The Third Doctrinal War -- Stardock, Reiche/Ford, and Star Control

From a PR perspective I can tell you that the amended complaint is no less damaging. You accuse them of misleading people about their creator status and still denigrate their contributions to the universe they created.

You just repeated yourself here. What about your years of experience leading a game studio? You know how games are made. You can look at the credits for the game and see it was more than just Paul and Fred. You read through the Accolade contract and knew more about Star Control than most, especially as a self-professed superfan.

It’s just not believable.

You’re not stupid or unobservant and are merely pretending your are on this one point just to not appear self-contradictory or that you previously lied. What you said is possible, sure, but it certainly strains credibility.

More from the complaint:

After more than a quarter-century of falsely claiming to “own” the Star Control
IP while simultaneously diminishing the contributions of the actual copyright
holders with dismissive descriptions such as “others helped in ‘various ways’”,
Reiche and Ford are now using their Campaign to further perpetuate the
falsehoods and in the process shamelessly con their misled and misinformed
fan base out of money that Reiche and Ford do not need; and

I mean really now. Diminishing the contributions of the actual copyright holders? Well, I keep quoting to you the words of one of these you contend to be the “actual copyright holders”? He doesn’t seem to think his contribution has been diminished and is in fact giving vast credit to P&F. That and the whole thing about how P&F so often go out of their way to give credit others like in the retrospective or their efforts to make the credits of the UQM project complete.

The language in old ¶55 (now ¶73) was changed from objecting to their “Creators” claim to objecting to their copyright ownership claim, but the accusation was added again in the new ¶81 and ¶91a.

Additionally you added even more provocative language accusing P&F of deliberate fraud over their copyright ownership that probably burns up any ground you’d gained on that front.

Even if, as seems likely, P&F did not make Greg, Erol, and the others sign work-for-hire agreements back in 1991 or so, that doesn’t make them fraudsters. It could just mean that they agreed verbally about who would get the copyrights, without realizing that such agreements were legally required to be in writing. I didn’t learn that legal detail until I started researching this case, and Paul was only in his 20s at the time.

Moreover, Section 9.3 of the agreement specifies the cure for any defects in Paul’s IP claims: He has to indemnify Accolade (now Stardock) against any other people that might bring claims against the old games.

So, why not just leave it at that, instead of trying to inflate it into a scandal? If you’re not using any of their copyrighted material, it shouldn’t be of any legal concern to you anyway, and as far as I can tell, trying to drag P&F’s reputation into the mud this way is really just backfiring and making you look incredibly unreasonable. [EDIT: And I actually wrote that before several other people here apparently reached the same conclusion.]

They never make any secret of it. Aside from the other people being in the credits, I remember an early 2000s interview where they acknowledged what many other people had done. Brad, you were at the 2015 GDC presentation, right? They devoted presentation slides to George Barr and Erol Otus, saying of the latter:

It comes across to me as really petty to try to malign Paul on behalf of people who were given credit and are apparently totally cool with him.

I take issue with your arguments too, but you’re right; I would prefer to see both games. I’d just like you to stop insisting that your trademark controls more than the “Star Control” name itself.

Only if SC:O contains their copyrighted content. If you avoided having any elements that were unique to the old games, it would be really safe. Obviously, the more you try to copy things like the aliens, the starmap, “Tzo crystals”, and having a “Cmdr Hayes”, the more of a fight you’ll have to have about where the lines of “Substantial Similarity” are drawn.

I more or less agree. Note (far) above, where Rhonin and I agreed that it wouldn’t be proper for him to make arguments here based on privileged information. Brad not only has far more such information, but his answers can potentially directly impact the litigation. Consequently, his arguments about the case almost invariably have him pressing his point, and then refusing to directly answer counterpoints that might give away some element of his legal strategy. In my opinion, if you can’t fully and openly defend your arguments, you shouldn’t make them in an interactive forum. That’s the path P&F have chosen, and I think that while I’ve appreciated Brad’s perspective, with the benefit of hindsight, it might not only be the more prudent approach, but also the more respectful and proper one to the gaming public.

I’d go so far as to say the amended complaint is even more vicious, accusing them of being liars and con artists, among other things, for over a quarter century. I had a brief glimmer of hope before I read it that this whole creator nonsense had been dropped.

Your complaint says that Fred and Paul’s contributions were limited. Fred coded the entire damn game! You know this! There’s no way Star Control gets made without its sole engineer. This is insanity. I can’t believe you and your company made such claims. This is why people are so upset with you right now.

I don’t think their contribution was diminished by it. Again: while I was not particularly involved in the original complaint I made sure the amended complaint removed the implication that they weren’t instrumental to the game.

