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Working and Indie'ing

Posted by Digitalos on Wed, 04/05/11 - 9:50 AM

Hey all,

I have a question in respects to the legal rights of workers in the game industry. I have a friend who works at a studio in Aus, and is also an indie. When that person first started, the company said it was no problem with him being an indie. However they have since changed their mind, and said he can no longer produce any content for his indie projects. Now I didn't have an answer when he asked me, but I'm curious as I'm in the same position, I do full-time work for a studio and I work as an indie in my spare time. Obviously the difference here is that my company knows about my work and has given me written permission (and even offered to help out cos they are THAT awesome) ;). But I was wondering about legal rights, is a company actually legally allowed to prevent you from doing work like that in your free time?

Does anyone have any experience in this, or anywhere I can get advice from? It seems a bit unfair to me, I guess if I was making a game that was identical in every way except name to theirs, potentially that is different.

Anyhow, thanks for any help!

Submitted by Digitalos on Wed, 04/05/11 - 4:47 PM Permalink

Hi Marshalls & Dent, thanks heaps for your comment. I didn't expect that at all.

I will pass this on to my friend. He still hasn't appeared, so either his work killed him and buried the body, or he is busy. It's probably well worth him seeking some advice so he can provide the details, because as you say and I completely agree with this the devil really is in the details, and I think that's true of essentially anything, not just law. So just a great rule of thumb.

I've bookmarked your website too. :)

Thanks again!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/05/11 - 9:44 AM Permalink

Working on game development isn't a credible overlap or conflict is true; selling games you've developed during your employment might be...
There's a distinction between the two, of course the whole concept of IP rights is somewhat of a grey area. Natural rights to IP should play some part as long as you can provide evidence to show that the IP is sufficiently dissimilar to the company's as well as provide evidence that there is sufficient distance between the company's proprietary technology and yours.

From an employer's point of view I would hazard, and this is something I've always believed myself, that as long as there is no financial conflict of interests (ie. direct market competition) with employees' products it could prove useful in the long run to allow this type of external branching as long as some mechanisms can be contracted legally (ie. rights of purchase, rights of advertisement, etc.). Draconian contracts always make me wary of the company in question and in the end I would say that research into corporate and business management has shown that employees which are happier, invested in their products and feel the freedom to express themselves outside of work, will yield far better results then otherwise.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/05/11 - 10:14 AM Permalink

some points to your points:

- companies should have control over an employees input within the company itself; if an employee proves to be unreliable then there are proper channels to address this and finally terminating the contract.
What if I spend every night bush walking and come to work really tired, should my contract tell me I'm not allowed to bush walk??

- What is I win the lottery? What if my mother dies and I realize that life is too short to work for this company?
Should my contract "legally" bar me from filling out lottery tickets? Should the contract state my mother can't die while I'm employed?

- See point one; using company resources for anything other than company business is stupid and illegal, has nothing to do with your work outside of the contract.

These points and the further explanation of their reasoning illustrates a common fallacy when it comes to modern business practices and models. Yes, contracts are there to protect company interests but they are also there to protect the employees from questionable actions through the company (such as trying to steal IP rights). In my opinion it is in the company's best interest to work with their employees rather than against them and reflect this in the contract.