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So I'm about to submit a game to a competition, but as I looked through the rules a chunk grabbed my attention:

All Entries become the sole and exclusive property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. Sponsor shall own all right, title and interest in and to each Entry, including without limitation all results and proceeds thereof and all elements or constituent parts of Entry (including without limitation the Mobile App, the Design Documents, the Video Trailer, the Playable and all illustrations, logos, mechanicals, renderings, characters, graphics, designs, layouts or other material therein) and all copyrights and renewals and extensions of copyrights therein and thereto. Without limitation of the foregoing, each Eligible Entrant shall and hereby does absolutely and irrevocably assign and transfer all of his or her right, title and interest in his or her Entry to Sponsor, and Sponsor shall have the right and may authorize others to use, copy, sublicense, transmit, modify, manipulate, publish, delete, reproduce, perform, distribute, display and otherwise exploit the Entry (and to create and exploit derivative works thereof) in any manner, including without limitation to embody the Entry, in whole or in part, in apps and other works of any kind or nature created, developed, published or distributed by Sponsor and to and register as a trademark in any country in Sponsor’s name any component of the Entry, without such Eligible Entrant reserving any rights or claims with respect thereto. Sponsor shall have the exclusive right, in perpetuity, throughout the Territory to change, adapt, modify, use, combine with other material and otherwise exploit the Entry in all media now known or hereafter devised and in any manner, in its sole and absolute discretion, without the need for any payment or credit to Entrant.

So the game will become the sponsor's property; however, they don't ask for source code. So will I still own the rights to the source code, whatever that means? And if it doesn't win said competition, will I be able to publish it myself without their trademarks? I am very new to software legality stuff, so I would appreciate any clarification.

Since there's a possibility I won't even own the source, is it possible to make the game core engine open source software with a not-very-restrictive license and include that in the project, so I at least still own the game engine? Or does it not work that way?

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The rules say that the Sponsor owns the game you submit, in its entirety. They can do anything they want to with it, including the selling and making of money with it, and they don't have to compensate you. You have to decide whether or not you're comfortable with that. – Robert Harvey Apr 4 '12 at 4:33
I updated my question, but what I just want is the freedom to publish it myself if it doesn't win... – slartibartfast Apr 4 '12 at 4:35
It doesn't look like you have that. If you publish the game yourself, they can claim copyright infringement. That's what owning all the rights means; it means you can prevent others from exploiting your game (which is now theirs). – Robert Harvey Apr 4 '12 at 4:35
I just Googled part of this agreement. It's Atari. No surprise there; basically, the competition is a crowdsourcing effort for their next game. They pay the winner $100,000; for that money, they get dozens of new ideas for their next game. The real question is, is your game good enough to win $100,000? – Robert Harvey Apr 4 '12 at 4:42
Nice "competition". I wouldn't submit as much as a tic-tac-toe under those conditions. – pap Apr 4 '12 at 8:39
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I'm not sure you'd even still own the source code any more -- it looks to me like if they want it, they can probably demand it. In any case, they have all rights to the game itself, so even if you don't turn the source code over to them, you can't use it in any way without their permission.

If it were my game, I wouldn't bother with a lawyer -- I wouldn't need to pay anybody for advice to stay a long ways away from this one.

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Thanks. I have decided not to submit the app to this evil competition. – slartibartfast Apr 4 '12 at 6:11
What if you first put your product into public domain? Then since it's public domain stuff, no matter what the terms write, they can't own it anymore right? – Pacerier Apr 14 '13 at 18:43
@Pacerier: I don't think you could submit source code you'd already released -- if they found out you had, it would probably be disqualified. To agree that the entry becomes the sole and exclusive property of the sponsor, it has to start out as your sole and exclusive property. In this case, it wouldn't be, so you'd probably be in breech of contract. – Jerry Coffin Apr 14 '13 at 19:35

The way I read that, they're demanding All Rights to Everything, including all copyrights. I am not a lawyer, but I can't see any way to construe that as NOT including the source code.

It is your call, to consult an attorney, or not. If it were my game, and I wanted to keep any rights to it, I would not spend the money to have an attorney tell me what I am already pretty sure of.

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You need a lawyer...

But it certainly sounds like it becomes their property in the entirety. If you've spent a lot of time developing this game I would question wisdom of submitting it unless you are happy to loose all rights to it.

You need a lawyer...

Edit re needing a lawyer:

Lots of advice saying a lawyer is unnecessary based on cost. Whilst probably true, surely that depends on a number of things:

  1. the value of the competition vs the amount of time invested in the game
  2. the country you are living/the competition is being held. It may contravene local copyright laws and is therefore invalid irrespective of what it says
  3. the cost of the lawyer. Many countries have free legal advice services of one kind or another. So it might not cost anything, other than a couple of hours at the legal service.
share|improve this answer
I'm now a lawyer, and I don't need to be to tell him that if wants to release it if it doesn't win, agreeing to these rules would bar him from doing so. The immediate knee-jerk reaction to any licensing issue should not be "you need to talk to (and pay) a lawyer". In this case, it's a waste of money. – Philip Apr 4 '12 at 16:21
@Philip I disagree. I've updated my answer accordingly. – ZweiBlumen Apr 4 '12 at 16:35

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