As for the ill will of Paul and Fred, I think you should read their suit in full. You don’t get much more into “ill will” than trying to destroy our project that we’ve spent nearly 5 years working on.

Yes. And lots of games at that scope are made by two people. Even today. Very often an artist and a programmer.

The Accolade contract was between Accolade and an individual not even a company. If anything, the contract makes it sound like it’s one guy not even two.

I am not sure how to respond to this. Most games of that scope, especially back then, were made by a couple of people. Most games, of that scope, TODAY, are made by just a couple of people.

Super Meat boy: 2 people
Binding of Isaac, 2 people.

The budget for Star Control 2 was $150,000.

So yea, my 25 years of experience in the industry tells me that it would be reasonable to believe that that game could have been done by two people.

We could have made Star Control II with 2 people (i.e. me and an artist).

I’m not even sure what relevance any of this has. I’ve read enough on this topic over the past 4 years to know that many people thought it was basically just Paul and Fred. But finding out it wasn’t Paul and Fred has no relevance to the trademark suit as far as I can tell but I’m not a lawyer.

There’s no contending. He was one of the copyright holders as now admitted by Paul and Fred after 25 years of claiming that they personally owned all the creatives in the game.

We’ll never know what would have happened if Accolade had known that Paul didn’t actually have the copyrights he represented to have. They might very well have approached the individuals themselves to acquire those rights.

I assume you mean “you” as in Stardock and not me personally. Like I said earlier, I’ve probably spent less time on this than you have.

I don’t consider the new language provocative. They spent 25 years claiming to own the creatives when in fact they did not and in fact licensed those creatives to Accolade for SC3 and were paid.

But if you’re going to bring a copyright suit into federal court, then you should actually have a copyright. I remain baffled that this case is even a thing.

Now, if you want to talk provocative, I might remind you that their countersuit actually has a fraud cause of action:
image

I think there is a disconnect or at the very least, a discrepancy in expectations of what lawsuits are. They’re not nice. If lawyers saying mean things about their opponent’s clients is going to cause you discomfort, you might just not want to read them.

Again: The strike out means it was removed from the complaint:

image

So no, the amended complaint doesn’t say that.

Anyway, it’s 11pm here. That’s enough for now. I still have this thread muted but I think we’ve covered the main things that you guys wanted covered. Or at least the parts that there seemed to be a misunderstanding on. Obviously, on many other elements, we just won’t agree.

I saw no ill will at all on their part until you claimed perpetual exclusive rights to their IP. And I’ve never seen anything to suggest that they want to “destroy” your project. Cancelling your trademark would not impact your ability to release in the slightest. And as I said above, if you take out the unique elements from SC2, there’s really nothing they could do. They’d be laughed out of court if they tried to sue you based on solely on copyright claims on “SUPER-MELEE” and generic game concepts like exploration and resource gathering.

I think it’s safe to assume that all of the people involved in making the game received a copy of it, and saw the copyright credit to Paul and Fred on the box and the game disk. From the fact that none of them objected, I think the most likely response to Accolade making such a request would have been “Why are you asking me? Go talk to Paul”. This sort of mudslinging speculation is part of what makes you look like the bad guy in this fight.

You might consider spending a bit more, if you care about Stardock’s reputation, and evaluate whether the cost-benefit ratio for some of these strategies is worth it. Had you nixed the “Creators” argument before it went out, it would have saved you a lot of bad press. Had your settlement offer not been so one-sided, P&F couldn’t have scored a PR coup by publishing it. And I guarantee that your new request for an injunction against “The Ur-Quan Masters” has not endeared you to the UQM community. You’re the CEO, so whether you supervise them or not, you’ll still be held responsible for whatever your lawyers do.

Yep, they’re claiming that you fraudulently claimed that you weren’t going to use the aliens. I think that’s a stretch, TBH, and I’ll be surprised if it succeeds. If they were to drop their fraud claim, would you drop your false advertising claims? Then you’d be back to throwing mud at each other instead of excrement.

Okay, I’ve read the original complaint. I’ve read the amended complaints. I’m not going to claim to be as seemingly obsessed and well researched as Elestan with this case, but given how I keep quoting them it should be pretty obvious I’ve read the documents.

Their countercomplaint does not try to destroy your project. That is simply not a credible claim. From it and from P&F’s offer and few public statements you are fine if you steer clear of their IP (as clearly delineated in the original agreements to include things like the alien names). The only danger to your game is your currently planned willful infringement by including the aliens, but with different art as to somehow try skirt the copyright. Oh, yeah, talking about how you intend to copy things but make them different enough to skirt copyright, that’s why your lawyers keep telling you to stop talking.

