When you come up with a game idea, story line, etc then contract with a
developer to create the game there are two copyrights involved with the
production. First, as the person with the idea, game story, etc you
retain the original copyright ownership of your ideas and original
story. Second, the person or company that creates the game holds the
multimedia copyright for the game since they were the person who
actually created the multimedia. Both copyrights are separate but
connected copyrights, and it is important to spell out who has what
copyright ownership here. As I understand the law you retain the
ownership of the game idea or ideas , but the company or person who
actually creates the game retains the ownership of the game they created.
The best legal way to go about this is to draft a legal document that
states person x or company x has the right to create games or multimedia
works based on your idea for a certain percentage of the income. Let's
say for arguments sake you contract with USA Games to create game x. We
may agree to give you 25% of the income of the game and keep the rest
for production costs. So if the game makes $2000 we would pay you $500
for royalties, pay out say $500 for sounds and music, and keep the
remaining $1000 as payment for labor costs. This way you still make some
money on your original ideas, but the developers and sound production
people get paid for their work.
The only time I know of an accessible game developer trying this is when
BSC Games contracted with another developer to create Castle Quest.
Unfortunately, the lead developer of the project decided to quit
production leaving Justin without a title to market and sell. Legally
BSC Games still holds the original copyrights to the Castle Quest game
idea, but the person they contracted with retained the rights to the
game and source code. So when the lead developer quit production he took
the game and source code with him. BSC could have contracted with
someone else, but Justin decided it was not worth it to try it again
with a new party.
The only way to protect yourself from this happening is to sign a legal
contract with the party that stipulates the terms of service to be
rendered. That way the company or person involved is legally bound to
complete the project in a timely manner. There, of course, has to be
some terms in the contract in which either party can break the contract
if necessary, but there usually are some fines or penalties involved
with breech of contract.
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