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dgreb

Aquiring Licence for portraiting copyrighted characters/brands on games

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I'm in need of some advise on what are the usual market standards about licensing the rights to make games using famous but copyrighted material/brands from other media, like movies, tv shows etc. One will have to pay Royalties for that, i know that mutch, but i need some more specific maket information. I'll write a set of 4 questions below, i hope someone could spend some time answering! I'll create an hipotetical situation to make things simpler, let's say i want make a game for for the movie "Terminator" and let's say "HW Studio" owns it's rights. 1 - How such deals are made. I'll have to pay Royalties, that's allright, but i can't just start working the project out without a prior agreement right? What kind of deal is the maket's standard, do i have to pay tons of dollars to "HW Studio" before i start the project? 2 - How can i get to the decision makers? Do i need an insider from ""HW Studio", or there are proper channels. How should i present my game to them, is it smart to use a Game Design Document? 3 - Should i look for them, or should they look for a game studio? What's more normal, a game studio go to "HW Studio" with an idea like "let me make your game", ou "HW Studio" goes to the market saying "make a game to promote-me"? 4 - Well, the Terminator movie has it's story that will be potraited on the game, i'll make 3D Models of the actors, i'll probably use some music, and etc. Should i understant those as different licenses, or a license from "HW Studio" for the movie should more likely give me everything? Any directions on where o could make research is also very welcome! Thanks in Advance! Danilo Greb Santos

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1. Producer contacts IP owner, or IP owner's agent, and they negotiate.

2.a. Find out. Find out who they are and how to contact them.
2.b. Question unclear. HW Studio can sublicense to you? Or HW Studio is the current holder of all game rights in the IP?
2.c. Of course they'll need to see that, but don't hand it over until it's time (until they've agreed to look at it).

3. What? This question makes no sense. You want to contact them, so if you don't, it seems just a tad unlikely that they'd contact you out of the blue. That'd be quite a coincidence, in my book!

4. I have no idea what you are asking.

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> 1 - How such deals are made.

As Tom said. Sit down and negotiate.

> i can't just start working the project out without a prior agreement right?

You can, but you risk of being sued if you sell anything. Besides, what if you DON'T get the license? All that work goes to waste?

> do i have to pay tons of dollars to "HW Studio" before i start the project?

Depends on the IP. Your own IP is free. Anything based on a recent blockbuster movie is either already grabbed by a major publisher or is going to cost you millions if not more.

> or a license from "HW Studio" for the movie should more likely give me everything?

Not sure what you mean here. It sounds as if your IP owner distinguishes the storyline from the characters and the music and you'd need to have separate agreements for each and every piece of copyrighted material.

> How can i get to the decision makers?
> Should i look for them, or should they look for a game studio?

The thing with movie tie-ins is that those things are negotiated a very long time ahead of a movie release. It simply doesn't make much sense to launch a game tie-in three- or four years after the movie has gone to DVD. Hollywood executives have their contacts with their peers at major game publishers. Whenever a new movie project is signed off where video game tie-ins is a possibility, you can bet those executives are having meetings with game publishers.

-cb

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Quote:
Original post by dgreb
1 - How such deals are made. I'll have to pay Royalties, that's allright, but i can't just start working the project out without a prior agreement right? What kind of deal is the maket's standard, do i have to pay tons of dollars to "HW Studio" before i start the project?

You contact the studio to ask if the rights are available. If they are then the studio will tell you how much they cost or ask you how much you are offering. Whatever the price you will most likely have to pay a royalty on every unit. However as part of the deal you will likely have to guarantee a minimum sales number and pay the royalty due on those sales in advance. This is often done part on signing the contract and then the rest when the game is released.

The value of the film license will depend on how new/successful the film is. It could be anything from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions.

Quote:
2 - How can i get to the decision makers? Do i need an insider from ""HW Studio", or there are proper channels. How should i present my game to them, is it smart to use a Game Design Document?

Most major studios have someone responsible for licensing. You phone the studio and ask who that person is. You then talk to that person to ask if the rights are available and if they are ask them what materials they would like you to submit to help them make a decision.
The minimum they will want is a proposal for how much money you are going to pay. They may also want a design document and information on your company and your past track record.

