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How important are contracts in commercial projects?

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A short answer is that nobody will be willing to work on a commercial game without a contract, no publisher will fund the game without a contract, no retail channel will distribute/sell the game without a contract...

As always, IANAL

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Original post by swiftcoder
A short answer is that nobody will be willing to work on a commercial game without a contract, no publisher will fund the game without a contract, no retail channel will distribute/sell the game without a contract...

As always, IANAL


I'm working with someone who really feels that there is no point to it. I am the team leader and he is the programmer. This is for an iPhone app. Although he seems to have reluctantly accepted, I'm still confused as to why he may feel it was unnecessary.

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Original post by ZenDavis
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Original post by PolyVox
Well, just don't pay him and then claim you never said you would :-) He'll soon start to understand...
I would never do that. That's just an asshole thing to do. :(
Sure, but PolyVox is correct - that is the reason for contracts. Without a contract, you have no guarantee that he will complete the work, and he has no guarantee that you will pay him.

Of course, even if you do have a contract, it can still be difficult to collect payment from a dodgy employer (i.e. you may have to go to court to enforce the contract)...

And if the two of you know each other, and are just doing something simple like a 50/50 split of income on an iPhone game, then you may both be willing to rely on a 'gentleman's agreement' (i.e. handshake). I wouldn't recommend it, but it is sometimes (perhaps even often) done on small projects [smile]

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Original post by ZenDavis
I'm working with someone who really feels that there is no point to it. I am the team leader and he is the programmer. This is for an iPhone app. Although he seems to have reluctantly accepted, I'm still confused as to why he may feel it was unnecessary.

I would not want to work with someone who didn't understand this basic fact of game development. It's a good thing he's accepted. But I see a red flag already.

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Unless he is an employee, you need a work for hire contract to establish your ownership of the code written by the programmer. Otherwise he retains the copyright and could prevent the sale of the game if there is a dispute later on down the road.

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I'm the programmer Zen is referring to.

@ Tom Sloper

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I would not want to work with someone who didn't understand this basic fact of game development. It's a good thing he's accepted. But I see a red flag already.


Good to know there is someone willing to make a judgment based on so little information...

This is independent game development, folks. No money has changed hands. The agreement is for a percentage of revenue. The target may be commercial (app store), but there are no companies involved here.

In my opinion, the nature of this kind of online team is that there are no guarantees. I'm a proponent of the "gentleman's agreement" mentioned by swiftcoder. If I have given my word on something, I will make it happen.

I would be willing to bet that many more projects like this are done based such an agreement than there are online indy teams drawing up contracts and signing NDAs.

Hopefully this has provided a little more information for the discussion. I definitely welcome further comments.

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If I have given my word on something, I will make it happen.


It doesn't have to be about you cheating him. On a certain project I have signed a contract with my own father who, needless to say, would rather cut off his right arm than trick me. It is simply a wise move. Some time in the future some yet unknown interested third party might get involved and then try to dispute your ownership of the product. It is a way to protect you both.

You are entering a financial world governed by laws and regulations, act accordingly.

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Mr. Bryant wrote:
>Good to know there is someone willing to make a judgment based on so little information...

Mr. Davis had said this was a "commercial project." That information was important, if perhaps misleading or overstated. Besides, for a game producer or businessman, being judgmental is a good thing.

>The agreement is for a percentage of revenue. The target may be commercial (app store), but there are no companies involved here.
>In my opinion, the nature of this kind of online team is that there are no guarantees. I'm a proponent of the "gentleman's agreement" mentioned by swiftcoder. If I have given my word on something, I will make it happen.

Money may not have exchanged hands yet, but the plan is for money to exchange hands at some time in the future. Contracts serve a very useful purpose; they set forth the duties, responsibilities, and warranties of both parties. In other words, they clarify expectations. Signing an agreement also shows a certain degree of commitment to a joint venture. You and Mr. Davis should read what I wrote about collaboration agreements at http://www.sloperama.com/advice/article58.htm, and you should also read what Mona wrote about them at http://www.underdevelopmentlaw.com/

But whether or not you all execute an agreement, you're all sure to learn a lot from this little venture.

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Original post by ZenDavis
Quote:
Original post by PolyVox
Well, just don't pay him and then claim you never said you would :-) He'll soon start to understand...


I would never do that. That's just an asshole thing to do. :(


Oh, sorry, I wasn't really serious ;-) It would be rather mean. But the point is that this is why you have contracts.

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