Cody welcomes Sam Castree III, Ace Attorney, who discusses some fundamental legal needs of video game developers. Hear Sam walk Cody through the process of how a video game developer should select and leverage legal counsel from day one of development.

Show Notes:

  • Sam Castree III, Ace Attorney, talks about how he got into practicing video game law, including an incident with a friend’s free-to-play game being ripped off and listed for sale by another company in Vietnam
  • Sam reveals that he was sworn in on Halloween, and Cody reveals why that is perfectly appropriate for Sam, whose trademark for years has been the color orange
  • Sam discusses word-of-mouth, networking, and other methods of growing a business
  • Learn the importance of establishing “the basics” when beginning a video game development venture
  • Background info on “one size fits all” lawyers and why to NOT use them when entering into an entertainment-specific business venture like video game development
  • Cody asks Sam to walk him through the legal process from square one, beginning with the moment a potential video game developer picks up a dev kit
    • Sam starts with the importance of defining what type of company you have, e.g. sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation, corporation, partnership, etc.
    • Sam talks about Lawyers for the Creative Arts (pro bono & low-cost legal help in the Chicago area), which he has worked with in the past
    • Sam explains independent contractor agreements, why it’s important to have them when someone contributes to your game, and what happens to those agreements after 35 years
      • On a related note, learn why Superman has been dealing with litigation for decades
    • Also learn about how different contracts work under different court jurisdictions, and why it’s important to get local legal help
    • In a rare moment, Cody contributes his expertise by mentioning one good piece of legal advice he’s ever heard: get everything in writing
      • Sam backs him up and actually explains why this is important
    • Sam goes into the details of different types of partnerships, such as general partnerships, and when and what kind of partnership may be a good idea
    • Sam explains the legal benefits and privileges gained from filing for a copyright, including some of the policies surrounding how and when you can do it
    • What do you do if you accidentally “rip someone off” when making a game? Sam explains!
    • Why using someone else’s content in your game is definitely a no-no
    • Cody and Sam talk about overseas litigation, and the reasons why it can be pretty ridiculously difficult to pursue
    • Sam talks trademarks and how protectable they are
      • He delves into King Digital’s attempt to trademark “saga” to protect their games like Candy Crush Saga, and why the trademark filing wasn’t quite as strange as everyone initially thought (although it was still pretty bad)
      • Cody brings up the iDroid from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and asks Sam about the “i” prefix as a trademark
    • Sam also talks about logo usage in games, and what can and can’t get you into trouble, including an interesting situation that is currently being “tested”
    • Sam talks about a strange trademark lawsuit involving Grand Theft Auto V that definitely lost
  • You can contact Sam at NeonOrangeKnight[a.t]gmail[d.o.t.]com or SamCastree{a’t}crawfordpatents{do’t}com
  • Sam gives a brief overview of Indie City Games, which Cody is checking out as soon as they finish recording
  • Sam stresses the importance of conducting a trademark search before you even think about publishing your game
  • On a more personal note, Sam mentions that he’s been playing Super Mario Maker, and his 4-year-old son even made a level!
    • You can download Sam’s son’s level with this code: A33F-0000-001A-894A
    • Sam confirms that he is indeed a gamer… which makes him a great choice to work with if you’re looking for a video game lawyer

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