/directory/directory-legal/ for a list of game lawyers.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#4 Odin1985   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 06:33 PM


1. Me and a friend are working on making a project that would be essentialy a game, a mmo in this case.
2. we are planning on getting some legal advice or atleast hav a lawyer that we can turn into when we need help.
3. What would be the best way to look for a lawyer and approach one?
4. What questions do we ask in the first meeting?
5. does a specialist in game law is the best to look for , or any general lawyer can be as good?
6. what kind of expenses are we looking at when getting a lawyer?
7. we will be consulting this person in the creation of our company entity (at the moment we only have a fictitious name registers, and not updated).
8. we are looking to finance our project using a crowfunding service, would this give us trouble later on in a legal way or in a taxing way?



1. That should set of warning flags. "MO" (multiplayer online) is probably fine, but adding that M for "MMO" means you are looking at several millions of dollars in infrastructure. Are you sure you understand the business well enough to make that leap?

2. Yes, you will need a lawyer. For an MMO you will need several lawyers.

3. Direct referral from another game company or another game attorney would be best, but barring that, a simple search in Google gives a reasonably long list. Read about them, then pick up the phone and call them.

4. Why do you need that lawyer? You are hiring him, you ought to know why you need his services. Do you need assistance in starting the business, in registering trademarks or copyrights, in reviewing the game for risks, or expanding your market, or something else entirely? Whatever you need them for should guide what you ask them about. I imagine you won't ask your business lawyer about the risks of getting eye surgery or the pain in your shoulder, but you can do that too if you want.

5. Why do you need that lawyer? If you need help with simple business tasks, then any business lawyer can probably get the job done. If you need help with game industry specific tasks, you will need someone comfortable with the industry.

6. Ask them what they charge. It varies by location. For a general non-specialized business lawyer in that area I'm guessing they'd be about $150/hr, but if you look at nearby cities you could find a general practice law firm you may find someone for a bit less per hour. How much they charge and how long it takes are things you should find out during phone calls.

7. That is a general business activity and does not require a game industry specialist. You may be able to do it without a lawyer if you are willing to do a bit of work yourself. There are many books out there detailing how to register a business in various states. There is also the Small Business Administration, which has offices and a web site at SBA.gov, that can help you.

8. That depends entirely on your agreement with the funding group. You need to review the contracts and understand all the the legal implications for funding and taxes, or pay a lawyer to do it for you.


Thanks frob, i do know that is a huge undertaking he creation of an mmo, we already considered that before taking everything in consideration, it will be thought and long work, but we do believe that an expanding infrastructure will be able to hold our needs and the ones for the game.
Not sure if we would need a team of lawyers for what would be the project, but one of the points of getting a lawyer is seeing that we would have the legal part covered in case we needed it, and if we do require more assistance that lawyer can help us continue taking the steps in that direction.
Yes you are right maybe a game lawyer would not be a total need but having someone that understands the industry can bring benefits to us, and I'm already making a list of potential lawyers to get a hold of and ask them by phone or mail our inquiries.


Odin,
Check out http://thegameattorney.com/ - I don't know if Tom still maintains an office in Florida or not. If not, check out http://www.obscure.c...irectory-legal/ for a list of game lawyers.


Thanks Tom, we had already has Tom Buscaglia in our list of potential lawyers i wanted some information before going directly to them.

#5 Katie   Members   -  Reputation: 1283

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 02:44 AM

How much work have you already done?

Do you have the basic infrastructure completed and running? If not, you don't need a lawyer yet.

Go and write the game. You don't need a lawyer until a lot later in the process.

And a bit of advice on lawyers -- the longer you can keep them out of your life, the happier you will be.

#6 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8668

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:12 AM

Do you have the basic infrastructure completed and running? If not, you don't need a lawyer yet.
Go and write the game. You don't need a lawyer until a lot later in the process.
And a bit of advice on lawyers -- the longer you can keep them out of your life, the happier you will be.

