Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.

We have received news today that Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, contractors on the classic DOS game, Star Control 2 for Accolade and widely credited as being the "creators" of Star Control II have issued a DMCA take down notices to Valve and GOG to take down Star Control: Origins.

(this is the one sent to GOG)

As some of you may know, there is a legal dispute between Stardock and Reiche and Ford regarding the trademarks and copyrights pertaining to Star Control.  Stardock owns the copyright to Star Control 3 and the trademark to Star Control overall.  Reiche and Ford claim to own the copyright to Star Control 2 (though it's not clear what within it they own outside source code).

You can read the history here:
https://www.stardock.com/games/starcontrol/article/487690/qa-regarding-star-control-and-paul-and-fred

Unfortunately, rather than relying on the legal system to resolve this, they have chosen to bypass it by issuing vague DMCA take-down notices to Steam and GOG (who, btw, Reiche and Ford are suing using GoFundMe money).

Steam and GOG both have a policy of taking down content that receive DMCA notices regardless of the merits of the claims. 

To my knowledge, never in the history of our industry has anyone attempted to use the DMCA system to take down a shipping game before. For example, when PubG sued Fortnite for copyright infringement, they didn't try to take Fortnite down with a DMCA notice.

For those not familiar with copyright law, you CANNOT copyright ideas, individual or short phrases, concepts, mechanics, game designs, etc. 

Star Control: Origins does not contain any copyrighted work of Reiche or Ford. We spent 5 years working on it making it our own game. It very much plays like you would expect a Star Control game. But that has nothing to do with copyright. 

We have assurances from GOG and Valve that already purchased games will continue to work.

Unfortunately, without the income from Star Control: Origins, Stardock will have to lay off some of the men and women who are assigned to the game.

We will do our very best to continue to support the game and hopefully Star Control: Origins will return as soon as possible.


Comments (Page 2)
on Jan 01, 2019

harley9699

Those guys can burn in Hell. (not that I'm livid or anything...)

 

My personal guess, with no inside info or anything, is simply that making a creative game like Star Control is hard.  Either R&F didn't want to do it, or they were contractually unable to do it, or whatever.   Maybe they didn't think they could make a worthy sequel without the other people they had back 25-30 years ago. 

They decided to take money from Activision and run a company that did children's movie tie in games, console ports of older/outside developed games, and Skylanders.   Just type Toys for Bob and Skylanders and you can see interviews with PR-III happy to be working on the series, excited about 3d printing. 

Nothing wrong with that.   Our priorities change as we get older and more risk-adverse.   I'm sure making Skylanders was fun for them and more profitable than any 1992 PC game by a few orders of magnitude.  Maybe Star Control 3-For-Real was always in the back of their minds, but it was never going to happen.

 

BUT: once they saw Stardock was actually going to make the game, they had the human reaction to want something now that they realized they couldn't have it anymore because they gave it away.    Sorry, but you can't be president of a 100-200 person company with 25m/year in revenue (Internet estimates, they're private so you can't tell) and then also do a major development project on the side.  I almost refuse to believe that they've actually made any steps toward making this game.  What's the name of the new studio who are making the new game?  Are you seriously expecting me to believe that Paul Reiche is just going to code it by himself in his free evenings while being president of Toys for Bob? 

I mean, the fact they set up crowdfunding for a lawsuit instead of the damn GAME should tell you everything.  Suddenly their dead blog is a PR site - not talking about the new game, but how they're such victims.  "Look at the pictures of spaceships I sketched during desert storm."  Well, holy shit, might as well turn over the SCO source code to them and close up shop.

I'm also suspicious of the idea of Activision saying "Sure, we'll let the president of one of our studios work on a side project video game we have no financial stake in. "  You think corporate giant Activision is just suddenly cool with that?  

2 million?   That's all?   Pretty sure they have that money after 25 years making bank for Activision, and why pay 2 million now when Brad offered it to you for $400k before SCO was made?  Bad business call there if you had these secret 25th anniversary plans to announce.  Oh, or did Skylanders bottom out and now you give a shit?

