GAME PUBLISHERS DO NOT HAVE BLANKET RIGHTS TO MAKE CHANGES!
Time and again, game publishers try to obtain blanket permission for changes to the game (work) in their contracts with the game authors, without requiring their consent. This is not permissible and contradicts the author's moral rights §§ 12-14 UrhG (German German Act of Intellectual Property Rights) as well as § 39 UrhG. We therefore recommend all game authors and game publishers to stipulate in their contracts that at least serious changes to the game rules as well as to the theme require a consensus – as should be a matter of course in a cooperative partnership. The following legal texts and comments are available for this purpose:
Law on Authors and Related Rights (UrhG) in Germany
§ 12 Right of publication
(1) The author has the right to determine whether and how his work is to be published.
(2) The author shall have the right to publicly communicate or describe the content of his work as long as neither the work nor the essential content or a description of the work has been published with his consent.
§ 13 Recognition of authorship
The author has the right to have his authorship of the work acknowledged. He may determine whether the work shall bear an author's designation and which designation shall be used.
§ 14 Distortion of the Work
The author shall have the right to prohibit any distortion or other impairment of his work which is likely to endanger his legitimate intellectual or personal interests in the work.
§ 39 Modifications of the Work
(1) The holder of a right of use may not modify the work, its title or author's designation (Section 10(1)), unless otherwise agreed.
(2) Changes to the work and its title to which the author cannot in good faith withhold his consent shall be permitted.
A legal commentary on Section 39 can be found in in the leading German commentary book Wandtke/Bullinger, UrhR, C.H.Beck, 5th edition 2019, page 842, marginal no. 9. The commentary clarifies, with reference to various legal decisions, that neither blanket permissions for undefined uses of the work are possible nor permissions for undefined modifications to the work. A blanket consent of the author to such changes would undermine the author's power of disposition over his moral right. At the same time, it is also pointed out that the burden of proof of the author's consent to modifications is on the holder of the rights of use.
In addition, we recommend reading our Model License Agreement and our position paper of game author's participation. Game authors and their works are the source of business for game publishers. Those who do not respect game authors as partners and do not offer them fair contracts are sawing at their own branches. The Game Designers Association will continue to consistently perform its task of representing the interests of game designers. This also means that we as SAZ are always ready for constructive discussions.