Sign in to follow this  

Advice on not getting ripped off..

This topic is 4839 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

I'm a pixel artist who's been asked to work with a programmer on another continent on a mobile phone game.. At present the game is about 45-55% complete and we are looking to get a fully completed build up and running before the end of october so that we can start looking for a publsher for the game.. The problem is i'm concerned about how everything is going to pan out from here as the fear of being ripped off (not only by a publisher but by my fellow developer) roams in the back of my mind.. At present i'm working on all the artwork for the title and my collegue is doing all the coding so all the work put into the game has been passed back and forth across the internet.. The problem with this is i have no garantee that my collegue (who i had no previous experience working with but i have got to know him very well and he seems legitimate enough) won't just, once the game is done, run away with it on his own and claim that it was all his work (he doesn't seem that type of person but you never know i guess, the tempation maybe too great).. Also even if we do find a developer i fear that they may just take advantage of our inexperience and cheat us out of potential profit (if any, i kno mobile phone games don't pay too well but i do believe that they pay something at least depending on the quality of the title..).. I just need to know if there is any precautions i can take to protect myself and the work that i have produced (i.e. making sure it is known that the work is mine and no-one elses)in this situation and also if there is anything i can do to make sure that i wont get done over by both my collegue or the publisher we draw contract with..?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
don't want to scare you, but please read the business side of things FAQs and other sections, (might have to trawl around this site a bit). There's are sections about "lessons learnt" etc From what I can remember off my head

1. Verbal contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on.
2. Get everything in writing and agreed with the company you're working for - not just with the programmer. If this programmer leaves the company then you're left with nothing - his successor or the company won't know anything about any agreements you've had and are unlikely to agree with anything you claim had been agreed before.
3. Do you have the game code yourself ? I mean if you're supplying art and don't know how it's being used then I can't see how you can discuss much with the company concerned if they turn unhelpful. If however, they give you all the code and build files then I can't see you've got much to worry about.
If they get nasty you can hack around in the code and do your own version.

3a. agree with him as to who owns what part of the game so that if nothing comes of it then you own or have a part of the code/game/art that you can use again.

4. If you have the .exe then you can make sure your name is on it.

5. Agree now in writing with him your share of the royalties.
How many people are on the game/who's done most of the design/who'd spent the most time and money.
If you agree you've done 20% of the effort then agree in writing 20% of the royalties. If he's the good guy he sounds like then he won't mind doing this. BTW - he probably sounds really nice as he's delighted he's got someone doing lots of work for free !! I think anyone would be happy and pleasant working with someone like you - even out and out criminals !
6. contract - written in English law (USA uses that as well as the UK)
7. Find out what royalties he'll be getting - if he's going for say x% of the sale price then make sure you get (x/5)% if you agree that you're getting 20%.

8. even he's a good guy - agree in writing the contract.
If he's a good guy he won't mind. Get a lawyer to do a once over. You can probably download the contracts off theweb for free nowadays. Get him to sign it - get a lawyer tomake sure he is who he says he is. One hour with a lawyermay cost about $150 - but may be worth it in the end. If you can't afford the lawyer then just get him to sign the contract with royaltie and ownership of code/art agreed,

eg, you want 20%, ownership of the art you've done, re-usage of the code, + anything else that you want/need


At this moment in time there's nothing to worry about - so nicely suggest a written contract (fax AND send copies to each other as email isn't accepted in law).
There's no need for threats or insults - just suggestion and discussion, agree on percentages.

cheers








Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1. Talk to a lawyer/solicitor about them holding a notorised copy of the work as proof.
2. Don't post yourself a copy of your work in an envelop - that is an urban myth and doesn't provide any proof.
3. Get a contract with your co-developer stating who owns the IP in the code/graphics, who gets what % of any money paid for the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Basically there's two of us working together on the project and because all the design work we are doing together (its just the artwork handled by myself and the coede by my collegue..) we decided that all profits made by the game would be split 50/50.. Also i do have copies of all the game builds and code done so far so at least thats a good thing..

So you agree that the best thing to do at this point would be to agree with my colleuge to draw up a contract stating ownership rights, agree'd profit distribution etc.. Ok thats good, i'm sure that my collegue would agree that this is the best COA..

