I've seen other developers put their own names next to their copyright notice while others choose to put their studio name instead.

I read that having a studio name could potentially protect me legally in the future. if that's the case, why do some indie developers opt to instead put in their real names?

But I also read that if you're just starting out, it's better to just use your name instead.

Also if I put in a studio name instead, is the game still copyrighted to me or the random studio name I give it?

Edit: Upon doing some more reading online, it seems like it'll be more beneficial to use a studio name because it'll easier to perform SEO with it. Am I right about this? This is really confusing me.


closed as off-topic by Josh Apr 5 '16 at 17:34

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just saying, using a studio name only protects you legally if you actually have a legal entity that removes some liability from you i.e.: if you're in America you'd need an LLC, INC., or other entity that gives you protections. A sole prop. or operating under a fictitious name without a legal entity does nothing to protect you legally or financially. \$\endgroup\$ – user5665 Apr 5 '16 at 10:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ In many countries, copyright laws have different ways to calculate the expiration date depending on whether the copyright holder is a natural person or a company. But that does not matter much to you because in both cases the copyright will likely outlive you. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 5 '16 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ This might be a better candidate for law.stackexchange.com or, even better, an actual lawyer. It would also help to know what country you're in, because while Copyright law exists internationally, there are subtle differences in term durations (esp. regarding retroactively assigned Copyright), enforcement etc. \$\endgroup\$ – uliwitness Apr 5 '16 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ As nice is it is to get advice from the community about general best practices to cover your ass, with any serious venture please please please just pay for a few hours of real legal counsel if you plan on making a legitimate business out of your game studio or you will certainly regret it years down the road. \$\endgroup\$ – user5665 Apr 5 '16 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matt Jens Jensen: I plan on having my company be based in the US. Yes, I would gladly pay to listen to what an attorney has to say but I'm currently outside the US and don't have kind of luxury. There isn't a single attorney here that knows anything about US copyright law and the system in the country I'm currently in is so convoluted and corrupt. I used to be live in the US but why I'm not there at the moment is too long of a story to tell here. \$\endgroup\$ – Sammy32 Apr 5 '16 at 14:24

It depends on what your long-term career strategy is. Is your game the first step to establish your own game development company? Or is it a part of your personal portfolio to land a job with an existing company?

When it is the first, you would of course attribute it to the company to build up the brand.

When it is the latter, you would attribute it to yourself to emphasize that you made it all by yourself.

Regarding legal protection: In many countries you can form a limited liability company and then hire yourself as an employee. The company is then a separate legal entity from you. Should the company go bankrupt, you will only lose what you invested into the company. Even when your companies bank accounts are deep in the red, your personal assets won't be touched (unless you were criminally negligent). This is a very valuable safety net for yourself.

But for your company to accumulate debt, it either needs contractual obligations which involve fixcosts or a money loan from an external investor. For the one-person-in-their-bedroom development project which finances all expenses from their personal savings anyway, often neither is the case. So some people feel that there is no reason for them to bother with the paperwork which would be required to form a company.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So if I understand correctly, if I attribute the game I build to the company, it'll be the one who will own the copyright to the game itself, right? But since I'm the one who created the company, it will still be indirectly copyrighted to me? Could I still attribute my game to my game company without making the company into an LLC, INC, etc. for my first game? \$\endgroup\$ – Sammy32 Apr 5 '16 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sammy32 I think attributing the copyright to a legal entity which doesn't exist would be quite nonsensical. But note that the finer nuances of copyright law are a topic for law.stackexchange.com (remember to tell them your jurisdiction) \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 5 '16 at 14:47

You put who owns the copyright. That is not determined by the copyright notice, it merely describes the state.

If you are being paid by a studio to develop it, they almost certainly own it. If you additionally own it to a degree, or possibly but unlikely wholly own it and license it to them, is going to depend on your contract/working agreement.

If you own the studio and develop the software, then you are likely free to do as you please. This still could vary, though. If you are not the sole owner, and rarely do companies have sole owners, you still do not own it unless explicitly stated.

If the studio is not a legal entity, it cannot own the copyright, and therefore should not be used in the notice; your name should be. Adding a fictitious studio might limit your ability to enforce the copyright in the future.

If you're worried about liability (which seems unlikely with a game, unless you are doing something illegal intentionally), I suggest a warranty disclaimer like Open Source licenses almost all have.

Basically, this depends on a lot of details of the situation you have not provided. You are best being as honest as possible - making up a legal entity is not a good start on that front. There is also a potential for locale-based legal differences. I am speaking as a US non-lawyer.


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