Isn’t it more that Stardock owns the Trademark “Star Control” and Ghosts of the Precursors need to skirt around the fact that they are creating a sequel set in the same universe as Star Control 2 w/o actively using that trademark they don’t own?
To me it sounds like they can resolve this by getting an agreement on both sides on how to market the games but it’s pretty tricky given the split ownership and two games being in development at the same time.
God is this going to end up like the bullshit WotC makes everyone dance around when they say their RPG is “inspired by that classic original fantasy roleplaying game experience where we all delved into dungeons and slayed dragons with our friends and also an ampersand that we can’t legally mention by name but want to describe in intricate detail so you know what to expect when you play our shameless clone of said game because rules can’t be copyrighted just names and unique creatures so enjoy casting Magical Missiles and Balls of Fire in this game that is very much like that game that we still can’t name but hope you recognize by now because holy god this sentence is getting really fucking long.”
I’m sorry, I overstated. I suppose artistically you can more freely copy the originals. I never got around to them other than a few melee fights, maybe more people will remember those than I think, they are still pretty unique at that.
I thought that Brad stated numerous times he was ok with them developing the spiritual, cancel that, direct successor to SC. I cant remember but the impression I got was that he was even willing to let them use the SC name.
Having reviewed the filings and assorted exhibits there are some statements here which really make me scratch my head.
Let’s start with one thing that is clear: the Star Control trademark was always owned by Accolade, That it survived transfer to the Atari entity and was considered a valid trademark at the time of its transfer to Stardock seems pretty certain. I strongly suspect that in any legal battle the ultimate result is that Stardock is found to be valid holder of the Star Control trademark.
That said, the extent of the Star Control trademark is…really pretty limited.
I see statements like this:
And I think, well, not unless it involves the copyrighted IP of the games known as Star Control 1 and 2 which by the terms of the 1988 agreement…belong to Ford and Reiche.
Now, of course any visuals sound or music Stardock creates for Star Control: Origins are going to belong to Stardock, as long as none of it infringes on copyrighted material of Star Control 1 and 2 that Stardock doesn’t actually own.
And again, here I’m confused. Because they did have an involvement in Star Control 3 in that they licensed content from the previous games to it. But there were limits to that licensing delineated by the agreement between Accolade and Ford and Reiche.
When Stardock re-released Star Control 3 on Steam, did Stardock patch Star Control 3 to remove the licensed elements from Star Control 1 and 2 that it didn’t have rights to? Because Stardock owns the copyright to some of what comprises the Star Control 3 game, but it does not own the elements which were licensed. This seems fairly straightforward from the 1988 agreement and subsequent additions to it.
At the end of this, I’m a little eyeroll at Ford and Reiche’s lawyers attacks on the Star Control trademark. Good luck with that.
At the same time, I’m really not seeing any explanation from Stardock’s lawyers in this as to what rebuts a DMCA claim against Stardock publishing 1, 2, and 3.
Perhaps reframing from actual into a hypo eliminates some of the confusion:
If Accolade had licensed usage rights to David Bowie’s Space Oddity as the title music on Star Control 3, and there were clauses that limited that license to Star Control 3 published by Accolade, then it doesn’t matter if Stardock bought the copyright to the Star Control 3 game itself, it still doesn’t own Space Oddity. If it put up Star Control 3 on Steam without negotiating new clearances on Space Oddity, the Bowie estate would DMCA Star Control 3 and prevail. And that has nothing to do with trademark.
Maybe I just don’t understand the legal terminology, but isn’t it weird that the Q&A says:
We respect Paul and Fred’s crucial contributions as well as the rest of the talented team who worked on Star Control.
And Stardock’s legal filing says:
Reiche and Ford may not have… substantially contributed to the authorship of Star Control I and Star Control II. (Paragraph 50)
When asked about that part of the suit in the Q&A, they totally misrepresent Paul and Fred’s roles!
A: Paul and Fred were the designers of Star Control I and II.
It takes two seconds to look at the credits for the game to see:
Game Program and Technology
Game Design and Fiction
Paul Reiche III
Art and Animation
Paul Reiche III
There’s a legitimate point to be made that Star Control was the work of many people. But they aren’t just the “designers,” not even remotely. Fred was THE programmer and Paul THE designer, as well as the LEAD writer and an artist on the game. Technicalities aside, it’s also just plainly recognized by everyone (including tacitly by Stardock when trying to bring the two of them on board creatively early in the project) that they are the creative minds behind both the first two games. I don’t know how the law determines “authorship” of video games, but common sense says it’s absurd to say “They’re not the creators.”
The sad fact is that Stardock are treating Paul and Fred’s game like it’s a competing game, but it probably helps generally to raise the profile of Star Control overall for an audience that will likely happily play both, so both games benefit each other. Nevermind the fact that Origins will probably be on the market for years before anyone sees anything of Precursors.
EDIT: The Ars Technica article has been updated with responses from Stardock, including Brad. This is rich:
When asked about his take on Ford and Reiche’s authorship (or alleged lack thereof) of the original two Star Control games, Wardell responded, “For many years, I, and most people, believed that Paul and Fred personally created the Star Control games. I certainly believed it. We figured Fred did the coding and Paul did the art and story. But as it turns out, that’s not really the case.”
Star Control II had one of the most memorable credits sequences in a video game at the time. But super-fan Brad Wardell always assumed it included just two names. Wouldn’t have been many fun gags if it were that short, would there?!
My impression is that TfB just sat on the game for 10-20 years without doing anything and only started to try to cash in on their past glories once Stardock made traction with a relaunch of Star Control.
The definitive version of the game is freeware, released to the public community by Fred and Paul. Then, if I remember right, (in F&P’s telling, anyway) Atari put them up on GOG before they shut down and Fred and Paul negotiated with GOG to keep them there because they felt they owned them, not Atari. And that’s where things were until Stardock started moving on the publishing rights and going to Steam, etc., and making the GOG deal even more complicated.
I’m just sad money that could go to the development of both games is being spent on lawyers. There is plenty of room for both games and vert excited to have them, though realistically I don’t think we’d see a version from Paul and Fred for about 50 years.