Small Game Publishing
Question submitted by Anonymous (08 July 1999)

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  I am from the USA and have solely made a small game which is already being published by two US publishers with non-exclusive rights. A German publisher has just contacted me wanting exclusive rights to the game in some very specific German-only markets. I have 2 questions about my situation:

1) Can I even trust foreign market contract agreements? ( Do they hold the same inherent forces as contracts made in the US? What I mean is even though I sign a contract with a German company, can they just turn around and take advantage of me because of some international copyright law or treaty? ( The contract I have is very similar to US contracts and looks good. ) )

2) Since my previous contracts were for non-exclusive rights, should I contact them about my 3rd contract which does have exclusive rights to a VERY specific regional area and in a very specific market?

  1) First, always contact a real lawyer who wants you to pay him money on these kinds of things, as otherwise you are getting advice from people who have no vested interest and may not really know what they are talking about. Apart from that, not being a lawyer who is charging you :), I believe international contracts have exactly the same bond as ones in your own country and at least copyright issues were all covered in the Berne convention where basically every country in the world agreed that they would abide by the same copyright law standards. Though they are obviously going to have more difficulties being settled if a dispute comes up because they arent down the street. Make sure in the terms of the agreement the place where the settling will be done if a problem comes up is specified, though you may not be able to get it in your location its good to have everything written down.

So, talk to a lawyer, and make sure the contract is acceptable. If it is, go for it.

2) Non-exclusive rights, I am assuming for US-only distribution correct? If so, this means you dont need to contact them about a non-US deal, but you might want to just let them know anyway. Especially if you want to work with them in the future, its good to keep good lines of communication open. They may be looking into other distributors outside the US for their products and if you let them know that Germany is taken care of, then they dont need to waste any time looking for yours, as doing so and then finding out you gave the rights exclusively to someone else would be frustrating.

Response provided by Geoff Howland

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