Just a few points though.. in terms of paying for a lawyer myself? i'm a student at the moment so i don't quite think that that is a financially viable idea for me (unfortunately).. Also i don't have a fax machine so would it be acceptable by law to airmail copies of the contract backwards and forwards to each other? Also you said that i could probably find a contract to download somewhere on the net? do you know where i may be able to find one?

Thnks for the help people! Keep it coming! =]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I do not know where you are located, or if the law is the same there as where I live. But you might not need a lawyer to write up the contract. I'm not saying I wouldn't get a contract.

Also, you might want to consider hiring an agent to represent your parties interests to game publishers, companies for advertisements, etc. etc. I have heard that some lawyers have incorporated business for a stake in the company. This might be benifital to both of you, as it would give you more time do what you want to do. I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, just something to look into.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
Advice:
- you're supplying the art. Put a message in each image, along the lines of "SAMPLE: my@myemail.com". This includes all textures etc. This will show up in the demo, but not prevent people for seeing the quality for what it is. It is a VERY good way of ensuring nothing can be done with the game without your co-operation "I'll supply the originals, un water-marked, as soon as I get a copy of the contract from the publisher".

- Verbal contracts are legally binding. The only problem is that you may have difficulty persuading anyone it took place; however, if it seems sensible that it did take place, then you may succeed in prosecuting it. If someone is trying to fob you off with "we never had a paper contract" it may be enough to point out to them that they should ask their lawyer. The response they will get will be along the lines of "don't risk this: it could go either way; settle".

- Paper records are an effortless way of sidestepping that whole proof process. Do them for massive convenience. Keep a copy of everything you ever send, and write down everything you ever say. Even send a copy of everything to the other person (you don't have to get them to sign it or anything - just being able to say in court "here's an email I sent on XXX saying YYY" is valuable to help persuade the court that you probably aren't lying).

- even if you have no proof, and the programmer sells out to a publisher, and the publisher tries to fob you off with "never heard of you. Go away", you still have plenty of room for manoeuvre. Cases are frequently won in this situation where the testimony suggests that the complaint is genuine (e.g. if the programmer clearly wasn't a capable artist, and you have higher-quality original files on your hard disk and/or early work-in-progress images, and the programmer cannot produce a contract demonstrating that he did NOT rip off your graphics).

- Of course, most of the time going to court is not the issue; what matters is convincing the other party that going to court will cost them money and has only a poor chance of their winning, so that instead they negotiate with you.

- If your partner has ever taken anyone to court before, be very cautious. Litigious individuals in this field are generally to be treated with suspicion, since they are both rare and (generally) uncompromising fools (smart people don't usually go to court, they settle instead because it's cheaper). Of *course* they may have had no choice - but it's a warning sign.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
Re: writing the contract.

Don't even consider using a lawyer. For something like this they are a complete waste of time (considering you are a student), but most will prefer to hide this fact and take your money than be honest (yes, they are on the whole greedy ****).

Your written contract is not a magic thing: it is merely a piece of paper with a date on it that IF you were to go to court, the court is likely to look at and say "hey, if they agreed on that back then, then [person who ripped you off] needs to have some pretty strong proof that it was ever changed".

It is sufficient to merely layout a brief list of what you agreed verbally. It is totally unnecessary to use "legalese". Most lawyers will tell you this is critically importnat: they are lieing. It is helpful to have legalese, but it is not by any means critical. Most lawyers (especially the more expensive and less experienced ones) are obsessed with covering every possibility so that it is *impossible* to go to court because no stone has been left unturned.

But, as I said, you don't want to go to court anyway; you only really want enough (in YOUR situation) to make it obvious that anyone trying to screw you would have to work pretty damn hard to get away with it. You want to do minimal effort and spend no money to achieve this.

Of course, if you are a studio of 10 people signing a multi-million dollar deal with EA (who will have a dedicated legal team who can afford to take you to court "just for the practice" or "because we're a bit bored" ;)) then it's a different situation entirely; you cannot afford to go to court, and to them it's almost free, so you really do want a contract that makes it damned hard to go to court over.

The big secret of the legal profession is that most day-to-day stuff (especially between individuals) doesn't require lawyers at all. But they don't tell you that, because that would massively reduce their outrageous profits.

