Question [copyright on game design document]

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Fenrir Fenris, May 26, 2009.

  1. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Dipping into the vast knowledge of this site ^_^

    If you send a document to a company with an in depth game design that you have made, what rights over that do you have? copyright wise?

    Bit of a wide question i know, not overly important, just pondering.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Andrej Vojtas

    Andrej Vojtas New Member

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    If you want to be able to prove in court you are the copyright owner of a document: send the document to yourself through a delivery service and keep it unopened. The date of delivery tells who is who.
     
  3. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Thanks, neat trick :)
     
  4. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    This is no longer considered proof. You should get them to sign an NDA where possible. You can register your copyright but frankly game ideas aren't worth the paper they're written on. This is why most companies will just instantly bin game designs no matter how good you think it is (and a lot of companies will say 'please don't send us game designs').

    If a company wanted to use your idea and not pay you you'd better have deep pockets to sue them, and even then you'll still lose money.
     
  5. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Sadly, thats what i thought to.
     
  6. Acord

    Acord New Member

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    Self copyrighting like that these days will get you on good grounds to deliver a cease and desist, but not to actually enforce it. Copyrights are not all that expensive to file.

    Keep in mind: Ideas are not copyright-able material. Designs, characters, works of fiction, art - these things you can copyright. Ideas? Not so much.

    Before sending off your grand idea: It will get shot down. Practically guaranteed.

    Game companies employ dozens of creative people with cool ideas, so they're not interested in more ideas(There are usually so many floating around that it is annoying) - they are only interested in partially or almost totally completed products. In other words, you have to at least be able to create a tech demo that proves the worth of an idea(and how fun the game could be) before they'll take it seriously, and even that is no guarantee.
     
  7. Jim B

    Jim B New Member

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    Well, by law, you own the copyright to the work you sent in; nothing can change that unless you sign some sort of a greement to assign your rights away. But, as most people have commented, while you own the rights, it all comes down to proof in court. However, if you send the design to yourself registered US mail and leave it unopened, while it doesn't serve as a a substitute to a registered copyright, I do not see why it cannot be used as evidence in court as proof time of creation.

    Most publishing company's and design studios expressly refuse game designs for for numerous reasons:
    1) there is a whole lot of trash being sent to them; and more importantly
    2) they do not want to be caught up in the following IP ownership situation: Say developer A sends publisher B an game design and publisher B sumararily rejects it. A month later publisher B hires developer C to design a game that has some similar qualities to developer A's game. Developer C's game then goes on to be a success. Developer A can then hire a lawyer (on comission) to claim that publisher B infringed on A's copyright because of the similarities between the games. Thus Publisher B could have avoided this whole mess if he refused to review the game to begin with. From a publisher's point of view, most of the time its more ecconomical and less risky to approach known developer's than accept random submissions.

    My sugestion, if you're just starting out, keep the design as part of your portfolio.
     
  8. RinkuHero

    RinkuHero New Member

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    i think the fear that someone will steal all your ideas and make a million dollars and leave you with nothing is paranoia. usually ideas aren't worth a dozenth of a dime; implementation is valuable, ideas aren't.
     
  9. andrew

    andrew New Member

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    No game company needs ideas, they have them sitting around in spades. What they need is people to turn the ideas into awesome games, that is much more valuable. And as most "idea" people eventually find, the big picture ideas are easy, it's the implementation details that are the hard part...

    - andrew
     
  10. Mark_Tempe

    Original Member

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    "Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."
    Howard Aiken
    US computer scientist (1900 - 1973)
     
  11. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Thanks for all the comment (and to whoever changed the tital, sorry :p)

    Mostly what i'm working on is more of an exercise in deisgn then anything i expect to be made, just thought i'd feel out my options.
     
  12. Obscure

    Indie Author

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    Copyright is very specific. It applies to actual things, not ideas. If you make the game Command & Conquer then that actual game is protected but someone else can make an RTS using Orcs and Wizards instead of Tanks and Troops. You can even make a game using tanks and troops provided that you don't use C&Cs code, graphics or sound and instead create your own original work.

    Likewise if you have a document that actual document is protected but not the ideas it describes. Someone could read the document, like the idea and come up with their own game based on that idea. Surprisingly this doesn't happen very often simply because companies don't usually have a team of people sitting around waiting for an idea.

    There are possible contractual ways to protect the idea, such as getting the company to sign something that says they won't work on a similar project for X amount of time but the likelihood that any publisher/dev would sign is close to zero because it may turn out your idea isn't as original as you think and they are already working on a similar game.

    Question - why would you want to send your design to a company. What is it you hope to achieve?
     
    #12 Obscure, May 27, 2009
    Last edited: May 27, 2009
  13. Obscure

    Indie Author

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    For one there is no proof the document was in the envelop when it was posted. You could send an empty, unsealed envelop and then put the document in later - the postal service wont testify in court as to the content of the envelop.
    Secondly, even if accepted, it would be quite weak proof because the only witness that your document was in there is you or your Mum (if she watched) and both of you could be considered biased.

    Far better to actually register the copyright (hardly expensive) or else lodge a copy with a credible witness such as your family lawyer/accountant.
     
  14. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Achieve? Nothing, nothing, just wondering mostly.
     
  15. Colm

    Colm New Member

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    Brilliant!
     
  16. m3xican

    m3xican New Member

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    my 2c

    Furthermore, when you submit an idea, usually you start with a high concept, so a 1-2 pages doc that highlights the main features of your idea, that's quite far from giving all the details needed to make a real game.

    Anyway, my suggestion is to propose your idea in some gamers/developers forum, like here, TIGsource, Gamedev.net, etc... There are more chances to find somebody interested in it, if it's a good idea, of course :)
     
  17. electronicStar

    Original Member

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    Don't waste your time sending design docs to game companies anyway, that's not how they work.
     
  18. RinkuHero

    RinkuHero New Member

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    that is also true, good point. companies never ever buy designs from people and make games for them. that's kind of ridiculous notion -- people get into game design because they *have ideas for games* and want to make them a reality. they aren't short on ideas. they don't need to buy or steal designs from people who don't make games.
     
  19. Fenrir Fenris

    Fenrir Fenris New Member

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    Yeah ok i think everone gets it, game companys have enough ideas xD
     
  20. Jim B

    Jim B New Member

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    First, do you really think that your're in a better position to argue whether or not a peice of evidence can be admitted in court and the strength of that evidence? Have you i) dedicated three solid years of his life to earn a law degree at a top teir law school, ii) spent an entire summer locked in a library to memorize 12 areas of law (one of which is evidence) to take and pass the CA bar, and iii) now practices for a living? I don't think so.

    Second, this is how you would get rid of any bias:
    1) You would send the contents registered mail to yourself. The registered mail reciept would have the weight of the package (to prove it wasn't empy when you sent it)
    2) You would leave the post-marked envelope (which is dated) sealed, until an ownership issue arose.
    3) Then, it would be opened in front of a Notary Public to attest to the contents of the sealed envelope.

    If presented correctly, the post-marked envelope and its contents could be admitted into evidence; it would then be up to the opposing counsel to argue the strength of the evidence (this happens all the time and is what trial lawyers do for a living).

    Because this "poor man's copyright" is subject to authenticity and debatable in court, registering a copyright is always a better idea. But, while the poor man's copyright is not a substitutution to registration, it can assist in proving time of creation.

    Sorry for the rant everyone
     

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