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m4uesviecr

Contracts: Writing Your Own

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Howdy all! So, I'm an independent composer (who is interested in branching out into sound design), and I would like to say that I am getting serious about my profession. Serious to the point that I am beginning to construct a contract that future clients will read, sign, and (hopefully), abide by. I have made my way around to quite a wide variety of contracts and, not that I am attempting to undermind composers, artists, or media constucts at all but, how many of you write your own contracts? A lot of the contracts that I have seen are thoroughly intricate. I assume that careful planning and thinking went into cultivating said contracts, but it makes me wonder if I should seek out help for mine. Would I be better off finding a someone in the business and legal field? Or perhaps I should stick to writing my own contract and having a business associate (or someone legal), take a look at it?
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There are some pre-written contracts or contract templates that can be used, although law can vary greatly from place-to-place, so ideally you would still have a lawyer look them over before use.

If you really want to get serious about your profession though you should speak to a lawyer and have any legal documents you require properly written specifically for your usage. It doesn't cost as much as many people think, and can save you from a lot of problems in the long run.


If you do want to write your own contracts -- and I'll stress I don't recommend it -- I would suggest you're better off keeping it very simple and using plain english rather than trying to borrow from or mimic the style of other documents, as legalese has very specific meanings that may not be apparent to a lay person, and any mistakes may bind you to unwanted conditions or even void the entire contract.


Hope that helps! :-)

(I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. Posted from mobile device.)
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[quote]how many of you write your own contracts?[/quote]

My guess is that the answer of people composing for a living in the industry would be "none of us."

As jbadams points out, a proper contract, complete with proper use of legal terms is not something you want to do on your own.

Now, that said, if the question is "How many of you review, modify and sign game contracts without consulting a lawyer" the answer would then be "most of us."
In fact, that exact question came up at [url="http://www.GameSoundCon"]GameSoundCon[/url] last week. All the panelists said they reviewed their own contracts. But all also said that they were very familiar with typical game music contract issues and clauses. We have learned over the years what is typical and what is unusual and what really raises a red flag. If I don't see any of those, I typically go ahead and sign. So if you are quite familiar with what standard terms are for work for hire, music licensing and ancillary usages, then it's probably fine to review it yourself. If not, for your first one, you may want to consult with an entertainment software attorney, so they can walk you through typical agreements.

Now a slightly different matter is if you are doing a very small/indy game, sometims those are done without formal contracts (yes, a bad idea, but sometimes understandable-- It makes no sense to spend $500 on a lawyer for a game you're making $500 on). In those cases, at the very lease, you can write (as jbadams says) a plain english letter/email, bullet point format, spelling out what the agreement is. Don't try to use legalese. And also make it a newly composed email (not a "reply" as part of a long thread).

(I am also not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice) Edited by bschmidt1962
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Reading over this again, I remembered that monalaw (who [i]is[/i] a lawyer) shared some thoughts on contracts in her journal recently, you can probably find more information reading through those two entries:
[url="http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1394/entry-2254033-what-happens-when-you-don%E2%80%99t-have-a-written-agreement-part-1-contract-basics/"]What happens when you don't have a written agreement -- part 1, contract basics[/url]
[url="http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1394/entry-2254080-what-happens-when-you-don%E2%80%99t-have-a-written-agreement-part-2-real-life-application/"]What happens when you don't have a written agreement -- part 2, real life application[/url]
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You should find a reliable attorney to at least provide you with the right templates. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a real world of hurt. The intricacies of intellectual property law are much too detailed for a post here, but suffice to say that, as with anything, it's not what you know about a contract that will hurt you. It's what you don't know.
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[quote name='jbadams' timestamp='1352160413' post='4997801']
Reading over this again, I remembered that monalaw (who [i]is[/i] a lawyer) shared some thoughts on contracts in her journal recently, you can probably find more information reading through those two entries:
[url="http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1394/entry-2254033-what-happens-when-you-don%E2%80%99t-have-a-written-agreement-part-1-contract-basics/"]What happens when you don't have a written agreement -- part 1, contract basics[/url]
[url="http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1394/entry-2254080-what-happens-when-you-don%E2%80%99t-have-a-written-agreement-part-2-real-life-application/"]What happens when you don't have a written agreement -- part 2, real life application[/url]
[/quote]

Be advised that Mona's website has changed name. It's no longer underdevelopmentlaw.com - now it's maientertainmentlaw.com. You may not be able to just swap out the domain and still find content at the same location (may need to dig around on the new site to find the old articles).
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