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Long story short. I've been a developing a game for a ~2 years now and release is coming. In the middle of the development I was helped by my friend (she is a designer). She helped me to create most of game's UI and some of the arts. This is about 70% of all game's artwork. Everything else is on me.

We never agreed in writing or verbally on any reward and it was a friendship team up. She wanted to gain some experience and I needed a designer.

Right now she is not in the team for a personal reasons. We worked around 3 months in total.

All assets done under my tight control. The game is set to be released on Apple AppStore. It will not be free. Plus I own all the source files as she gave it to me.

The question is: do I have to retrieve any copyrights from her? If yes then how? What is the process of retrieving rights if there is a demand for one?

I wish I could use all the assets exclusively and I want to be safe from just-in-case situations. The thing is overcomplicated with that she is in the other country right now.

  • 1
    What jurisdiction? – Mr_V Jul 12 '16 at 15:51
  • Russia. Completely forgot about that. – s1ddok Jul 12 '16 at 17:09
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You don't need the copyright. You need a license that allows you to use the artwork.

If there was no agreement in writing or verbally about a payment, then she owns the copyright on all the artwork she created, and you have no license. Publishing your app without copyright or license would be legally very dangerous; it would actually be copyright infringement.

You have no right to demand the copyright or a license. You can persuade the designer, usually by paying money, or by paying some percentage of the income from the app, to give you the copyright or a license to use the graphics. And you definitely want things in writing.

How to get a license? You find the person, send her a letter asking for a license, which would be for example a letter saying "I hereby grant s1ddok the non-exclusive right to include the artwork listed below, to which I hold the copyright, in the applications XXX and YYY, and to sell copies of those applications including the artwork, in exchange for a payment of $ZZZ" or something similar. She may do this if offered an appropriate amount money, or a percentage of the sales or profits, or some amount per application downloaded.

A copyright transfer is a bit more complicated (especially if she is abroad) and will also cost you more, because copyright transfer means she loses the right to her own works.

  • So what is the process of retrieving the license if she is in the other country right now? – s1ddok Jul 13 '16 at 9:03
  • I mean I know literally nothing about that. What the document should look like? Should It contains all the illustration of the artworks that is passing license from? Or maybe just saying "all assets created for *Product Name". – s1ddok Jul 13 '16 at 9:11
  • I upvoted the answer anyway – s1ddok Jul 13 '16 at 9:12
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I am not a lawyer and I'm writing as an American so things might be different in Russia.

You might try to "retrieve" the copyright from your friend but not demand it. Basically, you may want to clear up what now could be a murky title to the copyright.

You can do this by paying her fair market value for her contribution. That makes her work "work for hire." In those situations, the payor retains the copyright even though someone else did some (or all) of the actual work.

It's best if you get a release in writing, signed and dated by both parties, in exchange for your payment. Second best is to make a payment and write "payment for [X work]" as a memo on your check. These measures can establish that it's a "work for hire."

It probably won't happen soon, but if the app becomes successful, she might challenge your rights. The point of paying her now is to "buy her out" so she won't succeed in doing this later.

  • Thanks for your answer. But I will need written agreement anyway? – s1ddok Jul 12 '16 at 18:56
  • @s1ddok: It's best to get one. But if you can document your payment, that will probably protect you because "work for hire" is implied. In any event, making a payment is the best way to get the written agreement. And it means that she can't go back to a court and say, "I didn't get anything for my work," because she did. When she accepts (reasonable) payment, she waives her further claim to copyright. – Libra Jul 12 '16 at 18:57
  • I upvoted the answer anyway but where can I find how the document should look like and how to create one? – s1ddok Jul 13 '16 at 9:12
  • @s1ddok : In the U.S. a lawyer will draw one up for you, but in your shoes, I might create my own. It could be as simple as "This [reference to work] is a work for hire, and s1ddok has paid X amount to Y person for her contribution to it." [signed and dated by both parties]. A better drawn agreement is better than a worse drawn agreement, but AN agreement is better than none at all. – Libra Jul 13 '16 at 11:02
  • I dont think person in Russia can officially hire other person for hire, but I see – s1ddok Jul 13 '16 at 11:18

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