Legal aspects of your games business

DevBlog: Think about your Business

Have you ever thought about earning money with the games you create in your free time? If so, and when you actually do, there is a whole new bunch of things you have to consider. Because then, you officially start your own business. Last week I attended a webinar about “Establishing a part- time venture” by my local chamber of industry and commerce, and I would like to share my key insights with you.

But first off, a disclaimer: the following text is no legal advice, for I am no lawyer, so please double-check anything you do because of this article. Since I live and work in Germany, some of the following may not apply to you, but much of it should have an equivalent wherever you come from.

So, the moment you do something where you might earn some money, you open a business. This may be writing a blog – such as this one – with embedded advertising. Or you may publish a game showing ads. And even if no one is interested in your blog or game, what counts is your intent to make money. Consequently, I registered a trade I called Games Vineyard Videospiele Ingo Scholz. The main reason is, of course, that your finance office can correctly collect taxes on your potential profits. On the other hand, it allows you to deduct your investments from your regular income, such as new hardware, license fees, or maybe even a game you need to compare your ideas with.

Business is not only about Money

Top ranking page visitors of Games:Tech:Blog, with the imprint ranking 5th.
The imprint ranks in the top 5 of page visits.

Earning money and all the things that come with it is what a business is about. But on last week’s webinar, there were two more aspects I had given much less consideration so far: legal requirements and insurances. That sounds quite dry, but it’s very important nonetheless. For example, in my article on blogging you can see that the imprint of my Games:Tech:Blog is viewed as often as some of my most successful articles. This may just be because of crawlers trying to link my website to a real person and address. But it may also be lawyers looking for mistakes they might use as a reason to send me a dissuasion.

Regarding insurances, I learned some things worth considering. Most importantly, you should check whether your private insurances, most importantly regarding liability and buildings, actually cover your business activities as well. Fortunately, making games requires very little hardware that could be damaged, and a game rarely actually harms anyone. But there are risks involved, such as loss of data, or maybe copyright infringements you were not aware of. So try to conceive what damages are possible, then check with your insurance company if those are covered. If not, make a risk assessment, try to mitigate the high risks, or consider, e.g., a professional liability insurance to cover them.

Getting Advice

The subject of opening and running a business is extensive, but it is important to get knowledgable about it. Many guides and blogs – such as Plötzlich-Selbstä for founders in Germany which I found very helpful – offer valuable information. But for specific questions I actually recommend just writing or calling your chamber of industry and commerce. You should get well-founded counsel there or, in the worst case, get an address where to turn to.

Do you know any other blogs, maybe for other countries, where you can get information about founding a business? Feel free to share the links in the comments below!

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