If you ever find a lawyer who advises you to spend less, and get shorter documents, hang on to him. They're like gold-dust - only more valuable.

Disclaimer: IANAL, although I have done a lot of work on legal contracts, with a variety of law firms, both on the big side (at IBM) and on the small side (at startups).

Finally: in the UK, a solicitor firm sells a CD of standard contracts where you can fill in the blanks. This costs around £40. You *need* an up-to-date version, because laws change every few years. But, if you can find a current version with contracts that cover your situation, it's a better than just DIY (it contains useful legalese) but less expensive and confusing than a lawyer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
From the situation you describe, the guy you are working with is taking a risk as well. If you create something, you own it until someone pays you for it or gets you to sign away your rights to it. He could be in a position of having to prove he didn't promise you much more than he did, which is hard with a verbal agreement. So he is at risk too.

The main thing is that these things are almost never worth the cost of lawyer's fees. See if you can find a standard contract that covers both parties. Anything written and signed is better than a verbal agreement.

Keep in mind that the main thing that keeps people from being ripped off in the game industry (and this is much more true of big developers/ big contractors actually) is that if you have any success the guy is going to want to work with you again. What usually keeps people from getting burned is the benefit of cooperation.

I hope you both do well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good points made here,

Quote:
Finally: in the UK, a solicitor firm sells a CD of standard contracts where you can fill in the blanks. This costs around £40. You *need* an up-to-date version, because laws change every few years. But, if you can find a current version with contracts that cover your situation, it's a better than just DIY (it contains useful legalese) but less expensive and confusing than a lawyer.


I'll look into this as i currently reside in the uk so thats useful (my collegue lives in Texas in the USA by the way..)
Do you know any the details of a solicitor that offers these contracts?

Quote:
Keep in mind that the main thing that keeps people from being ripped off in the game industry (and this is much more true of big developers/ big contractors actually) is that if you have any success the guy is going to want to work with you again. What usually keeps people from getting burned is the benefit of cooperation.


We've already discussed briefly on the topic of working together on future titles provided this one is a success so i guess thats another incentive for my my collegue to refrain himself from ripping me off..

Quote:
Paper records are an effortless way of sidestepping that whole proof process. Do them for massive convenience. Keep a copy of everything you ever send, and write down everything you ever say. Even send a copy of everything to the other person (you don't have to get them to sign it or anything - just being able to say in court "here's an email I sent on XXX saying YYY" is valuable to help persuade the court that you probably aren't lying).


Thats a good point.. also the fact that our communication throughout the duration of this project has been by email and msn messager means that its not difficult to hold onto copies of everything we have said or decided.. thanks for that one..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Some form of written contract sounds good. Nothing fancy, but you need to take time over it together if you make your own. I don't know what kind of contract you need, but WHSmiths apparently sell things like rent contracts for you to fill in!

Since there's just the 2 of you, don't try to make it 100% rock-solid, the idea is that he won't risk it having signed and with no legal experience. If he's happy to sign you needn't worry I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
This should be sticked.

That's why I'm taking business law class. So I can write my own contracts. May take business law 2. But we'll see, not that I want to go to law school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by ArchangelMorph
Good points made here,

Quote:
Finally: in the UK, a solicitor firm sells a CD of standard contracts where you can fill in the blanks. This costs around £40.


I'll look into this as i currently reside in the uk so thats useful (my collegue lives in Texas in the USA by the way..)
Do you know any the details of a solicitor that offers these contracts?


Sorry, I can't remember (although I have an old copy myself lying around somewhere!). Um...I *think* the one I have *might* be called "PlanIT" or something like that? It was produced by a bona fide UK solicitor - don't accept anything that doesn't have a real solicitors firm behind it!

I used it on recommendation from a friend who was co-director of a large, rich, and famous IT software company, and who by that point already had in-house lawyers IIRC. But he still liked the convenience of being able to draw up small contracts super-fast on occasion.

Anyway, since then, I've seen others. So you should be able to find at least one. Um. There's also some solicitors who do the same thing in paperback format (so you actually have to type in the contracts yourself. Yuk.)..but it might be worht a look if you cant find the CD version.

redmilamber

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic is 4839 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this