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This past week, Activision executives, Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford sent DMCA notices to Steam and GOG demanding the removal of Star Control: Origins on the grounds that Star Control: Origins violates unspecified copyrights of theirs.

Finally, after many months of requesting from them what, specifically, in our game that they they believe they own they finally posted a table outlining their justification for taking down our game.

For those not familiar with copyright, here is a really simple outline of what copyright covers and doesn't cover.

The table is right from their website.  Our comments are next to it.

Next time you play a game, any game, consider how many ideas in it appeared in other games.  For the record, Star Control: Origins is not a clone of Star Control II.  For obviously reasons, it's a 25 year old game and as we have stated countless times, it wasn't commercially viable to continue that story.  We were interested in licensing the ships from Star Control II to include in Fleet Battles but they declined to so we didn't include them.   But even if it were a "Clone" of the gameplay of Star Control II, that doesn't fall under copyright protection. See here for more information on that.

So at long last, the meat of their complaint.  They think they own the ideas listed.  

 

UPDATE: No, we did not make up this chart.  You can find their chart here.  These are their claims and words. We have not edited their claims.

 

As a reminder, this table was made by Reiche and Ford.  Not us.  We aren't putting words in their mouths here.  This is what they actually believe.  This is their justification for filing a DMCA to take down a shipping game.

As for their argument that game ideas count as expressions and can be copyrighted, the copyright office already admonished them for this erroneous misinterpretation.

 

 


Comments (Page 10)
on Feb 08, 2019



Quoting Frogboy,

There are no copyrighted characters in SC2.  What are you talking about?



It's literally printed on the back of the Star Control 3 box: "Created by Legend Entertainment and based upon characters created and used under license from Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford"

https://www.mobygames.com/images/covers/l/275077-star-control-3-dos-other.jpg

License does not mean copyrighted (I don't know what powers the ability to license or not gives you.  P&F don't own the copyright nor the trademark to the characters so what does "license" mean?).  The US copyright database does not contain copyrights for any of the alien names, the database only contains copyrights for "Star Control", "Star Control II" and "Star Control 3": https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First

What does the "Star Control II" copyright include?:

Pre-existing Material: preexisting music, computer program code.

Basis of Claim: all other audio visual material.

https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=25&ti=1,25&Search_Arg=star%20control&Search_Code=TALL&CNT=25&PID=TVuAR2uA4c_qYN_qDW8vQALfvH0v&SEQ=20190208144350&SID=2

 

That is WHY the USPTO letter to P&F or their lawyer said "generally the copyrightable elements of of a videogame are the computer program code and audiovisual material (artwork, graphics, sounds, music, animation).  The design, in the sense of the idea/concept or format/layout, is not a copyrightable element."

 

These are the trademarks that P&F filed (they are all from 2018):

1 87878093 FRUNGY GAMES TSDR LIVE

2 87878067 FRUNGY TSDR LIVE

3 87772787 THE UR-QUAN MASTERS TSDR LIVE

4 87879067 PRECURSORS TSDR LIVE

5 87633531 GHOSTS OF THE PRECURSORS TSDR LIVE

http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&state=4810:weiyak.1.1

 

WHERE is Stardock infringing in what I just listed?  The Precursors trademark that is still in process?  P&F allowed Stardock to use "Precursors" in GalCiv for over a decade.  And if P&F got that trademark they would have to defend it and sue Halo, Pacific Rim, Subnautica, GalCiv, and SCO for using the term "Precursor" to mean aliens or ancient aliens too.  Characters?  P&F do not have the copyright nor the trademark to them.  Hyperspace?  I already talked about that, let me know if you have something to say.

on Feb 08, 2019

Prof_Hari_Seldon

P&F allowed Stardock to use "Precursors" in GalCiv for over a decade. 

Oh, that's ever so nice of them to do that....didn't know an individual could actually own a word.....

"late Middle English: from Latin praecursor, from praecurs- ‘preceded’, from praecurrere, from prae‘beforehand’ + currere ‘to run’."

They probably invented Latin too.....

on Feb 08, 2019

The classic example from SFB was "Phaser".  Star Trek can own "Phaser" because they made up the word itself.  Just like "Klingon" or "Romulan".  They can't own "Transporter" or "Tractor Beam" because the terms are too general.

