Legal support of projects in the Game development industry



Video games and esports are by far the fastest growing industry in the global entertainment segment. The first game console appeared back in 1985, and even then the developers raised the topic of legal protection of the rights to their development. The issue of protecting intellectual property rights in video games is complex. A video game is a multimedia product consisting of audio and visual works, 3D models, animation chains and a number of other elements, therefore, it is necessary to document the transmission of each of the elements of the video game.

What is game development?

Game development is a multi-level process of creating individual elements of a video game for their subsequent superposition and connection with each other in order to obtain a full-fledged algorithmic multimedia product. A video game is not only what we see on the screens of consoles, tablets and PCs. In addition to the developed 3D models of heroes, the graphic design of the area, the plot of the game, music and soundtrack, the developers first create program codes and a database. Each of these elements is subject to intellectual property protection, and the results of intellectual activity are subject to protection in an appropriate way: for example, the design of a 3D model is protected by copyright, and the software developed for a video game is protected by a patent, etc.

Video game industry subjects

In the video game market, the main actors are developers (developers) and publishers (publishers) - companies that publish and sell new computer games on the market. It should be noted that developers can be both large IT companies (for example, Electronic Arts, Valve Corporation) and independent developers. As a rule, both the former and the latter can either independently create video games and then contact publishers to monetize them (a license agreement is concluded), or develop video games under a copyright agreement.

What kind of contract should you sign with a video game developer?

The most difficult issues related to the creation and sale of video games lie in the plane of jurisprudence. Developers and publishers are asking questions about what legal mechanism is to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights and how to avoid legal conflict. We will try to answer these questions in this section of the article.

Imagine a situation which a particular publisher has information about the market demand for a new game that is intended for the PC. A publisher turns to an individual developer or development company to finance a project to create a game that is in demand on the market. The developers accept the offer and conclude an agreement with the publisher. The relationship between the publisher and the developer can be formalized through various contractual structures:  

  1. Contract for the provision of services and performance of work 
  2. Copyright contract 
  3. Creation of service work 

As a rule, if a publisher deals with an independent developer who has the skills and knowledge necessary to create an "open world" ("open world" is a term in the gaming industry that describes the game universe in which all actions and events take place), 3D models characters, creating musical accompaniment and developing codes for the game, then all rights to these results of intellectual activity will ultimately belong to the developer, if he does not agree to their absolute alienation. Usually, the publisher under the contract acquires the exclusive rights to sell, modify and advertise the game. The developer, in turn, receives a certain percentage of the financial benefit from the sale of the game through the service.

 Gamers will need to accept the license agreement with the ultimate copyright holder, even if the game is purchased on the publisher's platform. This usually happens between the publisher and the end user. Thus, any rights that a publisher licenses to an end user must be appropriately identified as those rights that were previously assigned to the publisher by agreement with the developer.  

If a development company with a staff of employees is engaged in the development, then several conditions must be met. Firstly, persons who are specialists in one or another branch of game development interact with the company on the basis of an employment contract. The section "Rights and obligations of an employee" should contain a provision on the creation of work by the employee, which later become the property of the company. Accordingly, the company is obliged to issue a local normative act - the Regulation on official works, with which the employee must be familiarized. In order for the project to be correctly launched and no legal incidents arise in its process, certain documentation should be drawn up:

  1. Service assignment
  2. Service task progress report
  3. Service assignment acceptance certificate
  4. Agreement on payment of remuneration

By agreement of the parties, it is determined how often the employee is obliged to report to the employer on intermediate results. 

Thus, we have covered the most important details of designing a video game development relationship. You should take a responsible attitude to the execution of the contract and the documentation accompanying the activity in order to minimize the risk of non-payment of remuneration to the developer or presentation of a claim to them regarding the illegal use of his results of intellectual activity. A4 Law Firm will compile all documentation, depending on whether you are a developer or a publisher, eliminating all possible legal risks.


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