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




Before I read or answer anything else let me say I’m trying really hard to not be argumentative here, given the fact I can’t say the same for everyone who has replied to me. I’ve kept even sarcasm to a minimum. I would love to know how I am coming across like I am arguing in bad faith.


I was genuinely asking the question and genuinely asking you to forgive me for not being as knowledgeable on the topic as I’d like. So please take your words afterwards in context of this.


Since it apparently needs repeating - the CEO of Stardock publicly stated that they would be including elements of Star Control II (that they don’t have the rights to) in Origins. That alone should be enough for a good faith DMCA claim and shouldn’t set any precedent when the one party explicitly states they’re going to infringe.


First, I didn’t actually say what you said I said. The only time I literally mentioned oversight was when discussing Stardock’s legal team and I don’t believe I’ve made any definitive statements about what level of oversight an average DMCA request gets.

Let me address this anyway. A DMCA notice, depending on the service provider, can lead to automatic delisting. By the same token, depending on the service provider, then filing a counter notice will result in an immediate re-listing. The service provider can make individual decisions as well. How things are handled is up to the service provider and the specifics of situation.

This is an incredibly unusual case where the service providers in question are a party to an existing dispute. It is unlikely to set a general precedent of any kind. I do sympathize with your worry about abuse, but at least acknowledge this is not a standard situation and what happens here cannot really be applied to a generic situation.


Abstracting from the similarities (or lack thereof) themselves, as I was disgusted enough to not look at the final product, I’m going to be the annoying pedant.

This is a normal factor in copyright cases, the only new thing is that it’s about videogames. It’s shitty that it has to be decided in vagaries that are not entirely objective, but when the creator publicly claimed he was copying the original, he can’t claim he didn’t think of it after.

And the same applies here, it’s only new with regards to being a spat between videogame making companies. It’s not only not the obligation of the common carrier to sort it out, it’s a liability to do so.

You have many reasons to call this silly and wasteful, but you’re late to the protest by a couple of decades (and that’s just taking into account the DMCA).


Since we are mostly talking past each other, let me try to state clearly the core of my argument. Much like you can’t look at each individual line item on the SC2/3/O chart but it should be taken as a whole, you can’t isolate one part of the legal situation from the rest of it.

What happens here is only likely to affect how DMCAs will be handled for ones where the service providers are party to the already existing legal dispute.


Was that just general gameplay ideas, or more specific infringey type things?


This actually answered my question so thanks.


The Arilou was pretty specific.


The Arilou was pretty specific.

This part too:

I have to admit I lol’d a little when I came across it in the listing.


Really? Even after @peterb’s callout? Try to put yourself in P&F’s shoes. If you thought someone had definitively infringed on your copyrights, what would you do? Still allow the game to be sold and have that money be used against you? You wouldn’t be upset at all that someone else was profiting off your hard work?

I had the same question, and I think it’s a good one. First off, it’s an important question upon which a decent amount of the counter-claim hinges. Ultimately, it won’t be decided by any of us here. Obviously, my or anyone’s interpretations here can be wrong. However, this case has some unique qualities that I think allow a good chance for a guilty verdict for SD that won’t blow the game dev world open for frivolous lawsuits.

First, as others have mentioned. SD publicly announced they are including copyrighted content, including the Arilou, Chenjesu, and Melnorme. They advertised their game using copyrighted images of the SC2 aliens. That’s the easy stuff, and that’s just a start.

They also included very specific SC2 numbers and details when they absolutely didn’t have to. The game has Tzo crystals. The Precursors in it are exactly 250,000 years old, the same number as mentioned in SC2. It’s well known it has the Zoq-Fot-Pik and Frungy. The ship is named the Vindicator, and the starbase commander is named Hayes, again exactly the same as SC2. Although I can’t copyright the name Frungy or Commander Hayes, these little details all contribute to the unique expression of what we think of as SC2. Stardock could have chosen literally any other name but these, but SD needed the fans to not think of this game as another SC3. It had to feel authentic.

At this point, we can talk about SD’s expression of hyperspace in SC:O. If this was the only infringing element, you’d be right to think that P&F don’t have much of a case, or that if they won on the merits of that one element, that it could have dire implications for future copyright lawsuits. Fortunately, they have a lot more than just hyperspace. Add in the similarities of Hyperspace and how it was originally expressed in SC2 to all the other details that were directly copied, and you end up with a product that came out decades after another, yet still, in my opinion, managed to infringe.


That page, the…the…[searching for neutral words] “Here’s how we’re trying to develop non-infringing versions of the aliens from SCII” page, still leaves me flabbergasted. The person writing it so obviously thinks they understand copyright law and also so obviously doesn’t understand that they just gave incredible evidence to the opposition. It’s an IP lawyer’s dream Christmas.

(In an earlier post in this thread, I explained how I would use the names without infringing, if that was important to me: I’d give artists and writers who had never played SC2 the names, and absolutely no information about their previous expressions, plot beats, or roles in the game, and have them make “clean-room” versions of those aliens.)

EDIT: And even with those alleged infringements you’d still totally get away with it if as long as you knew enough about business to not sue the copyright holder and make them have nothing to lose by fighting you.



To be fair, I believe the original author retains the copyright to the music and entered into a new agreement with Stardock.


There are multiple mountain ranges of evidence the artists had access to and used as reference the original aliens and other IP.

I found this Ur-Quan LITTERALLY ©2017-2019 Frogboy without even trying. He even helpfully included the author’s name for future dispositive use.


ianal - animus possidendi


Not sure if you’re serious, but I posted that to point out how there’s no way SD can claim their artists didn’t know about or didn’t have access to SC2. The © was morbidly humorous to me given the circumstances.


I was and I get you. Just seems like more evidence that there was intent to possess the lore.


This gem from Reddit was what I was looking for. The context here is the Arilou reveal and was June of this year.

Statements like these are why SD is in serious trouble and again why this case won’t break the bank open for frivolous suits. They publicly demonstrated intent to infringe, then did it.


Right, animus possidendi - that’s why earlier I said the moment for me was the claims on the Accolade agreement being valid. Except this was well before any point where a claim of establishing use in commerce as a defense measure was made as subtle PR, I believe.