 

on Feb 09, 2019

Not sure about "Romulan" - there was this guy & his brother...

on Feb 09, 2019

Prof_Hari_Seldon

The Precursors trademark that is still in process?

You can register a trademark for almost anything. Defending it in court is somewhat more difficult.

Cadbury trademarked the colour purple but let it lapse after a couple of court losses made it obvious that they had zero chance of defending it.

Precursor is a common English word and its application to earlier races obvious.:

NOUN

 

  1. a person or thing that comes before another of the same kind; a forerunner.
    "a three-stringed precursor of the violin"
    synonyms:
     
     
     
on Feb 10, 2019

I think Romulan also belongs to Paramount.  The idea is that if you create a new word you can own it, but there is more too it than that.  The lawyers get involved with usage and prominence, etc.  Romulan is derived from Rome and Romulus & Remus.  The Romulan homeworlds are even called Romulus and Remus.  Phaser is derived from Laser and "Phased"... Phased-Laser = Phaser.  When you make up words, and define them and use them in certain ways they can become yours.  I know for certain that, at least back in the 1980's and early 1990's Paramount owned "Phaser" because they made it up, but not "Transporter" or "Tractor Beam" because they were too general.  This was the classic example back then.

 

on Feb 17, 2019

I've realized another good example here.  "First Ones".  I use it in many different ways in my own story.  I've been playing Path of Exile again, it changes so much after a year away it is almost a new game going back too it, and they use it too.  "First Ones" is far too general for JMS or Warner Brothers to lay claim too.  Often something like this is "protected" by the fans, who would roll their eyes and think "you stole that from B5", but not always.  "First Ones" or "First One" is a good example of an exception.  In this case, the fans don't mind someone "stealing" it as a cool concept, as long as they use it differently then B5 does.  So in this case it is "not protected" both legally or by the fans. 

"Phaser" is protected both legally and by the fans. Even if you could use "Phaser" legally, the fans wouldn't let you.  They'd just mock and ridicule you for "stealing" Phaser from Star Trek because you couldn't think of anything original on your own.  There are many levels too this issue, which is how and why this endless discussion can rage around it.  Of course, all that matters once the lawyers become involved are the legally relevant issues.

 

on Mar 13, 2019

Kavik_Kang

What does any of that have to do with P&F's lies, theft, and plagiarism of the SFU and the reputations of those who created it?

 

I thought you weren't allowed to beat the dead horse of SFU anymore...

on Mar 13, 2019

So, I only have one question:

How do you respond to the judge's ruling as it stands? It's pretty... strongly worded.

“[T]he harm [Stardock] complains of is indeed of its own making. [Stardock] had knowledge of [Reiche and Ford’s] copyright claims from the outset. Despite that knowledge, it developed potentially infringing material without resolution of the IP ownership issues, and then publicized the release of that material during the pendency of this action. It now claims that its investment in Origins and reputation are on the line. Given that [Stardock] largely created the foregoing predicament, the Court is disinclined to extricate [Stardock] from a peril of its own making. See GEO Grp., Inc. v. United States, 100 Fed. Cl. 223, 229 (2011) (“[T]he court is ill-inclined, at this late hour, to pull [the plaintiff’s] chestnuts out of a fire sparked by its own ill-fated tactical decision.”).

I picked the game up last night, and while I find it entirely enjoyable, the first 3 hours I've played thus far are basically the same gameplay plot of SC2 with certain other races seeming more like 'stand-ins' for SC2 characters... 

I'll still play it and enjoy it... but it's really... REALLY on the nose so far.

on Mar 13, 2019

chapel976

How do you respond to the judge's ruling as it stands? It's pretty... strongly worded.

What's their to respond to? My reading is probably the same as yours:

  1. They have the right to DMCA.  If you don't want them to have the right, then talk to congress, not a judge. That doesn't mean they should DMCA.
  2. Stardock knew that the DMCA threat existed before the release of the game. Therefore, it's a problem of its own making.  That doesn't address whether Stardock could realistically have simply delayed a game, 5-years in the making, for some indefinite time, because the two guys who worked on the DOS game decided, at the 11th hour, that they own undisclosed parts of our game.

