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


Completely wrong. The copyrights were never sold.

Learn some basic facts about the case before casting aspersions on others who have followed it.


It’s an analogy.


And it’s completely inaccurate to the point you should be embarrassed to have made it. Being an “analogy” does not excuse it from being an utterly incorrect one.


Let’s cool the rhetoric off a notch on all sides. For those of us who are not parties to the dispute, this is not worth getting angry over.

As an analogy, it actually works ok. Intellectual property rights are not one thing, but are a bundle of many different rights. It’s reasonably accurate (though imprecise) to characterize F+P as having “sold” the trademark right to Accolade, while having held onto the copyrights (except for SC3), and to say that Stardock bought those trademark-and-SC3 rights later (if they were still actually owned by Accolade->Atari, and had not yet reverted to F+P, which I believe is a contested point), and to say that F+P still own the copyrights on SC1 and SC2.

I’m just continually amused at the twitter-stardock rhetoric that they’re shocked, shocked that the people they sued might fight back.

If there’s a reason, @Jason_McMaster, that it seems like people are being unfair to Stardock, it’s because their public statements are full of what I can only call…whoppers. Meaning statements that are so egregiously incorrect that it’s hard to even imagine that they believe them. The biggest of these, of course, is the newly-found synthetic religion of Fred And Paul Didn’t Create Star Control, which nobody actually believes, but which they keep trotting out over and over. So when one points out that a whopper like that is what it is, it’s pretty hard to do so without adopting the tone of “Look, how stupid do you think people really are?”

So every week new people find out about the dispute, and every week they will find some fragment of a conversation that, say, contains complete whoppers about copyright law that are so incorrect they could give you lead poisoning, and I think it’s no wonder that it can look like people are “ganging up” on Stardock.

My favorite whopper of the moment is from Brad’s twitter feed this week where Brad, who has sent approximately 6.3 million(*) tweets about the lawsuit, expressed shock and horror that F+P would be so unwise as to send one (1) tweet about the case, and he’s sure they didn’t run it by their counsel first.

It’s just unspeakable behavior.

(*) Number is exaggerated for comedic effect. Actually it was only 4.7 million.


Even with that benefit of the doubt the analogy doesn’t hold up because the problem is not simply a dislike of the holder of the trademark. They didn’t file a DMCA over personal dislike of Stardock.

I appreciate the desire to be a peacemaker but there’s no anger here. Just a functioning BS filter. Doubling down on empty both sides are bad rhetoric is more laughable than aggravating. .


Then we are much on the same page as that has been the central theme of my ridicule of the BSAB line.


Hopefully I am linking this right. It’s clear that this it is a false equivalency since Brad assured us here on the site that he’s not even a party to the lawsuit. So he is just offering an random fan’s opinion. And his legal team would stop anything else…


The 25th anniversary announcement of Ghost of the Precursors could have been an attempt to trigger the suit. This isn’t evil it’s good tactics towards a hostile adversary. I doubt that Stardock was unprepared for this after they sent a written declaration that they intended to use their copyrighted materials under the Accolade agreement. That last part is obviously not going to appear in the twitter narrative.


Injunctive relief does not always mean you are asking for total ban on a certain form of behaviour, just that you are asking for the court to order certain behaviours are disallowed (injuncted) or are required to take place (a mandatory injunction).

The other interesting question is what kind of damages P+F could claim in this. In copyright claims here you can elect to claim either direct damages (the damage the infringement caused to you - this is usually measured as the licence fees you would have made if you had entered into a proper licence agreement for the infringer to use your IP) or an account of profits that the infringer made through the infringement of your copyright or passing off. Funnily enough issuing the DMCA notice reduces P+F potential damages under this heading as it reduces the profit SD made!


Okay, sure, their announcement could have all just been a ploy to trick stardock into suing them. I guess anything is possible though it seems a bit like one of those thrillers where the villian’s scheme depends on knowing how the hero will react every time until the climax.

Here’s the thing with this both sides are bad stuff. When it comes to Stardock acting in bad faith people point to actual statements and very specific actions. Then we have stuff like this which relies entirely on assumptions of nefarious intent.