Christ, I'm annoyed and writing too many rants.   I found out about this when I went to gift the game to someone on steam and it was gone.  

on Jan 01, 2019

I've said what I have to say to Paul & Fred in YouTube comments that I am sure they will see.  I won't repeat that language here, and my issue with them barely even involves SCO directly.

I will say that I have intentionally made what would be slanderous statements about them if they were not true, and dared them to sue me for slander for saying it.  They are now putting people out of work to protect their fragile little egos and 30 year long lie, to protect their "legacy" that is not their legacy... it's Steve Cole's legacy.

So those scumbags can either sue me for slader, where truth is an absolute defense against slander and they know that I can very easily prove my case, or they can essentially admit I am telling the truth.  They have a massive GoFundMe account too sue people as a part of their propaganda campaign, they have no excuse.  Not suing me for slander is admitting that I am telling the truth.

As a matter of fact, I'm sure they read these forums, too... Hey, Paul "Plagiarist" Reiche & "Fake" Freddy Ford...  You are liars, plagiarists, and thieves who built you reputations and careers that you don't deserve by stealing the work and reputation of Steve Cole and the SFB Staff.  You are talentless hacks and thieves.  You are the biggest scumbags in the history of the game industry, and I am one of the world's leading experts when it comes to the history of the game industry.

Oh well... I guess I will repeat that language here...  The only excuse you have for not suing me is that you know that I will easily prove that I am telling the truth.  Your lawyers are free too you through your GoFundMe... Go ahead, punks... make my day!!!

 

EDIT: I don't have any legal standing to sue them, but if they were to sue me over the issue... SUCKERS!!!

on Jan 02, 2019

Also my personal suspicion at this point: On reddit, I try to explain that there isn't any content from SC1-3 in STO, and the responses continue to be obtuse and pointing to identical-but-different-URL screenshots from steam of old races used for the soundtrack items or something similar, each time reiterating how Stardock has no rights to use this in their game.

At this point, I think we have a PR astroturfing campaign going on, repeating talking points that Stardock out of the blue sent lawyers to attack the best developers ever - and the preposterous idea that Brad Wardell is telling everyone that Toys for Bob didn't create the game. (Literally, not legally).   But don't worry!  We have brave souls on reddit PROVING that TfB created the game!  Look, here's a picture of a spaceship on graph paper from the 90s!  

on Jan 02, 2019

Brad was pretty transparent regarding the situation when I spoke to him through Twitter yesterday. As near as I can tell by my own research plus playing about 20 hours of Star Control: Origins, the only thing that may be problematic are references to Zoq-Fot-Pik and the Precursors. There's no art, but I don't know if the names and the "personalities" of those aliens are protected by the rights that Fred and Paul have (from my point of view, the courts can decide that). The Origins DLC of Star Control 2 races that contained some original art and music isn't readily available anymore, so the Reddit folks that keep bringing that up are behind the times on that one.

For the sake of argument, let's say the Zoq-Fot-Pik and Precursors stuff is protected (I'm not sure it's as protected as, say, "Chewbacca" and "Darth Vader" are via Lucasfilm, but let's assume they are) and can't be used by Stardock. Stardock can easily remove it, and probably would have if Fred and Paul have asked (much the same way they removed the term "Space Marine" when the Warhammer folks asked that of GalCiv). But as Brad told me, even if Stardock decided now to remove it, would that suffice? Fred and Paul haven't made their recent intentions clear.

The takedown was a way for Fred and Paul to show displeasure that they don't have 100% control of the entire Star Control property. I do have some empathy for them over this, but let's face it: by giving away those rights, it allowed their game to be created, profitable, and known by many, so they got something out of letting those rights go. So yes, it's clear to me at some point Accolade/Atari/Infogrames had some rights to it, and due process has to be followed to see if the sale to Stardock was valid and what they've done with it since the sale is valid. Takedown is not the way to solve the problem.

on Jan 02, 2019

Paul & Fred are NOT the "creators" of Star Control II.  Steve Cole is the "creator" of Star Control II, and Master of Orion.  I had more to do with the design of the gameplay of Star Control II than Paul & Fred did...