I picked the game up last night, and while I find it entirely enjoyable, the first 3 hours I've played thus far are basically the same gameplay plot of SC2 with certain other races seeming more like 'stand-ins' for SC2 characters...

Uh-huh. 

Yea, those Tywom, just like the...um, what? Or the Mowlings and Jeff? Just like...what?  Or the Measured, Phamyst, etc.  I don't think so.

If you are going to suggest the basic plot is similar, I would refer to you the standard "Hero's Journey" arc. https://blog.reedsy.com/heros-journey/  

There are people who argue that The Force Awakens is just a remake of Star Wars.  Fair enough. They're entitled to their opinion.  But such an opinion has no basis in law.  You can't own ideas, plots, recipes, etc.  You can only own specific expressions. 

Does Star Control: Origins play like a Star Control game? Yes.  You might even say that's kind of the point.  You can't own gameplay. Otherwise, every game in every genre would be suing every other game in the same genre.  Star Control is part of the space adventure/RPG genre. There are lots of games in that genre. Mass Effect, Long Journey Home, Space Rangers, etc.   Games where you explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and go boldly where no man has gone before.  Sound a little familiar?

on Mar 13, 2019

I'm not going to go too deep into it until I play more. 

I'm trying to play it as a standalone game without thinking about SC2 at all and just try to play it like an 'SC-like game' and try to ignore all the drama that's going on in RealSpace (meaning... here on the internet)

Definitely not trying to start a big todo about this, just sharing my opinion on it.

I'm only up to meeting the Mukay and trying to help them out with the Drenkend. 

The familiarity is mostly in the

  • artificial life created by humans disappears suddenly and you need to go find them
  • find a crashed slave-race alien in Sol
  • fight against the bad guys who want to exterminate you once you find said slave race.
  • form an alliance
  • meet big green headed alien observers who tell you they've been watching you for a long time.
  • meet some strange aquatic based creatures that make interesting noises
  • Help a race of peaceful beings who are getting slaughtered by another slave-race of soldiers
  • collect resources until your brain stops working...

Despite those feelings of familiarity, I'm admittedly VERY early in the game. I was assuming that familiarity was intentional so that both old and new players could get drawn into the game (because, that's what drew me into SC2 way back in 1992)

I'm enjoying the animation and voice acting. I REALLY enjoy the Tywom so far. I really enjoyed that they're self aware of how much they "suck". I like the Hypergate (?) mechanism of finding jump gates between starbases. 

I don't like the constant resource collection (and I didn't like it in SC2 either) and I do feel like I spent the majority of my first 3 hours just doing resource collection

I really like the Captain's Log and the ability to search the starmap by name. I am nostalgic for having that full color map hanging on my wall covered in post it notes... or the later larger black and white one that I just wrote my notes right on...

I'm undecided on the limits of the melee arena. I haven't had enough fights to have a fully formed opinion of limited fight space vs wrapping. 

So far the battles seem pretty good. Control seems decent. No complaints there.

I like that it plays like SC2... that's literally why I originally was a founder-level supporter of the game. I only wished to have my refund of that due to the impending lawsuit and worrying that my $100 was going to get tied up in a long-term legal battle. I bought it last night when I heard it was on sale AND that it was AVAILABLE for sale. I also wanted to see how the game looked and felt with reviews as well (I'm trying to stop the whole 'preorder/kickstart all the things' for myself as I just don't have the time to play games as much as I used to, so I'd rather get a game that's something I will spend time playing. I will spend more time playing this, I assure you.)

Perhaps this wasn't the right thread to bring it up in, so I apologize. Just trying to give some constructive criticism based on what I've played thus far.

It's really polished, runs well and looks great. Congrats to the developers and artists involved.

 

As for my other question... it wasn't really about their right to the DMCA or anything about that (and I realize my wording is incorrect now by asking about your feelings on the ruling). What I should have asked was how do you feel about the judge saying "you brought this on yourself"?

on Mar 13, 2019

The familiarity is mostly in the

  • artificial life created by humans disappears suddenly and you need to go find them
  • find a crashed slave-race alien in Sol
  • fight against the bad guys who want to exterminate you once you find said slave race.
  • form an alliance
  • meet big green headed alien observers who tell you they've been watching you for a long time.
  • meet some strange aquatic based creatures that make interesting noises
  • Help a race of peaceful beings who are getting slaughtered by another slave-race of soldiers
  • collect resources until your brain stops working...

