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Legalizing my Game


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#1 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 08:44 AM

Well I started this "team" called TheTechTouch. It was just me at first then I asked another programmer to join. Once he joined we started coding this game called "Biome". Now I also have asked a web developer to join. He joined and started coding the website. Okay so now I want to make sure that when I sell this game, all the profits will go to me, then I will pay my "team" according to their effort. Now my question is, what if the web developer swaps the Paypal accounts that all the payments are going to, so that he receives all the money? Or what if my co-programmer takes the code and tries to sell it or the game? So I am wondering, how do I avoid those things? Do I need to licence the game as mine? How do I make it so that the game and code all legally belongs to me?

Summary: How do I make my current situation into a situation where I own everything and pay my "employees" and have everything legalized? Do I need to make this "team" into a company or small business?


Also, my programmer lives in Norway and my web developer lives in New Zealand, will that affect anything?

Thanks,
Brent

EDIT: I live in the US.

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#2 freddyscoming4you   Members   -  Reputation: 112

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 09:42 AM

Did you have a contract/agreement in place? What does it say?

If not, it's hard to get things agreed to after the fact. You may very well end up giving all your immediate profits to your team to buy them out of their interest as there was no organized arrangement. It looks as though your team came together pretty casually but make no mistake that if they know you're going to sell the game then they expect some jack as well.

The truth is that your systems seem disconnected and decentralized and that you can't control it now. What if they decide to do those things? Well, you can't stop them. Also, since they live in other countries I highly doubt you have the resources to legally fight them for the rights to the game. Furthermore, if there was no prior agreement then you can't call it "your" game. It is your team's game and they get partial say in what is done with and to it. You have may have inspired the initial idea and story but they did the leg work to make it happen. Without an agreement saying otherwise, they own it just as much as you do if not more.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10179

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 09:43 AM

1. Do I need to make this "team" into a company or small business?
2. I live in the US. Also, my programmer lives in Norway and my web developer lives in New Zealand, will that affect anything?

1. Yes. At the very least, you need a Collaboration Agreement.
2. Yes.

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/article58.htm
http://underdevelopmentlaw.com/category/contracts/page/3/
http://www.sba.gov/
http://www.obscure.co.uk/directory/directory-legal/
-- 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 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 08:56 PM

Did you have a contract/agreement in place? What does it say?

If not, it's hard to get things agreed to after the fact. You may very well end up giving all your immediate profits to your team to buy them out of their interest as there was no organized arrangement. It looks as though your team came together pretty casually but make no mistake that if they know you're going to sell the game then they expect some jack as well.

The truth is that your systems seem disconnected and decentralized and that you can't control it now. What if they decide to do those things? Well, you can't stop them. Also, since they live in other countries I highly doubt you have the resources to legally fight them for the rights to the game. Furthermore, if there was no prior agreement then you can't call it "your" game. It is your team's game and they get partial say in what is done with and to it. You have may have inspired the initial idea and story but they did the leg work to make it happen. Without an agreement saying otherwise, they own it just as much as you do if not more.


I don't have a contract in place.

Also, I kind of understand what you are saying. So legally the game is the property of the other programmer and I and the website is the property of the web developer and I. So would I solve the problem of the guys possibly steeling from me?

1. Do I need to make this "team" into a company or small business?
2. I live in the US. Also, my programmer lives in Norway and my web developer lives in New Zealand, will that affect anything?

1. Yes. At the very least, you need a Collaboration Agreement.
2. Yes.

http://www.sloperama...e/article58.htm
http://underdevelopm...ntracts/page/3/
http://www.sba.gov/
http://www.obscure.c...irectory-legal/


1. Okay thank you, I will look into those contracts. Also I am still a bit confused on what I should do to make my "team" into an indie game development company. Do I need to follow the 10 steps to start a business on sba.gov?
2. What problems will arise from the other team members being in other countries?

EDIT: What I guess I really want is to start a company called TheTechTouch or TechTouch. Then make it so that I am the legal "boss". Then have it where I hire other people, but everything they do for me, belongs to me. Also I am only 15, will this be a problem?

#5 Matias Goldberg   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3724

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 09:34 PM

So would I solve the problem of the guys possibly steeling from me?


Without a contract, it's a mess but it's probably containing joint copyright. If what John Doe did is pretty distinguishable from the rest of the work made by all the other team mates (so that it's not confusing what belongs to whom), and he's only selling or using his work in other projects; then he did not steal anything from you. He's just using what is rightfully his.

In fact, if you try to use what he did for you in other projects (and in some cases, even in this project you're working on) without his consent, you are actually stealing from him.

2. What problems will arise from the other team members being in other countries?


Depends a lot over the countries involved. The contract should establish when there's a dispute which courts will be used to resolve it. Though, chances of enforcing it is pretty slim unless someone got really lucky and made a lot of money out of it. And the country he lives in has to have a decent civil court system.
Also, it depends whether the relationship nature is that of an employment relationship (a living nightmare in many countries for an indie company), a partnership, or as an outsource contractor.