When people say Stardock’s position has been shifting and dishonest, actual lies and contradictory statements can be pointed to. When it comes to the accusation he’s using the suit to attempt to bully them out of their IP is leveled, the settlement offer that does exactly that proves the accusation.

Against P&F we hear assumptions about how their announcement maybe could have been done with some possible bad intent.

There is no equivalence. Neither side is perfect, but the two sides are barely comparable in demonstrated “bad”.


You misread my statement. I’m suggesting that it is possible that they saw the suit coming and made a preemptive move. Of course it’s speculation. This is the absolute worst I can come up with. If I was in their shoes, aside from asking why I have four feet, I would likely be prepared for the worst after Stardock declared they intended to infringe on my copyrights. So it’s not inconceivable that they knew where things were going and intentionally poked using the trademark – which they quickly and professionally walked back – to test the nature of the hive.

There was nothing morally wrong with their anniversary announcement at all. In any way. Even a little bit. They handled that moment with class and have continued to since.


It takes two parties to have a dispute in the same way it takes two parties for a mugging to occur.

For me, the anger at Brad’s conduct stems from two causes:

  • The idea that he feels he can effectively take over someone else’s copyright through legal threats, strong arm tactics, and an internet PR campaign. As an IP creator myself this makes me angry.
  • The “post-truth” nature of his discourse.


Heh. And he calls other people out for goalpost moving.

My observation, from what’s probably a few dozen debates with him, is that he very rarely lies outright, but he is quite good at redirection, and at bending the truth in ways that are difficult to immediately catch. The weakness of this is that inconsistencies start to become apparent when you pay attention to what he says over an extended period of time.

As an example, when I posted some suggested settlement terms, Brad replied with:

…which, while not verifiable, made P&F seem unreasonable for rejecting such a clearly equitable (/snark) offer. But some time later, when that email actually came out, it was revealed that his terms had been far more demanding, including insistence that P&F acknowledge that he had an exclusive license to their copyright.

One other anecdote that I might as well share. On the Stardock boards (before he banned me - twice), Brad had a habit of cautioning me against making “legal conclusions”, with admonishments such as:

Of course, he wasn’t shy about posting his own legal conclusions, which made this line from the federal Judge’s ruling a particularly delicious irony:

Looking at his recent tweets, I don’t think he’s taken the Judge’s words to heart.


prequel (prēˈkwəl)

  • n.

A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative takes place before that of a preexisting work or a sequel.

That is a very succinct and rigid definition.


The funny thing is that I don’t know if Valve is actually protected here, as they fail every one of the conditions for limiting the service provider’s liability. The conditions are knowledge of the infringement, no direct financial benefit, and promptly taking down or blocking the material.

Valve is a party to the case, so I suspect they have the requisite level of knowledge. The financial benefit is obvious due to the 30% cut. And they didn’t actually take down or block the material; they just stopped selling new copies. They still continue to let existing owners download, and for Stardock to provide keys to new customers.

Obviously as customers this is what we want. If we buy something on Steam, we want perpetual access to that material. But I wonder if Reiche and Ford are going to push things further in an effort to get Valve to actually block access, or if they consider the point already made.

Anyway, this is not going to be the end of the world for games that Brad thinks it’ll be. Other marketplaces like the Play Store appear to have a much more vigorous DMCA ecosystem, and still continue working. And the only reason the inevitable counter-notice might not re-instate SC:O is the ongoing litigation.


What financial sense? The game is a flop.


That’s a great point. But I think Origins not selling well and Valve having a large monetary reserve makes this essentially a non-issue for them? Wouldn’t Valve also not try to sue Stardock for damages if the latter lost this case (which seems likely), given how litigious things can get?


Obviously no matter what, this is not an existential threat to them :) But then by the same reasoning Valve could just have ignored the original takedown request as well as a non-issue.

The only reason for Valve to comply with the DMCA request is to get safe harbor, and what they didn’t doesn’t actually seem sufficient to trigger it. So it seems plausible that this isn’t the end of the story for the SC:O DMCA takedown.


Reiche and Ford going after Valve over technicalities of DMCA safe harbor will never happen, you goofballs.


Of course. But remind me again, why did Valve comply with the takedown request again, given they don’t care about safe harbor in this case?


“Not our problem. Y’all figure it out and let us know.”