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

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 4)
on Jan 06, 2019

I haven't got Origins yet. I was waiting til after the holidays then BOOM this happened. I will download from the site when I get the money soon. BUT, I did out of curiosity watch some of the hyperspace footage from a play-through on youtube, and it's very, very different from Star Control 2.

Differences: Isometric view instead of top-down, 3d graphics instead of 2d, animated completely differently in terms of streaks or motion/particles, background is 'red' but a very different hue (more faded, more detail and variation), the star 'holes' show the entire system and aren't different shapes in Origins but rather all seem to be the same oval shape, the HUD is completely different, the camera is zoomed out a lot more in Origins, the main ship is not shifted red, alien ships are not black holes but actual ships, the minimap looks totally different. I mean, the music is technically the same song but is such a different arrangement it invokes a completely different feeling (and the composer owns that anyways). Everything in this scene is so generic (stars, ship(s), minimap, basic HUD) that it is very, very hard to claim that you 'own' this design. The only 'unique' artistic expression of this scene is the color red of the background. And that's just a simple color.

I get that if it turns out Fred and Paul do technically own the original IP of the aliens/ship designs/lore, things like that....that they have somewhat of a case to win, but from everything I've heard there is very, very little of that IP in Origins. And in terms of the Observers (Arilou), if they aren't named the Arilou, their likeness is grey aliens in a flying saucer (both designs that Fred and Paul do not own).

I dunno, if Fred and Paul's new Ur-Quan Masters sequel was actually sitting on the market next to Origins, I would feel differently about this. But they are using a nearly 30 year old game to justify the DMCA take-down of a new one (in their blog they did not mention any specific IP or aliens/precursors, etc). No they are comparing these screens and that's quite ridiculous.

Back in the day, when Final Fantasy came out, it was practically the same game as Dragon Warrior. For example, the overworld looked and functioned exactly the same. This is akin to Enix back in the day suing Squaresoft for copyright infringement due to things like (overworld covered in green grass, forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, little town icons that when you walk over you enter). That kind of stuff should never be copyright-able.

I feel like the DMCA used + Fred and Paul's claims regarding the design of hyperspace are opening a larger discussion or concern for the games industry. If they do win this case and the ruling is based on 'design similarities' or 'gameplay mechanics', this is going to be troubling for the industry as a whole. A week ago this case was about Star Control, but now it's turned into something the whole games industry needs to worry about, which is not good.

Anyway, just my thoughts as a fan of Star Control and a person who was looking forward to this game for a long time.

on Jan 06, 2019

Intellectual property in legal terms has some very clear demarcations. An idea is not an intellectual property unless the law specifically grants protections and privileges for it, it's why it's called "property" in the first place, to designate recognized legal ownership and the privileges associated. The copyright office itself sent in its assessment of some of P&F's claims, wherein they noted that gameplay mechanisms are not copyrightable, so this isn't just some random opinion of people on the internet, it's the government office that actually has to accept an attempt to register a copyright. If they're not willing to, unless P&F want to sue the US government to try to overturn that decision, none of the "ideas" that they've listed as SCO also making use of have copyright protection.

Furthermore, copyright by its definition under the law does NOT cover methods and means. That's the purview of patents. Different types of intellectual property are not interchangeable, and since there does not exist a patent that tries to encapsulate the methods by which gameplay is implemented a SC-style game (and good luck trying to get such a patent approved in the wake of the more stringent review process), the gameplay mechanisms have no legal protections.

That P&F might have come up with some original ideas for their SC games is a given (insomuch as they also obviously took inspiration from games that came before them). That does not mean all of their ideas receive legal protection.

on Jan 06, 2019

Star Control II totally ripped-off of earlier games like Starflight, Elite, Planet's Edge and Space Rogue, Up to around 1995-6 games were copied almost 100% regularly. Look at all the "Doom clones"?! Even today, isn't Anthem more or less a rip off of Destiny?! This is just politics and ego's, and only the lawyers will win, Fred and Paul, Stardock and us gamers will be the losers. And on a side note: Stardock better get around to telling us season pass purchasers how and when future parts are going to be released!

on Jan 06, 2019

SCO isn't in the same universe as SC2. It's in a different universe. Stardock has the trademark of star control. 

on Jan 07, 2019

SCO is in the same universe as Star Control 2.  It's in a different *timeline*.

If you've played both games, you'll see that SCO reminds you of that regularly.