This is BAD advice.

Gustavo is talking about an international joint venture, not a "lone wolf" project. Katie's advice may be okay* for lone wolves, but not for partnerships.

*But even if you're a lone wolf, there can be lots of situations in which you get yourself into legal difficulties because of your aversion to lawyers.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#7 Obscure   Moderators   -  Reputation: 174

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:50 AM

Not sure if we would need a team of lawyers for what would be the project....

He wasn't suggesting a team of lawyers but that you should have different lawyers for different jobs. Game industry/intellectual property lawyers are very expensive because this is a special field of law. Because they are expensive you don't want to use them to do basic business work. Get a basic (cheaper) commercial lawyer for that.
Dan Marchant - Business Development Consultant
www.obscure.co.uk

#8 Odin1985   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 11:33 AM


Do you have the basic infrastructure completed and running? If not, you don't need a lawyer yet.
Go and write the game. You don't need a lawyer until a lot later in the process.
And a bit of advice on lawyers -- the longer you can keep them out of your life, the happier you will be.

This is BAD advice.

Gustavo is talking about an international joint venture, not a "lone wolf" project. Katie's advice may be okay* for lone wolves, but not for partnerships.

*But even if you're a lone wolf, there can be lots of situations in which you get yourself into legal difficulties because of your aversion to lawyers.


Thanks Tom, is true i dont believe that avoiding lawyers is the best option, maybe not have them with us all the time but atleast know that we can turn to a lawyer that knows our position when we need help.

also the model we are going to be working on is one that will require NDA, user agreements and so on from the start as we want to include community opinions and ideas into our development process, as we feel that many game companies just make something that they feel or have showed in profits that can be good for money making.


Not sure if we would need a team of lawyers for what would be the project....

He wasn't suggesting a team of lawyers but that you should have different lawyers for different jobs. Game industry/intellectual property lawyers are very expensive because this is a special field of law. Because they are expensive you don't want to use them to do basic business work. Get a basic (cheaper) commercial lawyer for that.


thanks Obscure, i understood it in another way, i do agree with that, maybe have some idea who to turn would be the best, and having a commercial lawyer for basic stuff would be the best, thanks again

#9 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18874

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 12:49 PM




2. Yes, you will need a lawyer. For an MMO you will need several lawyers.

Not sure if we would need a team of lawyers for what would be the project....

He wasn't suggesting a team of lawyers but that you should have different lawyers for different jobs. Game industry/intellectual property lawyers are very expensive because this is a special field of law. Because they are expensive you don't want to use them to do basic business work. Get a basic (cheaper) commercial lawyer for that.

thanks Obscure, i understood it in another way, i do agree with that, maybe have some idea who to turn would be the best, and having a commercial lawyer for basic stuff would be the best, thanks again




An MMO will be a very large project. They span multiple nations. Assuming you reach MMO status, you will have tax laywers familiar with tax laws in the various nations, IP lawyers who can explain the nuanced difference between not just USA, UK, and Australian requirements, but also help with breaking in to China and other nations with dissimilar law. Then there are general business lawyers who will help you ensure that you have properly filed your paperwork to do business in the various nations you work with.



In my experience, the one area that every nation is most strict about is getting their tax revenue. You can be forgiven for some improper registrations and poor paperwork. You can offend people and get off with a fine. You can even have massive safety violations that eventually result in deaths and still only pay a fine. But when a business doesn't pay every applicable tax, that's when executives end up in jail.


Just getting started you are in two nations, the USA and Venezuela. Even if you mess up other areas of business registration, get your taxes correct. With a multi-national venture you better have at least one tax expert (often a tax lawyer) review that part of your business before you start getting any income.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#10 Odin1985   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 02:46 PM

An MMO will be a very large project. They span multiple nations. Assuming you reach MMO status, you will have tax laywers familiar with tax laws in the various nations, IP lawyers who can explain the nuanced difference between not just USA, UK, and Australian requirements, but also help with breaking in to China and other nations with dissimilar law. Then there are general business lawyers who will help you ensure that you have properly filed your paperwork to do business in the various nations you work with.



