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ryanbeezle

Game Publishing Legal Checklist?

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Let's say hypothetically that I'm a solo developer, I build a game and publish it to Steam. I also operate under a business name. I've never taken legal action regarding the game or business.

What are the legal tasks that I should take care of before/after publishing, regarding protection and ownership of the game and my business?

I'm not asking for full-blown details to put the lawyers out of business, just a simple "for dummies" checklist. I didn't find a post within the last year that contained such info and ideally it would be a sticky post as I imagine other developers have the same query.

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First thing on your check list should be: 1.) Make game. Only after you have a game should you do the rest.

What is the point of building a shop when you have no goods to sell?

 

28 minutes ago, ryanbeezle said:

I also operate under a business name. I've never taken legal action regarding the game or business.

Does this mean the business isn't registered? Because that is not allowed with steam, you must be a legal entity. So you need to register the business. You can use yourself as the legal entity but doing this changes depending on where you live and the laws on it.

You will need a bank account to pay and get payed. This account should be linked to your legal entity.

You MUST own all content used in the game or have the right to use it, same goes for software used to make it. Steam like most stores will remove content they know is breaking the law; I can confirm this.

There is a wait time before you can make your first sale. There are always wait times like these in development, while things are reviewed.

 

That should be it, there is a lot of paperwork to register a business and to get the bank account but I found that selling on steam was very easy. Because it's so easy, it is flooded with games.

https://partner.steamgames.com/steamdirect

 

This is from my own experience, I am not a lawyer and laws change depending on many factors.

Lawyer fees are cheap compared to the price you pay for breaking the law, get legal advice.

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Honestly, Scouting Ninja sums it up pretty well if all you're doing is releasing a product on Steam:

1. Form your company or sole proprietorship if that kind of thing is legal in your territory

2. Set up your bank account

3. Comply with all of Steam's developer requirements and conditions

4. Submit game

5. Wait

6. Wait

7. Profit.

 

But I also routinely perform "legal audits" for clients (both when I've formed the company on behalf of a client or when I'm setting them up for an equity or asset purchase), which generally includes the following:

 

1. Entity formation and paperwork (register with relevant Sec. of State or territory, OA, bylaws or other organizing documents, board/shareholder/member consents, first meeting minutes, EIN if applicable, etc.)

2. Intra-company agreements (Employee Incentive Plan, employment agreements, employee handbook, PIIAs, shareholder agreements for founding members)

3. External material agreements (EULA, Privacy Policy, third party content licenses [e.g. software, open source, etc. EULAs], contractor agreements, distribution agreements, console SDK agreements, insurance, HR management service and other vendor service agreements if applicable)

4. IP rights management (product clearance [assets and music], TM filings, Copyright filings, patents, PIIAs and NDAs)

5. Financial statements (Confirm GAAP compliance if required, P&Ls, annual reports)

6. Investment paperwork (where applicable)

 

The list goes on. There is a lot that goes into actually owning an operating a business if you're going to do it right. When you're in a place to make a serious go of it, I strongly advice you first find a great accountant and a decently honest lawyer. 

 

Best of luck!

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On 1/5/2018 at 2:48 PM, ryanbeezle said:

Let's say hypothetically that I'm a solo developer, I build a game and publish it to Steam. I also operate under a business name. I've never taken legal action regarding the game or business.

What are the legal tasks that I should take care of before/after publishing, regarding protection and ownership of the game and my business?

I'm not asking for full-blown details to put the lawyers out of business, just a simple "for dummies" checklist. I didn't find a post within the last year that contained such info and ideally it would be a sticky post as I imagine other developers have the same query.

Are you located in the US?

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Thanks monalaw, the IP and business entity stuff is what I was curious about. 

On 1/7/2018 at 5:37 AM, Orymus3 said:

Are you located in the US?

Yes.

19 hours ago, jbadams said:

There is this sticky topic linking to something like what you're after, just to provide another (qualified) opinion. :)

Nice. That's a very comprehensive list. Pretty much what I was looking for.

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