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I am a graphic artist and not a modeler or a programmer. For the last few months I have been developing the concept for a game, but could not find a proper team of collaborators to make a demo. Then, as luck would have it, I met a group of people from a local Design College that has a new degree in Game Design. After a brief chat with the program’s Director, he seems really interested in coming to an agreement. Most of his students need an actual project to work on for their final year, and I need a team to make a demo…

So it works out great for both of us. I am trying to make a formal meet with the school’s administration to reach a formal agreement. Just one thing I am not sure of.

Who owns the project?

After everything is said and done, the end result is a demo and a Game Design Doc what will be presented to a publisher, but who owns the rights to the game?

I know the answer technically is “who ever is agreed upon in the collaboration contract” but how does these collabs usually work?

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So... you're not doing any modelling, and you're not doing any programming - just handing a bunch of pictures to the developers and telling them, "make this game". If I was the Director, the only rights I'd be offering, would be a demo copy for your portfolio. Seriously, if his team needs a project, there's a ton of ideas out there. It would be way easier for him to find a project idea, than for you to find a team of free developers. –  Cyclops Sep 14 '10 at 13:14
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-1, how is this not a dupe of gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/3114/… –  Tetrad Sep 14 '10 at 21:12
    
Wow, I am going to try and bring this to perspective without insulting programmers and modelers, the way you are doing with artists. An Architect will make a design. He will sketch what he wants. Then he hands these over to the CAD jockeys to turn these pictures into electronic files. He will hand them over to the structural guy, who makes all the proper calculations. He will hand them over to the lighting guy, who makes all the proper layouts. He will hand them over to the civil engineer, to the mechanical, to everyone involved. –  Arquitecto Colo García-Padilla Sep 15 '10 at 4:25
    
After everything is said and done, all these people are simply following the Architect’s creative design, his instructions. Without the design, you have NOTHING! Your mentality is that any idiot has an idea. Usually when an idiot has an idea, it is an idiotic idea, and not worth the time and effort. There are a lot of idiotic ideas out there, true, but it is those good ones that actually work. Without them, you have NOTHING! –  Arquitecto Colo García-Padilla Sep 15 '10 at 4:25
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There are plenty of people on functional game design teams besides programmers and modellers, including concept artists, systems designers, and producers. One thing there is not on functional game design teams is a guy ranting about how those in the other disciplines are not "creatives". –  user744 Sep 15 '10 at 8:32
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3 Answers

In my opinion, since your only job is art and design and you are by yourself, you have a very weak stance getting to become the owner of the project since you have the least contribution of work out of the whole team. You are highly dependant on them to make your project work, whereas they do not need you to get their passing mark on the finals.

If you want full ownership, either work alone on your project, pay people to put it together, or somehow manage to convince the people you are working with to assign full ownership to you despite working for you for free.

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The interesting point is that it was the students and the professor who came up to me with the idea. Very few programmers and modelers are actually artists or creatives. The same way that very few artists are technically inclined. They (the university) actually suggested I give a couple lectures on artistic conceptualization. –  Arquitecto Colo García-Padilla Sep 15 '10 at 4:29
    
In any case you still have to convince them to give you ownership. It still stands that you are by yourself and the team (5+ people?) is much larger than you. –  5ound Sep 18 '10 at 20:28
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Does your studio not have access to legal advice? Ask an attorney specializing in contract law to draft a contract that clearly spells out everyone's rights, responsibilities, and ownership. As for "who owns what" -- it can be whatever all parties agree to!

If this is unpaid work, you'll probably want to contact someone about this anyway to make sure the agreement is legal; I hear that in some states, "unpaid internships" are not allowed, for example.

While you didn't ask, I'll give you two caveats with this kind of "industry asks a student team to make a demo" project: 1) Student projects don't always work. Sometimes the students don't have the skills to pull it off, or they don't get it done in time, or they turn in something that's only partly done. 2) Expect zero support after the academic term is over. Students will TELL you they want to keep working on it, but in practice they almost never do.

Choose a project accordingly :)

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You're right, that whoever is contractually established as the owner, is the owner. I get the feeling that you want the rights to the project. If that's the case, then be aggressive! In the end you need to come to an agreement with them, but if your hope is to keep the rights to the game and you feel it is a fair stance (or even if you don't), then state it from the beginning so that you can start negotiations to come to an agreement. Maybe they're okay with that; after all, if they are in desperate need of a project and yours is perfect for the situation, they may be willing to forgo the rights to sell the product in exchange for exclusive rights to develop it, for example.

Most likely you'll need to meet them in the middle, though. I'd say just set up your formal meet, and meet with them. Discuss it, and come to an agreement that you're happy with. And then get it all in writing.

As usual... IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer)...

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