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Which contract for whom?

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Hi all, As my team has grown into the double digits, I'm now figuring out the contract and copyright/IP issues. However, I have a couple questions that you all can help me with. Here is my situation: The engine we are using for my project is composed of different LGPL'd components (OGRE3D, openAL, OPAL, ODE). The programmer who this engine belongs to has said he'd have no problem with the engine being open-source, he has no copyright worries (ie, no plans to make money from licensing it or whatnot). Probably he will license the engine with LGPL or BSD. Now, obviously, this means even if he were to leave the project, it wouldn't cause any copyright issues, since we can still use the engine. However, my question is about the work of the other programmers. If they leave the team, what happens to their work? Do they need to sign Work for Hire contracts for the LGPL engine? Or if they contribute to a LGPL project are they able to then pull out any work they did once they leave? Second, is my designer. He will be considered an IC. Artists have already agreed to the Work for Hire contract. My question, though, is that if these people are working free-of-charge, as long as they sign the IC contract, it doesn't make a difference towards IP and the contract, correct? Really this programmer issue is what is confusing me. Also, from what I can deduce, engine and gameplay programming is somewhat seperate. How does that work as far as copyright? Should programmers sign a contract that states all engine development assigned to the engine's owner under LGPL, and a contract assigning gameplay code to him (or myself, if I am able to reuse it under a different engine, in case the engine owner were to ever leave)? Would one contract assigning rights to the engine owner be enough? Then what does he do with the gameplay copyright? I'd assume such things aren't usually released open-source. Thanks for any advice/help you can give.

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Hello Pro,
I never heard of the abbreviation "IC" before - I assume this means "independent contractor"?
My recommendation is that you spend the money on a lawyer to advise you. Cost of doing business. See http://www.charnelaw.com/ and http://gameattorney.com/
Good luck sorting it all out,
Tom

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I want to thank you for posting about this, because I just paid a lawyer to draw up IC contracts for the "free" workers in the game company prior to any work being done. We couldn't have the contracts say they work for free, so the payment is "$1, a free player account on the game, and other good and valuable considerations". One of the programmers gave me hell about it (We have 3 programmers, only). "We're all friends, we should trust each other" and so on.

Why did I pay a good lawyer to do up the contracts prior to the work being started? (He's Chris Hoyt of http://www.hoytlawgroup.com, in NYC. Very nice person, too.)

If the game fails, nobody will be fighting over who loses the most. But in the unlikely event of success, we needed it spelled out who gets what, when and that the company owns all rights to the creations, not the creator. Programs and software are, indeed, IP, although they fall under a different category than music. Whatever the programmer programmed is his IP unless there is a contract saying it belongs to your company.

Now, if you want him to own the copyright, then make sure you have a contract with him that says you have the right to use his engine. If not, what happens if, say, in 1 year, Blizzard offered him $20,000 for the sole rights to it, and he says yes? It's a long shot, but the possibility that it could happen is still there.

Better to have a contract.

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To my knowelege the abbrevation of "IC" means Industrial Cooperation but I may be wrong, just for clearification, if you are running this engine and this programmer that owns it leaves, he cannot leave all uncopywrited material if you hired him, once he is hired into your Company and leaves the engine will remain his but under your order seeing as he signed the IC Agreement, If I were you I would force all hired programmers and Designers to sign the agreement so you don't get screwed over. I hope I clearified your problem.

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IC means Independent Contractor. Sorry for the confusion.
I don't expect, or want, him to sign over his engine to me... really I have no buisness owning it. Also, don't use the word 'hire,' since he's not an employee.

What I'm going to work out with him this week, is he will get Work-for-Hire agreements from all programmers, assigning their work to his ownership, then I will sign a licensing agreement for his software. Does this sound reasonable? (thanks to ellis btw for inspiring that idea).

But how does gameplay programming factor into this? Is that technically considered part of the engine? I guess I could just incorporate it into the license?

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Unless you're going to be giving away everything for free, I heavily heavily suggest you get in touch with a lawyer who specializes in Intellectual Property. Yes, it costs money, but the lawyer would have the exact answers.

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Quote:
Original post by Professor420
What I'm going to work out with him this week, is he will get Work-for-Hire agreements from all programmers, assigning their work to his ownership, then I will sign a licensing agreement for his software. Does this sound reasonable? (thanks to ellis btw for inspiring that idea).
Yes this sounds fine. The IP ownership is resolved with it all being in one place and you have a license to use it.

Quote:
But how does gameplay programming factor into this? Is that technically considered part of the engine? I guess I could just incorporate it into the license?
Just license the whole game regardless of engine or gameplay. However you need to ensure the actual game IP (your idea) belongs to you and is separate from the engine IP.

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