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Legal I built a game in college with others that I want to release. What contracts do I need to write?

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Hi guys,

As the title reads, I built a game with some other people during college and I'm trying to get it published on appstore and google play. The team agreed they would give me the rights to publish the game under my own business and receive 45% profit share. I now just need to know what contracts I need to write.

These are the conditions they agreed to:

  • Game will be put up for free with ads
  • Net Profit split: 45%(me), 15%x3(ppl), 10%x1(person) 2%x0(ppl) every 6 month if game net profit exceeds $250 for 2 years If the games Total Net profit after 2 years does not exceed $2500, all shares will go to me so I don’t have to do legal stuff anymore. If the total net profit exceeds $2500 we do the same business but for 1 year.
  • Everyone keeps rights to their own IP, however I get rights to the IP indefinitely for the purpose of publishing the game under my business xxxxxxxxxxxxx.

I'd appreciate any help because I worked hard on this game and I would really like to get it published but being in a team has made it very difficult.

Cheers

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For such specific legal issues, I think the safest option is to consult a lawyer. I'm sure there are people in this forum than can answer your question, but I doubt "XYZ on gamedev told me so" would be an acceptable legal defence in case something goes wrong.

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19 minutes ago, Kercyn said:

For such specific legal issues, I think the safest option is to consult a lawyer. I'm sure there are people in this forum than can answer your question, but I doubt "XYZ on gamedev told me so" would be an acceptable legal defence in case something goes wrong.

Lawyers are expensive DX thought I'd probe for any answers. I'm sure some people here have some experience with this stuff...

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I do. The advice is "get a lawyer." :D

It's probably not as expensive as you are assuming, and asking one for information about how much it would cost is free.

Be sure to review any legal agreements you have already signed with your school. Often those agreements (which you'd have signed back when you applied or matriculated) encumber any intellectual property you create during your time there, so it's not "just your buddies" that you'd be dealing with legally. And in event approaching things less seriously because it's just a bunch of friends is dangerous anyway.

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5 hours ago, bazz_boyy said:

Everyone keeps rights to their own IP, however I get rights to the IP indefinitely for the purpose of publishing the game under my business xxxxxxxxxxxxx.

I have some advice here: get the full IP rights.

This is just a mess, you do realize by keeping there IP they can revoke any rights you have at any time. This is a right any person who made something has, it's intended to protect the developer yet has been abused to hold something ransom many times before.

They can sell the assets related to the IP as they want and if your game is a success people will want it. When you try to make a sequel or sell merchandise it will be considered related to the IP and so you can't without the permission of the IP holder.

The worst is your agreement is only for publishing, they didn't agree you are allowed to make a profit from the IP.

 

Get the full IP or a good lawyer to make the contract if you can't, as a artist I see what happens when you don't all the time.

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Lawyers are expensive. But not having a lawyer can be even more expensive. :) If you really think the game is worth a lawyer's fee, consider it an investment. I'd check with the rest of the people to see if they're on board with the deal you're outlining. If they have an inflated sense of the amount of effort they put in (or think that you do) then they might want different percentages. If everyone gives the thumbs up, then you can go ahead with the lawyer. And if they want a percentage, maybe they can help with the lawyer bill?

Another thing you can do is put in effort to replace their work with your own work. So if you had some sprite and sound guys, replace those things with your own versions. Of course, that will likely cost money, time, and effort. And it might cheeze them off too. :P

- Eck

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A lawyer is not that expensive for this type of work.  They are simple business agreements, mostly boilerplate.

Assuming you've done your homework (clearly you have not) a friendly lawyer can hook you up with all the forms you need with a quick meeting and transferring some electronic documents.  Depends on your local lawyer costs, around here it is about $150/hr for this type of work. If you haven't done your homework it may be 2-3 hours, so perhaps around $500 for you.

If your game isn't worth $500 then it isn't worth the effort your putting in to it.

Otherwise you need rights assignments, perhaps in the form of an independent contractor agreement or partnership agreement or collaboration agreement. Exactly what is assigned, who it is assigned to, what happens for succession of rights, payment for rights, and other details are all up to your agreement. What are the exit clauses? What happens if someone becomes bitter and wants to leave? What happens if some of the group want to sell it to another group? What happens if some people want to buy out the others?

You will probably need to create a legal entity (a business) to hold those rights since your friends are unlikely to trust it all to you personally. Revenue sharing needs many more details. Who ensures revenue is handled correctly? Who verifies the limits are met? Who can audit the system to ensure they are being paid? How often can they audit? Who handles tax forms? Who handles distribution of money? What happens if someone dies? What happens if someone is no longer in contact? 

 

If you don't think it is worth hiring a lawyer than you've already decided it won't reach enough money to justify paying anyone. 

So either go get a lawyer or recognize you already know deep inside that the project won't make money.

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14 hours ago, bazz_boyy said:

The team agreed they would give me the rights to publish the game under my own business and receive 45% profit share. I now just need to know what contracts I need to write.

A collaboration agreement, perhaps with some sort of rights release. But if this was done in college, was it done as an assignment or capstone project? SOME colleges might claim ownership (that's what I've heard, as hard to believe as it is). You should get a lawyer. 

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Oh lord I knew I was unprepared but not this badly lol.

I really appreciate all the advice guys. I'd definitely try and see a lawyer if it was less that $300(AU), however like I said the game is unlikely to make any money. I kinda just wanted to publish it for the sake of learning and portfolio purposes. It feels like as a portfolio piece, the game would have a lot more value if it had some sales figures and downloads (if any).

I might pay around $500 for a lawyer if it included a great learning experience... Do you think this is a possibility? I'm starting a business and I don't want to be a lone wolf so I feel like I really need to tackle this stuff and get educated... But finding information relating to the situation I'm in has been hard/ confusing.

I will research the contracts you guys have mentioned and I get a quote from some contract lawyers.

Again, I appreciate all the advice and sorry for not responding to your comments individually. I have read and taken notes of all of your posts!

 

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8 hours ago, bazz_boyy said:

the game is unlikely to make any money. I kinda just wanted to publish it for the sake of learning and portfolio purposes.

That could be a cheaper way to go. Talk again to your team with this approach - just post it online as a portfolio piece for all of you. Then when you want to go into business, do it right (with proper agreements on paper) from the start.

 

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