Posted 26 July 2014 - 01:27 AM
Assuming US law, there are several steps. Several of them are covered in the forum FAQ (go read) .
The most critical one is to get ownership rights figured out. This can be done through a collaboration agreement, rights assignment, or several other means. Read the FAQ for those.
Basically if there is not a single point of ownership then you need consent from every person for every decision. That gets very hard when somebody moves away or becomes inaccessible or unexpectedly dies or whatever. You will want to transfer the rights to either the project owner or to the business, which brings us to ...
The second critical one is to establish yourself as a business within your state and make sure the state gets their money. Government is serious about this one.
Depending on your age, either you or your parents need to file some paperwork and pay a small fee. One options is called a DBA license, or "Doing Business As" license, where the business name is just directly associated with a person. It can be pretty nasty when it comes time for taxes, so once you hit a pretty low threshold it is better to file as some form of corporation. Other options include LLC and S Corporations where the taxes and costs go to a business but are filed as an individual, or the less popular C corporation that requires more paperwork and often a higher fee. Fees vary by location and type of designation you want. A simple DBA around here is just $6 per year. In some states a C corporation is several hundred dollars. Often there will be both city and state taxes involved.
Establishing a legal business entity is very important. Governments get really angry when you don't pay taxes properly, with consequences that include jail time. They also get angry if they think your little collaboration is actually a business and people are actually employees, since the state usually gets a kickback for things like unemployment insurance and tax payments based on the number of employees you have.
You and your parents and probably the parents of a few others in your group should probably all get together and discuss it if you are serious about releasing it to the public. It takes some time and a little bit of money to file the forms. Often it is good to have a lawyer help look over the forms. But once everything is put together properly, you (the kids) and all of your parents can rest a little easier knowing everything is taken care of and they won't have the IRS knocking on their door.
With those in place, you can proceed to do quite a lot of things. You can register the domain name under the name of the business and the business owner. You can set up your web hosting, set up bank accounts, set up all the other things you will need. In each case be careful that they are named under the business. At that point, if your state approves the business name you are in business. Most people want to have a web site that matches the name, so be careful about your research for that, too.