If I make a game with a tool, does the toolmaker own my game or me?

Question I received off Twitter:

If you use a software to make the game, does the rights of the game goes to you or the software?

From @ghouston098

 

I’m interested in licensing and IP rights, and it’s a bit hard to answer over Twitter so I’ll try here.

Short answer: In almost all cases, you own your game. You might have to pay a licensing fee to publish your game, however. Check the tool’s licensing information on their official webpage.

Long answer:

Most of the time when you’re using a library to create a game, that library will give you 100% control over your own work. When you see something like SDL 1.2 being licensed as LGPL, this applies only to the changes you make to SDL itself – not your game.

With software tools, you will have to look at their licenses. Some allow you to use the tool for free for personal use, some will allow you to use the tool for free while you are earning less than some amount of money, and some will require that you pay a licensing fee before you sell your work. You will want to check on the tool’s website.

For example:

From Unity’s FAQ:

Can we sell games and make money with the free version of Unity?

Yes you can create and sell a game with the free version of Unity, without paying royalties or any revenue share. However, the free version of Unity may not be licensed by a commercial entity with annual gross revenues (based on fiscal year) in excess of US$100,000, or by an educational, non-profit or government entity with an annual budget of over US$100,000.

 

From GameMaker’s FAQ:

Do I have to give you any of the profits from my game?

No, your game is your property and YoYo Games does not take a cut from your profits.

 

More about licenses –

  • CopyFree Licenses: http://www.copyfree.org/
  • About CopyLeft Licenses: https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/
  • Read your legal jargon carefully for important things like your game development tool’s usage agreement!
  • If you have a job or are attending a university, they might have a clause that states that anything you create belongs to them. Check with your employer and school.

 

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