However, Claude Comair begs to differ. Comair, who founded the privately owned DigiPen in 1988, is its president and one of its owners. He is also a co-founder of the Nintendo Software Technology Corp., a division of Nintendo of America.
"Our policy, which has been our policy since day one and which is laid out in our student agreement, is very clear -- everything that is done within the school and presented as homework or as a product to be judged by a teacher ends up being the property of the school. IP, code, artwork, everything," says Comair.
"And, as a matter of fact, in my opening speech, I tell students that if there is something dear to them, they should not present it as homework."
That policy, Comair explains, isn't a casual one and, he feels, it has helped the school avoid many problems, especially misunderstandings between DigiPen and the games industry.
"We are not here to compete with the games industry," he says. "We are not here for people to come and make a game in a less-expensive manner utilizing equipment and software that has student licenses."
"Just as importantly, we are not equipped to properly firewall our projects in the sense that we really don't know legally speaking how many or which students created which games. We don't know whether they received input from other students who have not been credited."
"These are just a few of the reasons why we have this policy," he adds, "but the bottom line is that DigiPen has never sold any of its students' games nor do we intend to. Nor have we made any exceptions for students who tried to convince us to do so. They have come to us with so many very creative arguments that I recently had to say to them 'Please don't come anymore. I have your best interests at heart and I want you to go find good jobs after you graduate. But I simply cannot make exceptions.'"
Similar policies exist in the private sector, of course, and developers are often asked to sign employment contracts saying that "essentially, anything that comes out of your brain -- whether at work or at home -- belongs to the studio," says Jason Della Rocca, executive director at the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
In other words, he explains, some game companies insist that they own, say, the assets produced by an artist during work hours and the artwork that they paint in the evenings at home.
"Some studios are particularly onerous in that regard," he says, "and that is something the IGDA is working to change. But that's a very different situation from this academic context since presumably design schools have no interest in monetizing students' projects the way a studio might."
Della Rocca admits he was unaware of such policies at DigiPen or any other game school. But Brenda Brathwaite is well aware of the situation. Brathwaite is an independent game designer, chair of the Interactive Design and Game Development Department at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and a member of the IGDA board of directors.
"I can tell you that I know students who have been heavily demoralized by that policy," she recalls. "I don't know enough about why other schools have the policies that they have, but I am damn glad we have the policy that we have -- which is that our students have 100% rights to their work. That's a policy that's always been very attractive to me and it's one of the reasons I'm teaching here."