In my experience, the one area that every nation is most strict about is getting their tax revenue. You can be forgiven for some improper registrations and poor paperwork. You can offend people and get off with a fine. You can even have massive safety violations that eventually result in deaths and still only pay a fine. But when a business doesn't pay every applicable tax, that's when executives end up in jail.


Just getting started you are in two nations, the USA and Venezuela. Even if you mess up other areas of business registration, get your taxes correct. With a multi-national venture you better have at least one tax expert (often a tax lawyer) review that part of your business before you start getting any income.


Thanks Frob for clearing that part out for me, i was under the impressions that having the company incorporated in florida, even if we sell online we would only have to deal with us taxes not nation specific taxes, i mean even if im in venezuela we would still treat the company us only for the incorporation and legal part, the company would not be created in both countries.

By even having the company only in the us, while selling to players world wide, would that mean that we have to create the company in each country we serve? also pay taxes in each one? or only pay the taxes that are generated by revenues from that country?

#11 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18874

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 03:46 PM

Thanks Frob for clearing that part out for me, i was under the impressions that having the company incorporated in florida, even if we sell online we would only have to deal with us taxes not nation specific taxes, i mean even if im in venezuela we would still treat the company us only for the incorporation and legal part, the company would not be created in both countries.

By even having the company only in the us, while selling to players world wide, would that mean that we have to create the company in each country we serve? also pay taxes in each one? or only pay the taxes that are generated by revenues from that country?


Those are excellent questions. I don't know the answer for your case. I'm not a tax lawyer.

Every country and every state and even many cities have their own tax laws.

Tax rules are often different between services, physical objects, and digital goods.

In the USA, there are rules about how when goods are purchased remotely they are not taxed in the seller's state unless the seller has enough business in the remote state that it crosses a particular threshold.

In the EU, taxes are run by VAT, and it gets really complicated. If you sell digital goods online within your nation you handle tax. If you sell digital goods online outside your nation to another nation in the EU, you need to record it but not handle tax until it exceeds a "Distance selling threshold" and then you are responsible for it. And if you sell digital goods online outside the EU you need to find out if the customer is VAT-exempt and either pay or not pay, and in both cases report it to the government.

In your nation, I have no idea.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#12 Odin1985   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 04:14 PM


Thanks Frob for clearing that part out for me, i was under the impressions that having the company incorporated in florida, even if we sell online we would only have to deal with us taxes not nation specific taxes, i mean even if im in venezuela we would still treat the company us only for the incorporation and legal part, the company would not be created in both countries.

By even having the company only in the us, while selling to players world wide, would that mean that we have to create the company in each country we serve? also pay taxes in each one? or only pay the taxes that are generated by revenues from that country?


Those are excellent questions. I don't know the answer for your case. I'm not a tax lawyer.

Every country and every state and even many cities have their own tax laws.

Tax rules are often different between services, physical objects, and digital goods.

In the USA, there are rules about how when goods are purchased remotely they are not taxed in the seller's state unless the seller has enough business in the remote state that it crosses a particular threshold.

In the EU, taxes are run by VAT, and it gets really complicated. If you sell digital goods online within your nation you handle tax. If you sell digital goods online outside your nation to another nation in the EU, you need to record it but not handle tax until it exceeds a "Distance selling threshold" and then you are responsible for it. And if you sell digital goods online outside the EU you need to find out if the customer is VAT-exempt and either pay or not pay, and in both cases report it to the government.

In your nation, I have no idea.


Thanks for the info, ill be looking into a tax lawyer or tax expert in the us for this information to get more up to speed.
Anything that should be looked by us in this special case of tax law? maybe some specific questions that i should have in mind when contacting the lawyer?

oh and in my country, not even us know well about the tax law, keeps changing so the government is able to afford giving the money away.




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