Your article demonstrates that there are publishers who are reluctant to deal with developers who take extra steps to protect their games, but are there publishers out there (no need to name names) who'll screw over developers who don't take steps to protect their work? You say it's more like book publishing than invention; did you uncover any trends about what segments of the industry are more like which model?

- Bongo Bill

Author's Reply: I do think there is that same amount of fear of semi-solicited game proposals. A few publishers do actively seek game design documents from developers. However, in these cases, the legal agreement that you must agree to when submitting your game states clearly that 1) they could be working on a similar game, and 2) there is no real protection for the game developer. Submitting a design is just telling someone your idea, and there is no kind of agreement or protection (aside from copyright protection) for doing that.

It's not a lot of protection for a freelance developer. The problem is, I can understand why publishers are so shy of NDAs and such. In many cases it's just best to avoid legal issues altogether than to get into a fight which involves lawyers. One bad lawsuit at the wrong time could probably sink a publisher.

I think there are a lot of similarities between book writing and game design. By nature both are big, long-term, creative endevors. Though the medium is very different, the role of a publisher is pretty similar (albeit with a few extra hurdles). I also think manuscripts are like unfinished game designs. There are some interesting manuscripts out there, but finding them amidst the drivel is a daunting task.

Unlike books, games allow (require) you to define the means of interaction, which opens up lots of new venues for invention. Books, legally, are fairly simple. You have copyright protection, and that's about it. Of course, it'd also pretty difficult to disguise one book as another... By the time you've done that, you might as well have written the book from scratch. In games, I would say it's easier to plagarize game mechanics. Tracking down the geneology of ideas or interactions is a pretty daunting task. The controversies over the modern Graphical User Interface which involved Xerox PARC/Apple/Microsoft/etc. would be one example of the kind of conflict an exposed idea can create.

- Blake

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