Today I wanted to talk about a topic that you may encounter if you stream games or write about them. It also affects you when you take part in a closed beta or something like that and it’s very important and a bit riskier than the embargoes that I talked about in this post here. NDAs or Non-Disclosure Agreements are legally binding documents/contracts that you agree to so that you can get access to information that is not meant for the public. When you play a closed beta or when you get a key for a game, you may encounter something like this in the form of a document. A lot of it may sound like those Terms of Service you definitely have read for every single service you ever signed onto (/s) but they bear potential risks, which I’ll get into later.
Generally speaking, developers and publishers may reach out at times to ask for feedback on a game they’re releasing. This also would work for comics, movies, shows, books, etc. as well as more elaborate occasions such as events, screenings, and even tours in their headquarters and whatnot. Because a lot of this stuff, however, isn’t finished or out in the public yet, they don’t want the information to leak out which is why you sign that NDA. It makes a “promise” that you won’t share information, screenshots, videos, or anything really about that specific thing you got access to as part of it. Every NDA is different, though, so some may be stricter or less strict and depending on how it’s phrased, it can result in issues for you if you break anything. Imagine if an NDA said that you can’t say anything about the game. You may agree to it, take part in the playtest, and then move on once it’s over. If that NDA didn’t say until when you’re allowed to talk about it in public, it could end up with you getting sued for potentially leaking information out after the playtest happened. It’s less extreme in most cases but in theory, that’s a risk.
Breaking an NDA is not just about breaking a publisher’s or developer’s trust btw but also incredibly damaging to your brand, reputation, or anything you represent. It can result in legal troubles as well with you potentially even getting sued and frankly, it’s incredibly rough once that happens, so try to avoid it at all costs. I know I’m sounding like a negative nancy here but frankly, it’s important to read through NDAs and other legally binding documents like that, even if you don’t put down your signature under it. NDAs are a lot of steps above an embargo and when something is unclear to you, it’s important that you raise those questions and potential concerns with the person that sent it to you. It’s important that you’re aware of what you’re signing. In theory, there could be anything in there.
That brings us to terms of service and what they allow you or prohibit you to do. The Terms of Service (or ToS for short) are essentially another thing you agree to when you sign onto any service. Many people just skim through them if at all and there can at times be some parts of it that you may wanna know about – beyond the usual legal jibber-jabber. For example, some developers prohibit you from creating content on specific parts of the game. I know that ATLUS used to prohibit streaming the finale of Persona 5 past a certain date in-game – and they may even still have that clause in there. Similarly, other game devs may be able to DMCA your content if you’re hateful or if they don’t see you fit to represent their game. I believe that I read about someone actually claiming PewDiePie’s videos on their game and prohibiting him from streaming theirs because they didn’t want their game to be associated with someone so controversial at the time.
The point of this whole post was to inform about the potential risks of NDAs and the consequences of breaking them – but as always, trust is worth the most when it’s at a risk. So, if you break an NDA, it can damage your reputation with that publisher or potentially even the gaming industry as a whole even, just like with embargoes, although embargoes are on a much smaller scale. Breaking an NDA can also result in legal actions being taken against you, which is never worth it. Similarly, the Terms of Service of any product can bear special clauses for content creation in particular, which is why you should check them out. If you have anything to add to the matter, feel free to comment below and let me know about it. It’s a complex topic and I tried to simplify it a little bit based on what I heard, how it was explained to me by publishers in the past, and what I read in various articles. There are no dumb questions, so – again – make sure to ask the person that sends it to you if you’re not sure about specific clauses or meanings.