  1. The Lexites aren't artificial life.  They're Post-Humans (a lot of books on the technological singularity).
  2. The Tywom are pretty distinct from anything in previous Star Control games.
  3. There is a "big bad guy". 
  4. I have no idea what you think the Mu'kay are like from SC2.
  5. "Collect resources".  I think that most games involve collecting resources.  But Star Control games do have the mechanic of collecting them yes.

I don't like the constant resource collection (and I didn't like it in SC2 either) and I do feel like I spent the majority of my first 3 hours just doing resource collection

While you can land on every planet and gather resources, the question is, do you actually need to?  Unless it's a really good planet, I get my wealth from completing quests and destroying enemies.

Perhaps this wasn't the right thread to bring it up in, so I apologize. Just trying to give some constructive criticism based on what I've played thus far.

No problem.  We are definitely open to feedback.  However, this thread is probably not ideal because, as you can imagine, having had our game harassed by Paul and Fred's DMCA's on the argument that our game is somehow violating some copyright of theirs, we are a bit defensive at the suggestion that our game is somehow using something Paul and Fred own.   SC2 was a great game but it wasn't terribly original in its ideas (which were heavily borrowed from other sources).  What SC2 got right was mixing game ideas together to create new ideas that helped inspire many game developers, myself included.  But you can't own inspiration.

As for my other question... it wasn't really about their right to the DMCA or anything about that (and I realize my wording is incorrect now by asking about your feelings on the ruling). What I should have asked was how do you feel about the judge saying "you brought this on yourself"?

I will leave that to others to respond to.   I will say, as a practical matter, if in June or whatever of 2018, 3 months before the game shipped, we were to be expected to simply sit on our game for however many years it takes for this dispute to make its way through the legal system, it would have been devastating.

 

on Mar 14, 2019

It's very interesting to watch from a legal observers standpoint. I think a lot of precedent is going to be set here as I could find no cases in which a product that was under development was actually put on the market in the midst of an IP dispute.

As for my game commentary, I'll take it to a more appropriate thread. 

on Mar 14, 2019

chapel976

It's very interesting to watch from a legal observers standpoint. I think a lot of precedent is going to be set here as I could find no cases in which a product that was under development was actually put on the market in the midst of an IP dispute.

As for my game commentary, I'll take it to a more appropriate thread. 

The Blizaard vs. Valve case over Dota2 is still in court. It happens all too frequently.  Companies have to weigh the validity of the case versus the damage of not going forward with their product.

Anyone can file a lawsuit over pretty much anything. I can assure you that if you decided to file a lawsuit against a company with a major product in development and that company decided it was without merit they would move forward with the release of their product.

on Mar 14, 2019

did Dota 2 release in the face of the legal battle or did the legal battle occur after it was released? Most examples I found either happened after the game came out (and mostly that was due to games being able to be developed 'in secret'... back in the good old days) or the game wasn't launched until the lawsuit was settled. I couldn't find any examples pertinent to this one though. As someone who lives and dies by the "Fuck it" credo, I get you.

Either way, I'm not going to play 'internet lawyer' I'm just fascinated by how legal precedents work and I'm interested to see what comes of this.

Also, I want to make it clear, my comments about this game being 'derivative' are not intended to be critical. I appreciate what I've seen thus far (though I will say, I do hate the limited arena after having lost a few ships to the void because of it sneaking up on me at full send...) I was BANKING on it being 'derivative' (and if I could find a better word, I'd use it) because I WANTED it to be like SC2. The game definitely seems like it was designed for both new and old players (and I believe you even stated that was intentional). I picked it right up and got to work myself. 

I think the litigation has changed what could have been "This is great, it has so many nods to SC2" into "THEY RIPPED OFF SC2 COMPLETELY!"

As an aside, can we leave 'SJWs' out of this... we don't give a fuck about video game companies fighting amongst themselves. We've got bigger fish to fry than worrying about which game company head is the bigger asshole. I'm too busy trying to deal with the affordable housing crisis and protecting people's rights and creating better cannabis regulation in my own backyard. When you throw around the term 'SJW' in regards to this situation, it doesn't win you any allies that you'd want to be affiliated with.