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Nick N

Copyright Transfer Contracts

6 posts in this topic

Hi everyone! First and foremost I've been watching these forums for some time so I'd like to say thank you to all the contributors for the wealth of information available here.

I've recently started a small game development company and have a product that is coming along nicely, but I'm reaching a point where I need to start buying art and sound assets which I would like to do without hiring full time artists as employees. With that in mind I've been scouring the net for a good resource for contracts along the lines of "deed of conveyance", "copyright transfer agreement", and so on. I would like to purchase illustrations, sounds, and music which which would be exclusively owned by the company, and good for commercial use, after the artist signs.

I've found a few resources which I may be able to patch together to get what I need (such as books with business and legal forms for graphic designers), but if anyone here is aware of useful resources (electronic or otherwise) that supplies contract templates for these sorts of agreements - particularly if they are intended for games development - I would sincerely appreciate to hear about it. I also think this could be a useful appendage to the "resources" section of the business and law forums here.

These are examples of what I would be looking for:

1) Transfer of copyright from artist to company of visual artwork (such as illustrations and icons).

2) Transfer of copyright from artist to company of audio (such as sound effects and music).

3) Transfer of copyright from programmer to company of source code.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
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The thing you're looking for is called "assignment of rights." It can be generic (it doesn't have to be as specific to the type of creation, as you suggest).
There's an example of Activision's "Copyright Assignment" at http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130157/call_of_duty_finest_hour__the_.php?print=1 (scroll down, it's the second-to-last page).
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It sounds like, what you want is a "Work for Hire" agreement. The phrase "Work for Hire" is a specific term, called out in the copyright statutes: [url="http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf."]http://www.copyright...rcs/circ09.pdf.[/url]

A work for hire agreement will transfer all copyright of the work to you (the employer) as well as some other things (such as warrant that the artist/composer is creating original work, specifies that they are not an employee, etc.).
Most Work for Hire agreements are far less complicated than the Activision one Tom references.

Note that if you are looking to incorporate already existing content (such as an already recorded song ),then you may need a license agreement, not an "assignment of rights" agreement.

At the risk of muddying up the waters...
If you are looking to save money, very often a composer will negotiate a lower fee in exchange for certain rights, such as ancillary uses (uses of the music outside the game itself). For example, they may want the right to release a soundtrack CD, or to collect "performance payments"
(I just wrote a [url="http://gamasutra.com/blogs/BrianSchmidt/20121008/179038/Marching_Music_and_Money_Performance_Rights_and_Videogames.php"]Gamasutra article on performance rights and game music[/url]).

Also, some top composers won't sign an agreement unless they keep some of the rights mentioned above.

Brian
[url="http://www.brianschmidtstudios.com"]Brian Schmidt Studios[/url]
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Thank you very much for the information, Tom and Brian. Also, I apologize for the late response - I have had internet troubles of late. I will look into the Activision document as well as work for hire agreements and hopefully find something that works for my situation.
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After reading through a few work for hire agreements, I think this one seemed easy to understand and thorough:

http://www.thebestva.com/wrk4hireformpdf.pdf

It also clarifies that the service provider is not an employee of mine but an independent contractor which I think is important for me. Does this look like a solid contract to use for the aforementioned purposes? Is this something I could reasonably expect an amateur artist that I pay for artwork to sign in general?
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Hi Nick,

I'm afraid that is a pretty terrible work for hire agreement from your perspective (as the Client).
It is missing an important element (a Warrant) and has one terrible clause (Indemnification). And nowhere does it explicitly state that the work done should be considered a "work for hire."

It is missing a "Warrant".. That is a clause that specifically states that the artist/composer, etc will create and deliver a new, original work free of any other copyrights.

Here's the terrible clause:.
Clause 8, INDEMNIFICATION
The way that is worded, YOU (the Client) are "indemnifying" the Service provider. In short, that means that no matter what they give you, they are not responsible for it.
Suppose you hired a composer under this agreement, and they knowingly or unknowingly copied someone else's music. Then your game is released and the REAL composer of the music sees it, and says to himself "Hey..that's [b]my [/b]music." He sues you, and wins a big $ judgement against you. The Indemnification clause means that you have no recourse against the person you hired! You have "indemnified" them, or absolved them of responsibility So you and you alone must pay the actual composer the big $ damages.

In fact, usually a work for hire had an indemnification clause that is [i][b]exactly the opposite of what you have[/b][/i]-- the Service provider will a) Specifically warrant that the work they deliver is original and b) indemnify YOU (the client) against damages. So if you get sued over something they deliver, they are responsible.

Here is a much better example of a work for hire agreement:
[url="http://www.princeton.edu/communications/services/docs/Work-for-Hire-Agreement-(00006553).PDF"]Link To Better Agreement[/url]

Note Section 3. It specifically states that the Artist (Service Provider) will create and deliver original work, and the Artist will indemnify the Client! That is the exact opposite of your agreement. That is much more typical.
I also like the Princeton WFH agreement better because it specifically states that the work created is a "Work for Hire."

Note: [b]I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice[/b]. I'm just a random guy in an internet forum, who's had some experience on both sides of contract negotiations.

However, here is some advice. [b][i] When someone does their first contract, it is well worth a trip to a lawyer-[/i][/b]- book an hour of their time-- and have them explain what all the different sections of the contract mean. Ask questions until you understand what the basic meaning of each of the sections is. After you've done one or two, you'll feel confident enough to do it on your own. But for your first--- it is best to get professional advice.

Brian Schmidt
Brian Schmidt Studios Edited by bschmidt1962
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Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to read the contract I posted and pointing out its flaw. I will take notes from the Princeton contract and see about getting advice from an attorney.

At any rate, I won't take any more of your time. Again, thank you very much for all your help!
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