As a player, I don't mind it and actually consider it an interesting touch!  I would love to know what happened to all of the "missing species" in SCO.

As an observer to this ownership kerfluffle, I feel like SCO make a lot of effort to tie itself to its predecessor.

It does not always copy things somewhat directly.  For example, I would think that Star Control Origin's combat is "sufficiently different" to be its own take.  Static rather than looping battlefield, multiple gravity wells & new terrain features, radiation field that collapses as a time mechanic.  And the ships are sufficiently different.  Even the Terran cruisers aren't really disputable, as they were clearly borrowed from StarFlight by Star Control.

But the point about hyperspace stands - it is absolutely as direct a copy of SC2's aesthetic as possible.

on Jan 07, 2019

Prof_Hari_Seldon

You're not convinced?  Did you read the judgement of the copyright office in the first post in this thread?  They said only source code and audiovisual material (art assets) are copyrightable not game design.

Stardock did not steal SC source code and Stardock did not steal or exactly copy audiovisual material from SC.  I agree that red hyperspace looks very similar on the surface, but it is different.  Same game design but DIFFERENT art assets.  The biggest difference is that SCO hyperspace is isometric not top-down like SC and the second biggest difference is SCO hyperspace shows entire star systems and 3D spaceship models instead of the primitive black dots used in SC.  The HUD is also different.

(Emphasis mine)

the test is called "Substantial Similarity" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantial_similarity):

Wikipedia

Direct evidence of actual copying by a defendant rarely exists, so plaintiffs must often resort to indirectly proving copying. Typically, this is done by first showing that the defendant had access to the plaintiff's work and that the degree of similarity between the two works is so striking or substantial that the similarity could only have been caused by copying, and not, for example, through "coincidence, independent creation, or a prior common source".

There's not a lot of solid case law here, but you can see some previous cases explored over at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/187385/clone_wars_the_five_most_.php.

You can see from examples like Yeti Town, that completely different art assets, and a different UI layout, wasn't distinct enough. Conversely, Meteors was basically just a modernization of Asteroids, and it was protected.

on Jan 07, 2019

Honestly, I think they have something here. It's like if you had the trademark to the name Mickey Mouse but not the copyrights to the design. If your new character has the same silhouette as the famous Disney character they're probably going to take issue.

So what I don't understand is why when you only have the rights to the name Star Control, you all but remade SC2? If this hadn't become so acrimonious I imagine they wouldn't have decided to exercise (what they believe to be) their rights. 

 

on Jan 07, 2019

Except that Mickey Mouse has a whole lot of protection on it that isn't on the Star Control property.

And I also would say that they did not remake Star Control 2. It's in the same family, and uses similar design concepts, but it isn't the same game. And I'm sure Stardock will press that point very hard if this makes it to court.

And yes, I 100% agree that this wouldn't have gotten so out of hand if the parties hadn't gotten frustrated with each other.

on Jan 07, 2019

Been busy with having the flu and work, only noticed this DMCA nonsense recently. I sincerely hope you're able to file a counter-claim, get the games back up on Steam/GOG, and crush them in this lawsuit. This is a horrible precedent by them and probably terrifies the entire industry. Maybe that alone will lead to some revisions in the law? ESA should be all over this lobbying congress for a change.

on Jan 07, 2019

Reminder:

This went to court.

Court determined not-infringing.

Kotaku write up on this that came out this past week: https://kotaku.com/the-fighting-game-capcom-tried-to-get-pulled-from-arcad-1831460432 

 

Not infringing:

 

But according to Reiche and Ford this infringes:

Image result for star control hyperspace

Image result for star control hyperspace

 

 

on Jan 07, 2019

What about star wars, or Babylon 5 they use hyperspace. 

on Jan 07, 2019

Brad is the one who said it is in a different universe, not me.

on Jan 07, 2019

admiralWillyWilber

Babylon 5 they use hyperspace.

 

In Babylon 5 the hyperspace is red!  Expect lawsuit 2 any day now.

 

on Jan 08, 2019

You should deploy an update that changes the color of hyperspace to green, or blue.  Not because you have to, but just to turn the knife a little.

on Jan 08, 2019

Brad and other all other Stardock’s employees affected by this, I wish you the very best through this ordeal.  It is too bad the love of this franchise is the cause of so much anguish.  I sincerely hope you all rise again stronger than ever when this is over.