Even the thing about the ship creator. They don’t want you blatantly infringing on their IP by distributing things like the original alien ships via sharing in the creator using the loophole that a fan created it. That’s something you can work out in settlement with some promise of trying to remove obvious copies of the original ships or some agreeable arbitration mechanism if an intractable conflict over specific shared use created content arises like you think they are being too broad in their objections.

They are not preventing you from making SC:O as a similar game with a new storyline that doesn’t touch on their stuff. You have to really misrepresent their claim to make this argument, like your PR shill did earlier when they pulled the line that the list of elements of similarly are claims of exclusive ownership. I think you’ve noticed how few people seem to buy this argument after they have, as you urge, read the document. I should not now need to point out it is not because everyone who doesn’t find it credible has a predisposition against you.

Sure, maybe objecting to “super-melee” is a bit much. But even SC3 called it hypermelee in acknowledgement that that’s P&F’s term.You own SC3’s unique elements, why not just call it that too.

A few posts ago you asked why your statements strain credibility. I showed why I think it does. I think you’re not telling the truth here and I explained why. That’s all I got.

After double checking, you are correct. I was looking at the wrong document. There was a “First Amended Complaint” document link here that evidently is not the current amended complaint that removes some of the most offensive allegations.That said, P&F’s creator status is still very much a relevant issue to this court case.

So we are to believe your claims instead of the words of the person you are making claims somehow in behalf of?

I see you are reverting to the stance that Paul and Fred are liars and frauds and somehow claimed to be sole creators. That by continually pointing out the contributions of other they diminished the contributions of others. Meanwhile still wondering about your credibility problem.

Again I urge you to think about what will happen when the actual people involved offer statements or appear in front of a jury. Consider how well your championing of them as abused and defrauded creators will go over with them. Perhaps P&F are indeed secret jerks, but it kinda seems like everyone who has ever worked with them, especially the SC2 team members who have ever voiced an opinion on the matter, seem to really like the guys and don’t consider themselves defrauded.

If you are basing your case on the legal technically that they didn’t get official assignments until after you filed your case I’m sure I’m not the first to inform you in the jury trial things that seem to the layman like attempt to exploit legal technicalities don’t always go over so well. When legal technicalities are weighed by jurors against the testimony and good will of the people who were really involved siding with the guy who has only legal technicalities is not the common outcome.

I know you like to claim nobody here has any experience with the law. But I’ve been deposed. I’ve given testimony in court and I’ve been aggressively cross examined. If you think this forum is harsh on you, man, you’re screwed if this goes to trial.

That is a complete non starter: following that logic Paramount, EA and Disney could totally also start suing, because I am totally seeing as well Star Trek, Mass Effect and Star Wars mods, which would compete with any future adventure/exploration games themed in those franchises.

As long it is truly fan made, not distributed for profit and Stardock doesn’t actively promote those mods - see PDX getting into trouble over the GoT total conversion mod for CK2 - it should be covered by fair use.

That all makes sense. I’d be happy to say if all the IP grab stuff is resolved amicably but P&F make demands that SC:O not contain a ship creator and try to stop it’s release on that basis alone I’d consider them in the wrong.

So calling P&F’s website a “cheap blog” qualifies as polite?

Interesting. But this is basically what they did, isn’t it? Or is the problem that they announced it as a “true sequel” to Star Control II? I don’t see why you had to go down this road, honestly. It’s certainly doing you or Stardock no favours.

At least you’ve reaffirmed that P&F were the creators of SC2. And as far as I know, P&F never laid claim to the trademark, so I really feel like you’re barking up the wrong tree.

And very often they also buy assets from asset stores or hire people to help with certain aspects of the game, especially music and artwork. That doesn’t mean that the original creators didn’t create the game. (As an editor, I help people write the best books or articles that they can – that doesn’t mean that they’re no longer credited as the “creators” of those works. I also create maps or hire artists to do maps/illustrations – those are credited separately or, in the case of work-for-hire, becoming the property of the one footing the bills, i.e. the author or the publisher.)

The content existing yes, but the content being distributed by an in-game content delivery system is not. You can DMCA that, as you can DMCA any page that host a GoT mod, for example (not that anybody would because of the optics, but see how many fan games have been taken out of distribution when the company owning the IP released a competing product. This is the same).

Good point Juan.

Well, Rhonin agrees Stardock are violating P+F’s copyrights, we can all go home.

It’s gonna be hilarious when the trademarks are recognized as having been constructively abandoned for years.

I had a similar thought a week or two ago, minus the hilarity part.

Well, it certainly would explain the full court press of PR from the Stardock side. Much better to settle out of court than have the asset you purchased exposed as valueless.