When I first started out as a freelance artist, I came into contact with a small startup game development group, looking to publish a console game as their first endeavor. I was intrigued at first by their confidence and solid game concept, so I accepted when they offered to have me work on some of their assets.
Despite a few speedbumps, I tried my best to cooperate with the project lead and wound up creating a few assets that I was rather proud of, given the little amount of direction that I had. Naive that I was, of course, I created these assets before signing any kind of contract, though thankfully I hadn’t yet willed it away by any other kind of word. So when it came time to actually review said contract, I was displeased to find that there were no clauses therein that protected any of my rights as the originator of my work–rather, the contract pretty much explicitly stated that all rights of ownership and all claims to creation of these assets belonged to my client.
Willing to try to figure things out, I emailed my client regarding my concerns.
Me: Hey! I’ve looked over the contract, and while it mostly looks good there are a few stipulations I would first like to amend to the contract to ensure some of my rights.
I then included my stipulations in the email. Within about two hours, I had his response:
Client: Sure thing, here’s the amended contract.
Attached to his email was a version of the same contract with one of my stipulations added, though the other two were nowhere to be found. So I emailed him again:
Me: Excellent, thank you so much! But before I can sign, I’m afraid I need to be sure that all of my stipulations are included, again, just to be sure I’m protected under this contract as well.
Client: Nobody else on the project asked for this when they signed that same contract.
Me: I understand that, and I apologize for the confusion, but I must insist on these stipulations. A one-size-fits-all contract for employees of the company doesn’t work for me, as I’m a self-employed freelance artist doing work for you.
Client: Well, I’m afraid I can’t make any guarantees for you in the contract, but it won’t matter anyway–you’re already credited in the game.
Me: Thank you for the reassurance, but I need to have my rights specified in the contract in order to have any kind of legal protection in the event of a mistake or otherwise worst-case scenario.
Client: You’re being difficult. Nobody else had a problem with this. You’ll never find a company that’s willing to budge on this.
Me: I am sorry to hear that, but if you are unwilling to amend the contract, I cannot sign it nor can I allow you to use any of the work that I’ve produced for the project.
He proceeded to call me on the phone to try and persuade me through compliments to my work, and when that didn’t work, went right back to “informing me” that I would never find a company willing to assure me the rights I was asking for. After this phone call, I received the following in email:
Client: How about if I pay you?
When I declined the bribe to sign away the rights to my work without any guarantees of my own rights, he proceeded to curse me out and plead with me to continue working with him in the same email. I refused again, and I’ve never heard from him again since.