#6 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 10:23 PM

So would I solve the problem of the guys possibly steeling from me?


Without a contract, it's a mess but it's probably containing joint copyright. If what John Doe did is pretty distinguishable from the rest of the work made by all the other team mates (so that it's not confusing what belongs to whom), and he's only selling or using his work in other projects; then he did not steal anything from you. He's just using what is rightfully his.

In fact, if you try to use what he did for you in other projects (and in some cases, even in this project you're working on) without his consent, you are actually stealing from him.

2. What problems will arise from the other team members being in other countries?


Depends a lot over the countries involved. The contract should establish when there's a dispute which courts will be used to resolve it. Though, chances of enforcing it is pretty slim unless someone got really lucky and made a lot of money out of it. And the country he lives in has to have a decent civil court system.
Also, it depends whether the relationship nature is that of an employment relationship (a living nightmare in many countries for an indie company), a partnership, or as an outsource contractor.


Ok well at the beginning of development I made the other programmer I am working with electronically sign (He just typed his name in an email as signing) that everything he coded/programmed belonged to TheTechTouch. This programmer lives in Norway. Does that mean anything?

#7 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10179

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 10:45 PM

Also I am only 15, will this be a problem?[/size][/font]

Yes. You need a parent to execute your signature on contracts. You are a minor.

Since you're a minor, trying to start an international business venture is chock full of challenges, and you need some knowledgeable help. The SBA could probably help answer your questions, but you should take a parent along with you.
-- 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.

#8 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 11:24 PM

Also I am only 15, will this be a problem?[/size][/font]

Yes. You need a parent to execute your signature on contracts. You are a minor.

Since you're a minor, trying to start an international business venture is chock full of challenges, and you need some knowledgeable help. The SBA could probably help answer your questions, but you should take a parent along with you.


Okay thank you for all your help. I will hopefully contact the SBA soon and hopefully they will answer my questions (Should I call them or just browse through their site or visit their office?). Should I do anything in the mean time? Such as getting together some Collaboration Agreements and NDA contracts?

#9 rip-off   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8764

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:30 AM

It sounds like you already have a lot of work done. At this stage, it really isn't "your" game anymore, it is now a group effort. I'd suggest you talk to your team before taking any non-advisory steps. By all means, gather as much advice as you can first, so you know where you stand. But I would recommend against coming to your team with a bunch of legal agreements you expect them to sign.

First dredge up any emails, recruitment posts, etc; that might indicate what the team members were and were not promised when they were signed up, and what expectations they would have had of ownership. This would give you a good basis from where to continue and might allow you to claim some form of digital equivalent of an "oral contract" which could help you assert the rights you think you are entitled to*.

Combine the above with the rough amount of time and experience each person has contributed. Experience is an important factor - e.g. it would take a good website designer far less time to create a good website than a poor one.

Try to come up with a scheme that reflects both what had been implicitly agreed with the this time/experience ratio. I imagine you'll have to compromise on some form of shared ownership*. The compromise should be fair - trying to unilaterally impose Collaboration Agreements and NDAs midway through a project probably won't be seen in a good light otherwise.

Remember, until you have some kind of contract these people own their work*. If you antagonize them such that your team falls apart you won't be able to use their work*.

*I am not a lawyer.

#10 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:40 AM

It sounds like you already have a lot of work done. At this stage, it really isn't "your" game anymore, it is now a group effort. I'd suggest you talk to your team before taking any non-advisory steps. By all means, gather as much advice as you can first, so you know where you stand. But I would recommend against coming to your team with a bunch of legal agreements you expect them to sign.

First dredge up any emails, recruitment posts, etc; that might indicate what the team members were and were not promised when they were signed up, and what expectations they would have had of ownership. This would give you a good basis from where to continue and might allow you to claim some form of digital equivalent of an "oral contract" which could help you assert the rights you think you are entitled to*.

Combine the above with the rough amount of time and experience each person has contributed. Experience is an important factor - e.g. it would take a good website designer far less time to create a good website than a poor one.

Try to come up with a scheme that reflects both what had been implicitly agreed with the this time/experience ratio. I imagine you'll have to compromise on some form of shared ownership*. The compromise should be fair - trying to unilaterally impose Collaboration Agreements and NDAs midway through a project probably won't be seen in a good light otherwise.

Remember, until you have some kind of contract these people own their work*. If you antagonize them such that your team falls apart you won't be able to use their work*.

*I am not a lawyer.


Okay thank you very much for you reply. I think I appointed a guy as co-owner of this company at one point but I mean do I have to live up to that since it was just a team at that point? Also I promised that I would give them a certain percent of the money when the game sold. Also I was planning on giving them a certain percent of ownership for each product so that they would receive that percent of the payment for that product. Would that be a good idea for a contract?

