The greatest part about any job in the creative industries is obviously all the legal mumbo jumbo and enough red tape to make you question if you actually own the product you are working on.
What do you mean it’s not?
Maybe if I explain it to you.
Firstly copyright laws don’t only cover finished products, but the way an idea is “expressed” meaning if a designer was to create a game design document for a game, it would then automatically be covered by copyright. The game doesn’t actually have to be made for it to be considered property and covered by law. Naturally, ideas are not covered, as it would be impossible to prove that you had an idea before someone else had the same idea, let alone if they actually had that idea in the first place. So along as you have some kind of concept of idea, it’s covered by copyright law. Pretty great, right?
As for not knowing if what you create is yours or not think of it this way. You’re running your own company and you need some work done, but for whatever reason you don’t want to add them to the pay roll permanently, so you hire someone via contract to get the job done. The contract is written up in a way so that everyone wins. Your company gets all the money from the game and takes full ownership, and the contracted employee is allowed to use the game in his or her portfolio to show future employers and they also get payed for doing the job. How fair the contract is entirely depends on the cooperation of each party.
As the contracted person, imagine the company you are hired to work for tries to screw you over, assuming you didn’t screw up and not read the contract, you may be eligible to take complete ownership over what you have done. Again, how great is that?
So as I was saying, Copyrights and Contracts are totally cool and can definitely save you from the pain of having your idea stolen, or hiring someone to help you finish off an idea, just to have them claim part ownership and entitlement to half of the funds your idea makes.