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


Pretrial conference—February 14, 2010

Stardock seems to have mastered the science of time travel, too.


Thank you! I lack the patience to read through this stuff, not least because I don’t have the knowledge to let me skim and get to the relevant bits.


Wait I missed this

There’s ALREADY A MOTION TO COMPEL that was GRANTED and they are dragging their feet on the depositions? Holy shit. I’m moving my chips on the table from “Well, who can say what a judge will do?” to “They are well and truly fucked.”



The motion says only two depositions (out of twelve) are remaining, and those are remaining because Reiche/Ford agreed to a two week postponement.

The parties thereafter met and established a deposition schedule for several anticipated
deponents (approximately 12) that ultimately began January 7, 2019, with the depositions of
Valve Corporation and Kevin Unangst in Seattle, Washington.


The day after the Paxton deposition, the GOG Parties
requested that the other scheduled depositions (those of Wardell and Shaw) be re-set for at least
two (2) weeks to allow them to more meaningfully participate. All parties agreed to re-set those
depositions for the week of February 11, 2019, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Occam’s Razor says what’s really going on here is these attorneys realize that Brad’s deposition is going to be a complete shitshow and are trying to derail it before it happens.


I’m on my phone where it’s difficult to quote the document, but I enjoyed the part about the scorched-earth style deposition.


A brief search for “Star control” on twitter finds Brad still to this day saying that P&F “are trying to also claim that they own the idea of hyperspace”.


Apparently, the term refers to trying to drive up the other side’s litigation expenses. It’s kind of rich coming from Stardock, given the games they’ve been playing by filing all of those trademark applications.


Yes, exactly. Along the same lines is the complaining about the counter-complaint being amended multiple times when much of it was in response to Stardock’s amending their complaint to heap on everything including the kitchen sink.

How dare they use our tactics against us!


Idle question: how bad would the trial and judgment likely have to go to make Stardock go out of business? I say trial because presumably Stardock wouldn’t agree to a settlement that ruined them. Any insight or analogous examples?


There’s really no way to know. Stardock is privately owned, so its finances are undisclosed.

Brad claims that he was forced to immediately lay off engineers because of P&F’s DMCA. If SD was so tight on cash that an interruption to the SC:O revenue stream forced layoffs, then they’re already on the edge.

However, I suspect that any such layoffs were either exaggerated (i.e. not really necessary) or entirely fictional, for the purpose of eliciting sympathy. A responsible business owner who cared about their employees would have prepared for this entirely foreseeable event in the months leading up to it, so that they could weather a short interruption, and shift the employees to other productive work if it went longer.


It’s not atypical for studios to lay off people after a game ships so that is a further reason it is really impossible to know the situation as an outsider on what the cause of layoffs would actually be if they occurred (I don’t know if they did or did not).


If this case goes to trial I will eat a virtual hat.


This “DMCA abuse” outrage kabuki was done for the sole purpose of drumming up interest and sales. It was an attempt to play the victim and cry bully in a case they initiated.

Thing is, everything about the DMCA process went exactly as designed. At no point was the game not actually available. For a couple weeks the game was in a rare situation where there was actual scarcity of digital product since there were presumably a limited stock of keys Stardock was selling on their store.

P&F had reasonable belief of copyright infringement, and they filed the DMCA claim. Valve and GOG had reasonable belief that P&F’s claims were legit. That is, it wasn’t like I personally filed a takedown request for Star Wars claiming I owned it all. Valve rightfully wouldn’t do anything that situation. Stardock then filed a counterclaim that reasserted indemnification of Valve and GOG, and the game got put back up.

What meaningfully happened? Not much.

Very few sales were lost. If anything, the press and outrage generated extra sales, if concurrent player count is to be believed. The game dev industry was not meaningfully affected in any way from this non-event, nor was it some ominous precedent that people predicted. No, what happened is exactly what was expected when the letter and the spirit of the DMCA is followed.

If you don’t like the DMCA, or you don’t think P&F copyright claims are legit, fine. That doesn’t make it DMCA abuse.


I think that there’s a decent chance that Stardock’s next filing will trying to somehow get an injunction against a trial because it’s unfair for P&F to abuse the legal process like that.

I looked through the recent filing but I am ignorant about what it all means so I have a probably dumb question. Is it actually uncommon for a deposition to involve questions that would find potential deficiencies in discovery? It seems to me that parties would basically always be trying to ascertain if the other party is hiding/omitting things. Or am I missing something obvious here?


If I’m not mistaken one of the worst case scenarios is 3x revenues from SC:O (plus the prior SC1&2 sales). Given a steamspy based at most 100k sales as an estimate, even at full retail that shouldn’t be instant bankruptcy money unless the company is in trouble already.

Though even if such a hit could be easily weathered, it’s a foolish risk to take at trial. Especially given how unlikely a victory could yield a payoff in league with the risk.

I can’t imagine how Stardock plans to prove damages of any significance. How will they prove P&F’s blog post cost them the hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of sales that would make a judgement anywhere worth the cost of achieving it?


Quoting myself on this one. Dated August of last year, I wanted to know how SD was going to do this, what legal shenanigans they were going to pull. For Frungy, we now know. Turns out it wasn’t Frungy: The Song DLC.

May I present Exhibit A (mind the scrolling), a screenshot of a YouTube video of the Ur-Quan Masters of the Zoq-Fot-Pik talking about Frungy.

This is what SD thinks will pass as a mark being used in commerce, a mark that, in the words of SD’s legal counsel, “…obtained valuable fame, reputation and goodwill as a result of the extensive use of the mark in U.S. commerce…”

This is the level of legal mastery we’re seeing on display here. Marvel at the pure brilliance of 17-dimensional Frungy being played by the elite Stardock legal team while we’re all stuck on Earth watching the Rams never score a touchdown.

(Yes I know this is the opposition filing for P&F’s filing of Frungy Games… close enough)

  1. People are entitled to have differing opinions on what constitutes a fair and moral use of DMCA from you or Stardock. As such, you’re being disingenuous trying to characterise it as an either/or.

  2. Yes the DMCA went exactly as designed. I don’t know why you felt the need to emphasise something that no-one (not even Stardock) disputed the DMCA process. The game also wasn’t available on Steam for a certain period, so you’re incorrect on that.

  3. Neither you nor I can state that “P&F had reasonable belief of copyright infringement”. Unless you’re a copyright lawyer working for P&F? If so, you probably shouldn’t be commenting in public.

  4. You’re misunderstanding the DMCA process if you think Valve/GOG have the duty (or legal right) to form a ‘reasonable belief’ on the the legitimacy of a DMCA, the act is designed to not give them such.

  5. You’re another person arguing against one of the literal definitions of the word abuse.

I don’t have any grá for Brad, his emails and twitter posts have shown him to be dishonest, disingenuous and at times duplicitous (e.g. his dealings with the fansite).

I’m still entitled to form the opinion that using the DMCA against a game for incorporating ideas (like hyperspace) and design elements (like an isometric viewpoint) is DMCA abuse and something that could set a very dangerous and chilling precedent, but thanks for trying to speak for me.


Yeah, it was really wack for Paul and Fred to have Rebel Galaxy and Mass Effect taken down, smh.


You can have your opinion but not your own facts. What you stated there is not factual. P&F are not claiming they own hyperspace. The chart they put out is but one example, others are contained in their counter complaint.