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putting a license on a document

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Does it make any sense to put a little license at the start of a document? something that might look a little something like this? "By reading the following document you agree to the following: You may not copy this document in part or in whole at all in any given form or place. You may only read this document to get an understanding of how this particular engine will be developed. You may not reproduce this document in any given form or place. You may not redistribute this document in any given form or place. This document is copyright © software company. If you do not agree to the terms and conditions mentioned above, then close this document immediately and delete it and anything related to it from your hard-drive. If this document was received on a disk then you must destroy the disk without copying any part of it anywhere else." or something to that effect. Ive never actually seen something like this, and i dont know that much about the legal aspect of things.

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1. Documents are automatically protected under copyright law, which prevents people from doing (most of) the things you have listed. For that reason there is no point in including such a license. Most people do put "copyright © [date] software company - all rights reserved" but this isn't actually necessary.

2. Such a license is a contract and contracts are not binding unless both parties agree. You are proposing a contract that says:
i. You must agree to certain terms and conditions
ii. If you don't agree then delete the document

The problem is that if they don't accept the license then none of its clauses are binding and that includes the clause telling them to delete the document. That is why software has an "AGREE" button as this is seen to be the user accepting and thus being bound by the terms of the contract. - If you could put a pop up agree button on your doc it might have some value.

3. The prefered way to secure a document would be to get the person to sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to you giving them the document. Oh and don't send it to people unless they really need to see it.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions
Game Development & Design consultant

[edited by - obscure on August 15, 2003 2:41:41 PM]

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> Does it make any sense to put a little license at the start of a document?

Anybody can tear up the page and claim they never got it, or take it out with the help of a photocopier. It would be better to have a watermark across each page (light grey) that would state something like "Confidential Document. Private communication between GameDevX and ProducerY." to somewhat limit distribution. Most if not all word processing systems can do this. If you need to distribute it in electronic form, use Acrobat and turn on all the security protections you can. As stated above, anything that sounds like a binding agreement needs careful treatment.

> get the person to sign a non-disclosure agreement

That's the best as it offers maximum protection, but most producers (and VCs and bankers) won't sign them for a good reason. Given the sheer number of propositions, informal discussions, magazine articles and press releases they get every day, they won't remember where that super idea of yours came from a week from now. Also, they make money by staying on top of the market and by being an information hub for their game dev portfolio, so they do talk a _lot_ in a day and they risk leaking information all the time. Managing thousands of NDAs is just too much for anyone's brains; it's more effective time- and money-wise to concentrate on the game portfolio contracts they already have, and that's plenty enough.

-cb

[edited by - cbenoi1 on August 15, 2003 8:36:15 PM]

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thanks for the advice and your suggestions. I like the watermark thing dont know why.

I guess ill just go with a the nda thingy. Or I can make s really quick program that asks the user to agree and then opens up the document for the user if s/he agreed.

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quote:
Original post by IFooBar
Does it make any sense to put a little license at the start of a document? something that might look a little something like this?


"By reading the following document you agree to the following: You may not copy this document in part or in whole at all in any given form or place. You may only read this document to get an understanding of how this particular engine will be developed. You may not reproduce this document in any given form or place. You may not redistribute this document in any given form or place. This document is copyright © software company. If you do not agree to the terms and conditions mentioned above, then close this document immediately and delete it and anything related to it from your hard-drive. If this document was received on a disk then you must destroy the disk without copying any part of it anywhere else."


or something to that effect. Ive never actually seen something like this, and i dont know that much about the legal aspect of things.



Well, what you are talking about is terms of use. Naturally, you want to consult a licensed and qualified attorney for your legal needs, but I can talk about my experiences professionally with these matters.

Obscure was technically correct with his statment that documents are automatically protected once created, but don''t rely on that absolutely. Mark your documents with a clear and recognizeable copyright claim, easily noticed at the beginning of the document. Also, the watermark idea is a good one also, as it is a method of proving originality. I would never trust automatic ICC protections solely, for the reasons cbenoi1 cited. He is further prudently advising you with respect to the NDA. In a world who''s economy is becoming more and more dependent on Intellectual Propery, your NDA is your friend.

Agreements, no matter how well written, are only as trustworthy as the person(s) signing them.

Obsure may not be correct in that a license exists when you do this, and that both parties have to agree for it to be enforceable. What actually exists is an enforceable *claim* which you have done due diligence and resonable care measure to protect the rights inherent in the creation of a copyrightable work, such as a document or digital file of some type.

If you have an enforceable copyright claim well protected, violations of those rights are enforceable by tort claim processes. "tort". I wonder if it is derived from "torture"?

Licensing, however, exists later on in the dealmaking process when somebody agrees to buy the rights to your IP for the purposes of development or marketing for profit in enterprise.

You are not yet to that stage in the process, you are in the show around, pass around stage where you are trying to generate interest in your work where later a licensing agreement may be entered into, and then terms and conditions will apply. What you do up front is state basically that you are reserving all rights that are naturally yours as a result of having been the creator and originator of the idea, and that the person reviewing said idea(s) recognizes that you retain all rights now, but that later in the future, you as the sole owner may choose to enter into an agreement to sell some of them.

So, in effect, you are not proposing a contract, you are clarifying recognition of rights you own. Two different things, so let''s not put the cart before the horse, shall we?

Dan does hit on probably the savviest point that could be made about this issue and it''s related issues when he says, "Oh and don''t send it to people unless they really need to see it."

What he is referring to here is the most important business skill one can have, imho, in the intellectual property business, and with his indication of this important aspect, I will expand on his suggestion.

What I am talking about is "qualifying interest" and it is probably the one area that an artist has been the most exploited over across time.

Not everybody needs to know what you are developing. In fact, in this business, there aren''t that many people who can outright buy your game, so other than in general terms, don''t tell anybody about what you are devving at any time, except in the most general terms, unless they are in this business and actively looking to license or purchase titles or any other content or code or artwork.

Artist, devvers and others shoot themselves in the foot all the time by being so fired up on what they''ve created,. they blab it all over, and frankly dilute their copyright protection for themselves. If you do this, and I have done it myself, you practically deserve to be ripped off for not keepin your mouth shut, and only telling people who are in a position to pay for your data.

Even then, they should only be told unless they recognize your rights in advance in writing, and explicity understand that at that point in the process, no offers are being made, nor are any rights conferred.

Adventuredesign


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> tort claim processes. "tort". I wonder if it is derived from "torture"?

Could be the french word meaning ''prejudice'' or a slang for ''tortuous''. In any case it makes lawyers look more savvy ... |8-}

-cb

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woah. Hadnt realized more people answered this post until today. Tis good that I get bored sometimes and decide to check out all the forums in turn

adventuredesign: Thanks for that. You clarified a lot of things. That and the new article on the main page has really cleared things up for me.

Ill work on keeping my mouth shut Although I must admit, it is indeed tough to keep my mouth shut when it comes to deving.

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