#11 rip-off   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8764

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:48 AM

I think I appointed a guy as co-owner of this company at one point but I mean do I have to live up to that since it was just a team at that point?

Well it sounds like no company currently exists, but yes I believe you should honour such a commitment if you gave it. Whether you are obliged to is a legal question I cannot answer, but socially you're going to have trouble if you renege on such agreements. If you want them to sign a legal agreement now, you'll probably have to include these promises.

Also I promised that I would give them a certain percent of the money when the game sold.

Again, I would recommend including that in any contract you want them to sign.

Also I was planning on giving them a certain percent of ownership for each product so that they would receive that percent of the payment for that product.

Are they aware of this plan? How many products do you currently have? What do you mean by "ownership of each product", do you mean IP rights? How does this plan differ from the royalties that you promised in the previous sentence?

#12 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10179

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:02 AM

It is probably too late to go back and try to establish ownership and protections after the fact. Talk to some knowledgeable adults, face to face, with a parent present.
-- 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.

#13 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:54 PM

Are they aware of this plan? How many products do you currently have? What do you mean by "ownership of each product", do you mean IP rights? How does this plan differ from the royalties that you promised in the previous sentence?


1. They are aware of this plan. We currently are working on the first product. By ownership I kinda meant the same thing as the royalties promised.

#14 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 07:55 PM

It is probably too late to go back and try to establish ownership and protections after the fact. Talk to some knowledgeable adults, face to face, with a parent present.


Okay thank you, I will try and do just that. But I have a question, if I can get them to sign a contract that says that the whole game belongs to me and they will recieve a royalty from the sales does that mean its not too late to go back? Because I do believe that they will sign that.

#15 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10179

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:38 PM

if I can get them to sign a contract that says that the whole game belongs to me and they will recieve a royalty from the sales does that mean its not too late to go back? Because I do believe that they will sign that.

If they sign it, then you can forget I said it might be too late to expect them to sign it, because, well, because they signed it.
-- 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.

#16 Riztro   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:41 PM

if I can get them to sign a contract that says that the whole game belongs to me and they will recieve a royalty from the sales does that mean its not too late to go back? Because I do believe that they will sign that.

If they sign it, then you can forget I said it might be too late to expect them to sign it, because, well, because they signed it.


Alright cool. Now what is the best template contract you think I should use?

#17 freddyscoming4you   Members   -  Reputation: 112

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 08:00 AM


if I can get them to sign a contract that says that the whole game belongs to me and they will recieve a royalty from the sales does that mean its not too late to go back? Because I do believe that they will sign that.

If they sign it, then you can forget I said it might be too late to expect them to sign it, because, well, because they signed it.


Alright cool. Now what is the best template contract you think I should use?


I prefer contracts that use verbiage similar to "I'm in your codes stealin' your rights."

#18 freddyscoming4you   Members   -  Reputation: 112

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 12:48 PM

I seriously got negged for that? Wow... someone needs to lighten up.

*preps for another neg on this post. weeeee*

#19 Konidias   Members   -  Reputation: 214

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 04:33 PM

This sounds awfully shady... I mean if the team all helped to make the game and there wasn't any clear ownership of anything in place from the start, then there is no reason to say you own the game and everything having to do with it. You didn't make the website or program everything, so why should you own it without any contracts stating this?

It seems like you want to handle all the money and give out what *you* think is fair compensation... Kind of like "80% for me, 10% for each of you..." In my opinion you should all split the profits equally.

If it was always your intention to handle the money and paying your "employees" then this should have been negotiated and agreed on right at the start. Doing it later just seems like you're trying to deprive them of proper compensation.

Especially the part where you said you made one guy co-owner at one point... well then yeah obviously that guy should get a say in the money matters.

edit: also how do you even give negative/thumbs down on a post? All I ever see is "like this"
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#20 cstony   Members   -  Reputation: 436

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 05:17 PM

I seriously got negged for that? Wow... someone needs to lighten up.

*preps for another neg on this post. weeeee*


OFF TOPIC How do you even give a neg vote now? I didn't think it was possible. I thought we adopted the 'like' culture.

ON TOPIC I'm not involved in your project and dont know the finer details. However, as an outsider, it feels like you are trying to screwing your colleagues over somewhat. It looks like you have outsourced the work you couldn't undertake yourself and now you want to reap the majority of the benefits and pass on as little as possible to the other contributers. I don't mean to sound like an ass but I think everyone should be fairly compensated. You don't mention any percentages so could I be completely off the mark but saying "I want to make sure that when I sell this game, all the profits will go to me, then I will pay my 'team' according to their effort" sounds like you will be taking the vast majority. I think you should show more respect to the rest of the team and hopefully you will work on more projects in the future :)

I must also add, congrats on taking a project this far though :)




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