Copyright Question - Freelancers and Tutors

Hey guys,

I’ve just got a question that I would like to shed some light on. I’m figuring if I wanted a real solid answer I might need to hire a lawyer but it’s a question I’d like to find an answer to. I’m in the process of designing a game, I’m sure most of us here have great ideas that we’d like to implement in creating a dream game, especially if your more on the artistic side. I’m learning blueprints but thought it might speed up the process if I hire a tutor to teach me how to implement some specific features. I’m using the “Advanced Turn Base Tile Toolkit” by Knut.

It’s great for a framework that’s provided me with a lot of basic features and the ability to just quickly prototype some basic ideas. However, I’m at the point where I would like to implement my own ideas on top of the existing Blueprint framework he’s provided me with. That’s where I’ve thought about either hiring a freelancer or hiring a tutor for BP implementation.

The question is, if I hire a freelance to create blueprints for me that are added on top of existing blueprints I’ve brought from the marketplace, if my game was to be successful would I need to pay him royalties, or would any complications arise? (I understand some of this can be covered in a contract, but I’m just one guy, not a company.

Or if I was to hire a tutor, to teach me how to implement specific features, on top of the existing blueprint I’ve brought from the marketplace, the things that I’ve learnt from him since I paid him am I then legally allowed to use that in a commercial game. (As that was the intention and reason behind hiring him/her in the first place).

I guess the real question is as an Indie game dev, how would I go about protecting myself from copyright issues after hiring freelances or a tutor. If the game was to be wildly successful and they knew that part of the code was implemented by them (even though the features/idea themselves were conceived by me) could they then claim that they were co-owners to the product and ask for a share of the profit despite being paid for their services already? Hearing the lawsuit over the game “Spaceship Warlock” raised this question.

Just a quick excerpt:

“Two leading multimedia developers, Michael Saenz and Joe Sparks, have been in court since the fall of 1993 in a dispute about the ownership of the copyright in their successful game, Spaceship Warlock. The dispute focuses on whether Joe was an employee or independent contractor of Reactor, Inc. (Mike Saenz’s company) when they developed the game. If Joe is right in claiming that he was an independent contractor, he is co-owner of the copyright and has a right to half of the profits from the game. These profits could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”[1]

Thank in advance!

If you are paying someone to work on your game then you would outline in their contract that whatever they make for your project is owned by you.
The other thing would be a bit weird–normally you wouldn’t have to worry about using skills from a tutor for a project, but say that you have a friend who’s experienced and they are helping to train you, and you ask them how to go about doing something and they guide you on how to do it and then you take that and finish it yourself or use that as starting point for something else–they could claim ownership of what they provided you. In that type of case, I would do a tutoring contract as well. That would be similar in how Epic takes ownership of bug fixes that people submit since they want to use a fix but need to be legally protected.

Thanks for replying! It seems the best way to protect myself then is to have a contract when it comes to copyright ownership. What if I used a 3rd party like this:
To my basic understanding this is a way to transfer copyright ownership, if I didn’t have a contract. Also for it to be legally binding, you’d have to hire a lawyer right, I couldn’t just type up a contract on my own could I?
If I used Kunvay and had my tutor upload the project file, we were working on, then the “Blueprints” implemented by him/her personally, they would be in my ownership. The only thing is, those blueprints would be built upon existing blueprints that I brought of the marketplace.

Yet to my understanding, since I brought the product from the marketplace, I can still use it in a commercial game as long as it’s compiled. So if the whole project file was uploaded to Kunvay with the additional blueprints taught by my tutor, seeing as it’s for a commercial game, the project as a whole can be mine, once I buy the rights to it. If I understand correctly.

You don’t need to use a website like that or a lawyer, for freelancers there are websites with some contract templates, a lawyer just might know of some things you might not have considered putting into a contract but any written and signed agreement is a contract as long as it doesn’t go against any laws. You would just need a contract outlining what the person is providing you and what you owe them in return.
Marketplace content that you pay for can be modified and used as much as you want, you just can’t share it outside of your compiled game.

I hadn’t considered contract templates before thanks for that! However, for a website like Kunvay though, would it still be plausible for me to do that? Since the added blueprints would be based upon a marketplace blueprint (which I own and will be part of a compiled game) the project file is just the one entity. If that file was uploaded to Kunvay then transfered over to me, I would own the copyright and be good to go.

Also what about if the tutor was online only, is there such thing as an authentic digital signature?

That website is not necessary at all, a standard freelancer contract will determine that the work that you hired them for is yours or not. If they have something they made and you want to buy it from them then that would be another type of thing.

For tutoring, if they are doing any amount of work on your project as part of helping you then that’s why you would want the contract and it would be similar to a freelancer contract.

As far as signing the contract, send them the contract and have them print and sign it and then scan it and send it back to you. I’m not sure about digital methods.