Computer Game music

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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cng
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Computer Game music

Post by cng » Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:55 am

Hi there, I wonder if you could help me.

I wrote music for a computer game 20 years ago. I was verbally promised royalties relating to the success of the game but this never materialised, allegedly the whole development team were 'ripped off' by the commissioning company. Even now the theme is played worldwide on Internet radio, numerous versions of the theme have been created on Youtube, ringtones of the theme have been made available for sale. I have not received a single penny in relation to the composition I made 20 years ago, apart from a small lump sum and a second-hand TV on commissioning it(!).

Where do I stand?

Best regards,
CNG.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:16 pm

From what you said here, it sounds like you should consult a solicitor who specialises in Intellectual Property law. There are several issues which may make this difficult to pursue. First, you will need to be able to prove that you wrote the music and when this happened. Secondly you will need to be able to show that the verbal contract you mention was understood by the others parties in the same way that you have interpreted it, and that the lump sum (and any other benefit) you received was not in fact made in full payment for your rights. If you were employed by the company developing the computer game (as in they paid your NI contributions etc) and it was part of your duties within the company to write the music, the company may well own the copyright, and obviously it would then be up to them to pursue any royalties. If you were employed by the company, did you have a contract of employment? This is probably unlikely 20 years ago, but if you did, check to see if it covers the subject of copyright. Modern contracts of employment for "creatives" should make a clear reference to ownership of copyright (and other IP matters such as patents etc) arising out of any work done by the employee. The actual date when you created this music could be important. If it was before 1 August 1989, then the current Copyright Designs and Patents Act would not have come into force, so the older 1956 Copyright Act and various other Acts would apply.
Be warned that this could be an expensive process. In the first instance it might be worth contacting the Musicians Union, or any other trade body you are a member of, for their advice, and possibly their support in taking your claim forward.

cng
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Post by cng » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:49 pm

Hi Andy,

All in all, it sounds far more trouble than it is worth! I might raise it with the MU out of curiosity. Many thanks...

CNG

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