I have been working on a game for a little while, and I am excited about it. To be quite honest, I am not sure how people will like it. It is different than a lot of things that have been made. I want to release some screenshots and possibly a gameplay demo to get feedback before I spend too much time on it. If it turns out to be an enjoyable experience I think there is a lot of potential for expanding it into a series in the future. That is if the first release does well enough. However, I am afraid if I release content that someone will run with my idea. Should I get it under copyright before I release anything?
As unlikely that it is that someone will steal your idea, getting a copyright in the US at least is insanely cheap. If you’re far enough into your projects where you have screenshots and an actual demo, there’s no reason not to get the copyrights established. Just remember to keep it updated whenever the project changes significantly, if I recall correctly it’s 30% deviation that you have to renew it at.
You already own copyright over anything you create immediately when you create it, you don’t need to register anything except for a trademark like the name of the game or studio.
You can’t copyright a ‘game idea’ anyway.
True, but I meant more filling out something like http://copyright.gov/forms/formva.pdf which makes it easier to prove in court if it ever comes up. It varies depending on the actual thing you’re trying to copyright, but this one at least would be useful for the actual artwork in the game, where when it comes to the writing/story you would be better off registering it with something like the writer’s guild. For individuals, these things are generally worth the investment since it doesn’t cost much at all to go through this and make it official.
That’s a lot of work to do for all your assets, and it’s not difficult to prove ownership of something you’ve created since you should still have the original files or some record of when you created it.
If you don’t want people to see it don’t put it out there and use an NDA when you do show it to people, potential developers or publishers etc. You automatically have copyright when you publish something, but that won’t protect against someone using your “idea”.
You don’t generally do it for the individual assets but rather for the game itself, that covers all the art assets the game has. And the problem with having the original files or a record is that metadata on a computer such as date created can be modified after the fact, and if the case is regarding someone that didn’t necessarily rip your artwork from the game but rather recreated it themselves and used that, it becomes a lot more difficult since it’s then your word against theirs.
Copyrighting a total work would still have the same issue, unless it’s clear an asset is part of it then you wouldn’t necessarily know it was in there. The source files can show the assets in a state that wouldn’t be something you could fake, like a Zbrush sculpt or the original high-resolution textures, or Photoshop files that show the layers. You would also have most likely some stuff posted on the internet where you wouldn’t be able to fake the timestamp so you could prove that it came before someone else supposedly made theirs.
Maybe it is foolish to think someone would steal your idea. Even if they did I suppose every work is unique, so even if someone used a similar idea it wouldn’t be the same unless they had access to your assets.
Sometimes there’s stuff that happens, like Infamous/Prototype but they would have to significantly change things