 

on Jan 02, 2019

Chill Kavik please.  Don't forget SpaceWar! was a big influence on SC as well.

 

Maybe SFB contributed the idea of unique ships with multiple weapons.

on Jan 02, 2019

As a kid I played star control 1, and star fleet battles at the arcade. I can see the similarities. 

on Jan 02, 2019

Kavik_Kang
stealing the work and reputation of Steve Cole and the SFB Staff

 

Classic stuff there, have you thought about writing a book on this?

 

Prof_Hari_Seldon

Chill Kavik please. 

That is literally impossible.

on Jan 02, 2019

@ Frogboy

Thanks for the consistent transparency about the pressing business issues that a gaming company has.  This definitely helps influence myself and others in a positive way learning the sometimes horrible aspects of human nature and the modern struggle for the illusion of control.   I'm just trying to add some silver lining to an otherwise horrible situation, I wish you Stardock Guys and Gals the best. 

on Jan 02, 2019

I had intended to handle this discreetly, but support literally sent me here and this seems the most appropriate place to pose the question if I must do so publicly.

While I appreciate your assertion that "Purchased games will continue to work" I would appreciate some detail as to how. From what I know of the safe harbor provisions, Steam will be required to cease all sale and access to the product, which may include a block on the steam integration which will disallow the game to be launched. How will we maintain access to the product given the provision of said product (even when directly purchased from Stardock) rendered a steam claim code and should the worst happen and steam must actually terminate the game, what recourse will the consumers have at that juncture?

I imagine nearly all of us that have the product are well outside of any reasonable return policy and would not take kindly to having paid money for something that I necessarily lose access to against my will. Apple did this to me recently to my immense irritation and I completely lost all access to about $38 worth of text and ring tones. I have substantial amounts respect for Stardock, who has always done right and gone above and beyond by me (RE: Elemental Pre-order) as far as I am concerned. You can keep my money and I'll keep buying your games! I believe, however, that others may not be so obliging and it is on their behalf and out of curiosity that I ask what recourse we may have as disenfranchised customers of the Star Control: Origins game.

Any response, even if it is to say we don't know, would be appreciated.

on Jan 02, 2019
 

I have a few games that were removed from the Steam Store, but are still freely usable on my own account. Not sure if that helps.

on Jan 02, 2019

Hey @Frogboy!

Just want to say that I've had Star Control: Origins in my Steam wishlist pretty much since the game launched.  The only reason I hadn't bought it yet is because of my limited free time.  I planned on buying the game as soon as I had the time to play it.

This little controversy made me think you guys needed a little good-will thrown your way, so I'm going to go ahead and buy it directly from you guys.  

Reading the correspondence between you and Paul/Fred was heartbreaking.  You'd done everything you could as a fan and as the leader of a company to do this game right, and to do right by the fans of the originals.  All that good will you sent Paul/Fred was basically thrown back in your face.  

Good luck on Star Control: Origins, and working this mess out.  I'm really looking forward to playing it.  I've heard really good things.

on Jan 02, 2019

Valve is currently not selling the game, but keys can still be activated there, and you can download and run it just fine.

on Jan 02, 2019

Nullcoda

How will we maintain access to the product given the provision of said product (even when directly purchased from Stardock) rendered a steam claim code and should the worst happen and steam must actually terminate the game, what recourse will the consumers have at that juncture?

Nullcoda .... that cannot happen, as if it were to Consumer Protection Laws would be violated and Steam would be exposed to indefensible litigation....

 

This situation is the first use/abuse of the DMCA process which will likely result in the first real example of what happens to people who allegedly make false claims via DMCA.

on Jan 02, 2019

Just out of curiosity as I have to knowledge of U.S. law, how long do this kind of legal issues take to settle on average? weeks, months, years?