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Rybis

Situation - How To Solve?

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This situation is purely hypothetical, but I'd like to know what would happen at the end: I set up a team online, and we begin work on a game. The game gets pretty popular and sets up a small fan base ect. A few years later, the team has disbanded on good terms purely because they are now all in their own different career paths. I, the leader of the original team, now own a real commercial studio. And want to make a sequel to the game, can I? Since I designed it and was the leader of the team, is it me who owns the copyrights to it?

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Depends on the legal status of the original team, on any possible transferrals of copyright ownership from yourself to the team as a whole during the conception of the game, and on any possible transferrals of copyright ownership from the team to its members upon its disbanding.

Depending on the actual legal details of the above, a court could rule that you merely provided the team with a license to your copyright, which expired when the team broke up, or that your copyright was transferred to the team and then transferred back to yourself upon breakup, or that you transferred it to the team and it was then shared equally among all team members in the end...

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Could I ask all members to agree that I keep copyrights. But then how would this be proved? I don't want to have to pay to get official contracts written up or anything.

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The team cannot use your IP unless you allow it to, through either written or implied permission. If you allowed the team to use your IP, but there is no written permission, then it will be implied that you gave your de facto authorization for the usage, and the main question will be of whether you transferred your rights or merely licensed the use of your IP. If the deal ends up in court, you can't be certain of which will be chosen by the judge, as for all oral agreements.

If you give written permission to the team to use your IP under license (and have them sign the license agreement, as is expected in normal business practice), then you will both clarify your intent towards the team and have a written document to rely on if trouble arises.

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Ryb., there have been many other discussions here about ownership of IP in indie/amateur/hobby game projects. Recommend you read those. But the main point is always: hire a lawyer to write a good collaboration contract.

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Quote:
Original post by Rybis
I don't want to have to pay to get official contracts written up or anything.

If you can't afford a lawyer, you can't afford to enter into this kind of collaboration.

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> This situation is purely hypothetical
> And want to make a sequel to the game, can I?

Ah. A "Can I" vs "Should I" situation. Here's my personal take on those:

"Can I?". That's a purely risk versus reward decision. You *CAN* rip off your friends. But there could be legal, personal, and long-term business consequences in doing so.

"Should I?". That's an ethical decision. It's about mutual trust, long-term business relationships, and reputation.


The puzzling thing here is that you seemed to be already leaning towards a "Can I" scenario and trying to estimate the amount of damage you'd likely get. How about a "Should I" approach for once? Why not talk to your former friends to explain the situation and getting their approval? And as Tom pointed out, why not have a formal contract in the first place?

-cb

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Quote:
Original post by Rybis
I set up a team online, and we begin work on a game.
an actual legally registered company or just a group people working together for fun?

Quote:
I, the leader of the original team, now own a real commercial studio. And want to make a sequel to the game, can I?
No, not unless you plan for it right at the begining.

Quote:
Since I designed it and was the leader of the team, is it me who owns the copyrights to it?
No. You own the copyright on your work but the rest of the team own the copyright on their work. The copyright for the completed game would be owned by the whole team and it would be virtually impossible to work out who owned how much or which parts unless you took legal steps to define the relationship before even starting the game.

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Could I ask all members to agree that I keep copyrights.
You could but why should they agree? Why should you benefit from their hard work?

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But then how would this be proved?
You would need an assignment of rights agreement drawn up by a lawyer... assuming that the team will agree to sign it. Such an agreement will cost money.

Quote:
I don't want to have to pay to get official contracts written up or anything.
I thought you said in your first post that this was a hypothetical question.

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My solution to your hypothetical is: negotiate a contract with the original team members for royalties on the sequel but they sign over their original work/copyright to you. That way, you can be on the right side of law, AND ethics.

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Quote:
Original post by Obscure
Quote:
Original post by Rybis
I set up a team online, and we begin work on a game.
an actual legally registered company or just a group people working together for fun?


As in online just for fun - as if I made a team now on GameDev with strangers over the internet.

What if, in the future when making my sequel, I could arrange to buy them out for their "share" of the copyright.

And for those saying "i thought it was hypothetical" - it might be true if I go through with plans

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