Quote:
3 - Should i look for them, or should they look for a game studio? What's more normal, a game studio go to "HW Studio" with an idea like "let me make your game", ou "HW Studio" goes to the market saying "make a game to promote-me"?

The first one.

Quote:
4 - Well, the Terminator movie has it's story that will be potraited on the game, i'll make 3D Models of the actors, i'll probably use some music, and etc. Should i understant those as different licenses, or a license from "HW Studio" for the movie should more likely give me everything?

It depends entirely on the film. With new films the film studio usually make sure that they get all rights to the story, music, actors likeness etc exactly so that they can license the film to make comics, toys and video games.

Many older films however this is not the case. Bond is one example. The original 007 logo is not owned be the company that makes the bond movies and neither is the Bond theme tune. Likewise Disney do not own all the music for the Pinnochio film. "When you wish upon a star" is owned by another company. In cases like this you will need to negotiate multiple licenses.

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Generally speaking the major studios (Warner, Fox, Disney, etc.) either license directly to their own in house interactive departments (generally for smaller titles) or they license out to major publishers, who then either develop in house or farm it out. A few smaller and mini-major studios (notably Lionsgate) have been known to license directly to developers and/or publishers because they don't have their own game development departments. The most well known example of this kind of licensee is the now mostly defunct Brash Entertainment, which to the best of my knowledge ONLY developed games based on film IP.

1.a. Lawyers usually negotiate these deals, and they are typically negotiated between publishers and film studios. Sometimes it's done strictly through general counsel, or department heads/bus.dev. will draft up a term sheet and lawyers will hammer out the details and draft the actual deal.
1.b. No, you can't just start working on a project without communicating with the studio in question. For one thing, they may already have an exclusive deal in place with another studio, and if it gets out that you're also developing a title based on that IP you will almost certainly get sued.
1.c. Market standard varies. Sometimes it's for a single title, sometimes its for a title with an option for sequels, and sometimes it's for a package of titles. For smaller/indie projects the deals vary with the imagination and requirements of the parties. For major productions there may be a guaranteed dollar amount plus a first priority royalty-- that is, the licensor gets paid first once certain base costs are recovered by the publisher. Another method of licensing is having a royalty rate, but if that royalty rate fails to meet a particular money benchmark within a set term, the publisher will agree to pay a minimum guarantee at the end of that term. In one "minimum guarantee" format the big wad of cash is paid up front, in the other it's paid on the back end of the deal and subject to the royalty already paid.

2. The more connected you are and the more relationships you have with people working within the movie industry, the better off you are. If you have an impeccable reputation with a ton of titles backing you, you have a better shot of being able to pitch your project by cold-calling. If not, you will have a very hard time getting an appointment with the people who handle that end of film licensing unless you already have an iron-clad in (e.g., your dad is the CEO of the film studio). Major studios will only work with proven successes and major publishers (e.g., EA) for their major titles. Smaller developers and publishers may have a shot at licensing some smaller IP, but you better have a pretty awesome portfolio to impress the people making those decisions. Your reputation and release history will serve you better than a pre-fabbed game design document. But like Dan mentioned, they will want an idea of what you plan on doing with their IP, so some design documentation may be a good idea.

3. For big IP (e.g. Terminator), the movie studio will want the release date of the game and the film to be as close as possible. Those are the cases where film studios will go to the proven successes and AAA title mills like EA, who can and will get the game out on time. In those cases studios will approach publishers while the film is in the earliest stages of pre-production/production. That's the standard for blockbuster IP.

If you're a smaller developer and you want to license some older/smaller titles, you will almost certainly have to approach them-- if they haven't put out a game for it yet, it's likely not something they ever thought of doing and you'll need to bring the possibility to their attention.

4. Depends on how much you're borrowing from the movie, the scope of the sync licenses used in the film productions, etc. If you're using the talent from the movie for 3D modeling (e.g., motion-capture), you'll be setting up separate contracts with them similar to the modeling or acting contracts used in film. SAG has a new media department that handles "new media producers" for games, etc., so if the talent you want to hire are SAG members you'll need to be a SAG signatory to contract with those individuals.

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