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keym

Transer of IPR when you are not yet a developer

4 posts in this topic

Hello,
I have a serious concern regarding IP ownership. Let me do some quick backstory first. I started recruiting people for collaboration and we already have small team working on game. The main problem is that we aren't "official" and we don't have any funds, so we aren't a registered company. Even so, I would like to somehow assure that what everyone contributes to the project, will be to our disposition even when the author will back out for some reasons. I have read numerous stories which proven that lack of any agreements in initial phase led to failure, so basically I want to avoid situations when someone backs out and won't allow us to use his/her assets anymore. Is there a way to cover this? Can I convey somehow IP rights? I read that maybe "work for hire" contracts could be the solution but then again, I'm not a registered developer and I don't pay for work yet so I'm not sure if it fits under this contract. I know that the best and simplest solution would be to found a company and then do everything as "standard" developer but for now I can't do that.
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You need a collaboration agreement. http://sloperama.com/advice/article58.htm
Work for hire doesn't apply here, since nobody has hired anybody.

Edit:
Ownership of IP must belong to one or more individuals, if you do not create a company. Edited by Tom Sloper
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[quote name='keym' timestamp='1351006916' post='4993108']
Hello,
I have a serious concern regarding IP ownership. Let me do some quick backstory first. I started recruiting people for collaboration and we already have small team working on game. The main problem is that we aren't "official" and we don't have any funds, so we aren't a registered company. Even so, I would like to somehow assure that what everyone contributes to the project, will be to our disposition even when the author will back out for some reasons. I have read numerous stories which proven that lack of any agreements in initial phase led to failure, so basically I want to avoid situations when someone backs out and won't allow us to use his/her assets anymore. Is there a way to cover this? Can I convey somehow IP rights? I read that maybe "work for hire" contracts could be the solution but then again, I'm not a registered developer and I don't pay for work yet so I'm not sure if it fits under this contract. I know that the best and simplest solution would be to found a company and then do everything as "standard" developer but for now I can't do that.
[/quote]

Is this a commercial venture ?

If not i'd recommend just picking a opensource license and have everyone license their work under it.
If you are doing this commercially then you should talk to a lawyer to get some contracts drafted. (its not that expensive)

You should also register a business if you do it commercially, registering is often free (unless you want to incorporate the business) and sometimes required so unless you live in a insane country you should just go for it. Most countries do their best to make it as easy as possible to set up a business and pay taxes for some reason :) Edited by SimonForsman
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Thank you for replies, especially pointing out collaboration agreement. Yes, this is a commercial venture. I'm thinking about registering a company all the time but this has to be put on hold until I relocate.
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The issue that you're talking about is one that is not uncommon among many creative endeavors. Unfortunately, as you have sensed, the road that you've begun to go down with your co-collaborators is one plagued with issues and misunderstandings. My common-sense advice is to see if you can retract and find agreement between the parties before creation of assets actually begins.

Here's the basic legal problem that you're facing:

Under US Copyright Law, creative works are, by default, owned by the creators themselves, unless some other arrangement, such as a work-for-hire, employment, etc. trumps that basic assumption. So, let's say that an artist on your team of co-conspirators begins creating the basic characters for the game. You're the programmer, and you begin writing the underlying game code. Both of you intend to contribute to the game in this way, but suddenly the artist finds a better gig, and no longer wants to work on the game.

Question: Do you have any rights to the characters they've created?

Answer: Without a contract of some kind (be it an collaboration agreement, partnership agreement, work for hire agreement) the answer is "it's going to be tough." I hesitate in answering "no" because, without getting into the details, there is a concept called reliance doctrine that may create a bit of leverage. There is also an argument that you've created some ownership in the collective work as co-creators. But the message is that you've greatly muddied the waters, and mue=money, when it comes to asserting ownership on a creative work.

Hopefully, I've not confused you or the issue.

Please note that while I am an attorney working in the video game industry, this is not legal advise, nor should you rely on it in any way in making your legal decisions. Good luck out there.
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