Friday, May 4, 2007

Will game schools let students actually *make* games?

In a conversation with some Digipen students at the IGF at GDC (their game was a finalist), I was *shocked* to learn that they didn't actually have the right to commercialize their game, but that the Digipen school owned the rights to any games created by their students.

I was shocked. I was also naive. I turns out many of today's educational systems are imposing unreasonable copyright terms on students in their media programs. To my knowledge this isn't happening with written works so much as with film, games, etc. I can't see why one would be treated differently than another.

In an interesting development, Boing Boing today posted something about students at USC's film school protesting the copyright policy, and petitioning to have the right to have their works licensed under Creative Commons.

I hope they are successful, and I hope places like Digipen follow suit (or are forced to).

14 comments:

Igna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adam lake said...

When signing forms for university we signed a form which gave all our ip rights to university for everything we created, code, designs, written works, etc. you probably did too and don't remember.

Nathan said...

I attend FIEA @ UCF, a fairly new game school. They were very clear with us that we own anything we create while we are students.

One of the student game finalists at the IGF this year was Opera Slinger, created by the cohort before mine. They have been offered some money to turn it into a commercial product. They did not take the deal, but the school had no problem with it.

Decompiled said...

It varies from university to university. I think in general it isn't a problem, but for Art students keeping hold of the IP for their work can be incredibly beneficial, especially from a portfolio perspective.

When the best students start to have a preference for universities that allow them to keep their IP, then things will change.

Steve Chiavelli said...

We knowingly (naively?) signed away the rights to everything we would make when entering DigiPen.

Personally, it seemed like a good trade-off. I would be attending what I had researched to be arguably the best place for learning how to be a game programmer. I was OK with not being able to sell or profit from my student projects. What were the odds I would end up making something anyone cared about (oops)?

Unfortunately, I never could have foreseen the whole Slamdance drama. Having the school attach my game (and name) to something against my will was an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

Ben Mattes said...

Kim,

A debatable policy indeed and I'm glad Steve already posted a comment because his situation with Toblo was what first brought the IP issue to my attention.

One quick question -- do you know what sort of IP policies hold for more general graduate level work done at universities (non-gaming)? I believe my father is currently running into some rights issues with his school over research done as part of his PhD.

-Ben

Anonymous said...

Here are some things to consider from a school's perspective:
a) Most educational institutions' goals are to educate students and allow them to take risks and explore without the risks of having to compete with the industry. Schools were never intended to be production houses trying to compete with professional developers. If they were, what companies would be open to helping the students if they were competing with them?

b) Secondly, many students learn to create their games using deeply discounted software with educational licenses. Would it be right for them to turn around after winning an award to then profit off of their project that was intended as a learning experience?

My understanding is that most schools do own the rights of student work that was created with educational licenses, but not what students create on their own, in their spare time, on their own computers.

Anonymous said...

I attended Digipen, and yes they do own the rights to all of their student creations. But, they did make it very clear to us that they were more than willing to help students launch their projects into the main stream if the opportunity arose. Valve's Portal for instance was originally a Digipen student game called Narbacular Drop, and that team of students had no problem getting hired to remake the game with the Source engine. They are just trying to protect their rights and the rights of their students.

Anonymous said...

Well, I hope the USC students are successful.

USC does an amazing job of selling the glamour and success of its graduates. But guess what? come oscar time, they always send a hype email about the same famous graduates... you know, the Ron Howard types...

The reality is much more dismal. Students, like myself, graduating on the verge of bankruptcy. Facing 100K in student loans. USC can get away with it because it buddies so well with the industry.

DigiPen? Full Sail? These schools know so well that they need a trophy, like the game these students made, to validate themselves. They're desperate for it. They need students' creativity and ideas. Their profits depend on it.

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