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Scenario:

You were picked up by a remotely run (no studio, just run over the internet on no server - skype file transfer only) indie developer, one with a goal in mind by a certain date. You were only asked to sign a NDA and NO OTHER contract. Throughout the relationship you have with the developer you were led to believe that once/if the game is picked up by a publisher, you will have a compensated contract/salary job at the to-be-studio.

All work was submitted, implemented, and used in the game.

Immediately after the date/goal, you and the rest of the audio team/composer gets let-go. This included even some of the developers that were responsible for a majority of the visual elements in the game as well. Some of these people after faithfully being with the studio for over a year and a half. The reason given to dropped developers: "The game is going in a different direction," and then you come to find out the rest of the current developers were being told that the canned developers "found something else" or had been "picked up by other developers," which was not the case.

You come to find out that this had happened on smaller scales throughout the dev cycle of the game. And other scenarios as demanding work (in all cases visual elements as models/animations/fx) in an unrealistic time frame, especially with no compensation, then canning the ** volunteer developer ** when they didnt deliver.

The aftermath:

This seems to be a textbook example of pyramid developing. A very significant number of past-developers for the studio are now coming forward with complaints on their history with the company.

The past-developers are now asking for their material to be pulled, to use their content for other projects and productive sources. The previous developers are asking for their content NOT to be published or legal action will be pursued.

Question:

With no contract stating employment, compensation, nor copyright ownership - do the previous devlopers have a leg to stand on when asking for their content to be pulled from the game?

My view is that with no ownership of copyright contract, (the project files - session files - and game asset files that were created on the canned developers computers, time stamped and with personal computer info burnt into the project file meta data as proof that they created it and not the project manager) the material is subject for removal of the studios game at the asset creators will. I had to study a year and a half of contract, legal, and copyright in the entertainment industry during my schooling - and it is very much contract based. No contract = no ownership for the receiving party = copyrights are retained by creator.

Your thoughts?

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I'm not sure about the legal side, but make an entry in http://www.ripoffreport.com/

In my experience, entries on this site rank pretty high on google. So, at very least, it could serve as a warning to anyone thinking of working with them.

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I read about this on reddit, I feel very sorry for the whole team. Maybe you guys could get together and try to contact a lawyer as a whole. With all your logs there might be something that can be done?

Good luck.

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Do any documents matter if you don't have the strength for legal proceedings?

  • @georgi.m Can you elaborate? Not sure what you mean. – C3Sound Mar 13 '11 at 15:11
  • Obviously in your situation there are other people who are after their rights. I'm referring to a situation where with or without a contract, use rights (or lack thereof) are being neglected. I.e. say you had a contract in this situation. How far would that take you? Your session files sound like the best bet for proving you are the author. How are you going to settle the matter if you can't come to an agreement with that company? – georgi Mar 13 '11 at 18:09
  • @georgi.m The issue is publishing the game with the content created by the previous developers. If they remove the content, re-make it, and publish, then its fine. The matter is only a matter if they dont honor the request of pulling the material. – C3Sound Mar 13 '11 at 19:45

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