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I'm puzzled about this, need some help

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I asked a question on here before about game companies having to pay taxes and if they do or don't need a lawyer before they start a game company. I got a lot of reponses back and it got a little complex. But my question now is, would we need to be registered development team and have a game lawyer if we wanted to make a game that will be free of charge? Something that anyone can download and play as much as they want? Would that require all of the legal paperwork too? Thanks.

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Hi Doub, you asked:

>would we need to be registered development team and have a game lawyer if we wanted to make a game that will be free of charge? Something that anyone can download and play as much as they want? Would that require all of the legal paperwork too?

You still take a legal risk - it's possible somebody might say that you used their intellectual property, or some member of the team might revolt and take some sort of legal action. Especially if some company comes along and offers to buy or license your game from you if it becomes popular.

But hey, if you can't afford lawyers, maybe you're not ready to enter the world of content creation yet. Then again, what's the saying: better learn how to swim if you're gettin' in the water with sharks - or is it don't do the crime if you can't do the time. I guess what I'm not saying very well is that without first having all your ducks in a row, you could well get shot by Elmer Fudd. [Sigh, this parable thing just ain't workin' for me today.]

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How about this one, without parables:

There is no such thing as zero risk in business. Anybody can sue anybody else for pretty much anything. Civil suits don't get free lawyers assigned to them, so you need to pay for it yourself. But since you have almost no value, you are such a tiny target that they wouldn't bother to sue you.


So you need to manage the risk.


You can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk by incorporating, keeping everything belonging to the corporation, and being very careful to keep separate assets. Sure there are ways around the corporate veil, but it does reduce the risk a little.

The biggest advantage you have is being a nobody with no real assets. What would be the point of suing you?

About the most they'd be able to do is shut your project down. That means that a court would have to agree with them. If you could convince the judge it was a lawsuit without merit or out of spite, then they'd quite likely make your accuser pay all your legal bills. If instead the judge agreed with them and you lost, they might be able to get additional damages, but then they'll have to try to collect them, and since you don't have much personal assets, and since they can't collect assets (such as garnished wages) so much that it would harm you, they really can't collect all that much.


Tiny but non-zero chance is about the best you can get. There is also a non-zero chance that the Earth was created as an experiment so that two mice could find the question behind the answer of 42. [smile]

Just spend the two hundred or so bucks talking to a lawyer. In the grand scheme of things it isn't much money. It will make you sleep better at night, so it is worth the money.

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One thing you might want to look into is a disclaimer - if you're providing a product (even free) and it damages in any way the person you provide it to, they can potentially sue you.

You need to be aware that should people use your software it is at their own risk - you'll see the sort of thing on source CDs in coding books - basically its just to cover your ass. But as has been mentioned, because you're such a poor target for legal action, the chances of actually having to rely on it is slim.

I don't think you'll need legal help to find an appropriate disclaimer you can use as an example.

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The very short of it, and it's not this simple, but hey:

1) If you are doing business as yourself, you don't need to register with the state. If you will do business as Blah Games, you need to register. If you never intend to make any money as Blah Games, you don't have to register or do any paperwork. But then, neither can you deduct the expenses of your hobby as a freeware developer.

2) As for legal issues of freeware, you have some choices: go to a library/bookstore and look for a book about that very thing. Google every word combination you can think of to see if there's anything you should know. Nolo.com is a great resource if you want to chance being your own lawyer. You can also grab some time from gameattorney.com, and he has a very reasonably priced contract kit, if you do decide to be a business. Definitely look into the Digital Millenium Act (I think that's the name). Get to know what you can and can't do when you're giving away software.

3) There is no such thing as no-risk, even if you're making something free. Odds are, if you're infringing someone, you'll get a cease letter, at which point, you close down whatever you were doing.

4) More research: Go to other freeware sites, like download.com, and check out all the legal stuff and Terms they have there. That'll be along the lines of what you want. You might even want to email other freeware companies to ask if they had to do anything.

You'll probably be all right, doing nothing but putting up a webpage with free games you made from scratch, that aren't of licensed imagery or copyrighted and trademarked things. (Example: Don't make a scrolling version of Star Wars)

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