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Author Topic: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!  (Read 1744 times)
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #30 on: December 04, 2017, 01:14:41 pm »

If I were Frogboy, I'd be checking in with my lawyers to make sure they aren't doing things that would be normal in this situation but I don't want them to be doing.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #31 on: December 04, 2017, 04:43:19 pm »

That holds true for the other side as well.

Like I said, split Intellectual Property (content by FF and PR; name and distribution rights by Stardock, through bankruptcy and previous "inheritance") are messy.
Even more so when somewhere down the line the IP was sold, resold, bought, inherited through merger/buy-out of a company, and worst of all: bought from a bankrupt company.

I hope for FF and PR, that their side of the deal is well documented, history has shown that companies often do not keep full records over all these years, especially when bankruptcies come into play.
Also often a company tries to sell more rights than they own, making it a legal mess. The buyer then expects certain rights, which he does not have. And often he does not have a full documentation how the seller acquired the rights in first place. If the other side cannot provide documents filling the gaps, often the newest contract wins in court (the buyer of the IP rights, who actually bought stuff the previous owner had no right to sell).

I like Frogboy's comment, that he wishes to come to an agreement with FF and PR. But he may start from a wrong premise with this agreement. If he thinks FF and PR might need his permission to continue the Ur-Quan universe, while he has no right to block the stories there, this gives a wrong impression to all sides.
But a new agreement, even if simply stating the currently undisputed facts both sides see, would be very valuable in court, as it would be the starting point the judges will use (as it just lists rights which at a certain time were undisputed/agreed upon; thus setting aside all messy (through history) previous agreements):
name rights with StarDock.
characters with FF and PR3.
story line with FF and PR3.

Leave the rest (e.g. future story lines; rights for distribution of SC1/SC2/KessariQuadrant) out of the first agreement.
Try to put the remaining stuff in further agreements.

This way, the IP gets sorted again, and gets a newer document putting all rights to a current name.


Main issues with such first agreements often are inclusions of paragraphs like "assuming all responsibilities".
Because "responsibilities" are not defined in their limits.
An example:  if a story-continuation ("GotP") gets shredded by critics, and subsequently leads to a drop in sales of SC:Origins (or other "Star-Control universes" - e.g. a licensed universe), are the losses in earnings for StarDock the responsibility of FF and PR, who are thus obliged to pay a compensation? How will you calculate and quantify this "compensation"? (Remember that StarDock wants to sell licenses, and that licensees may experience a drop in sales too, which might lead to reduced license fees, or even result in damage claims against StarDock.)
Thus I would propose to leave such stuff out, and just make a list of non-disputed rights.

As second agreement, I would list "disputed rights" and the intention of both sides to find an agreement regarding these currently not mutually-recognised rights.
This approach may look slow, but it makes for a better working atmosphere.

* the drop of sales will most likely happen if the magazines publishing the review also point out that GotP is a continuation of Star Control II, which is now being continued by StarDock, with the following spin-offs based on the same engine: <licensee 1><licensee 2>,... Magazines do not care much about simplifying complex context. Their readers often do not care to check whether the implied low quality is inherent to the game architecture by same engine, and if the different products even use the same engine...
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #32 on: December 04, 2017, 09:40:11 pm »

I posted this on star-control.com but I think it's worth repeating here.

---

I have to admit that I started from a position of being an anti-fan of what Stardock was doing, back when Origins was announced.  I always wanted the "real" SC3.  SC2 was an awesome story and I want to see what more they have to tell in that vein.

... but ...

... reading the Ars article that Fred&Paul linked, about Stardock's project, that's EXACTLY what I always wanted to be done in Star Control.  Both the game Stardock is making, AND the openness to user-created content.  And reading how Brad describes himself, how SC2 affected him - it hits me right here.  I know exactly what he's talking about.  That's not an evil lawyer talking, that's a superfan of SC2, just like all of us.  Anything he does with reference to Fred&Paul's work is pretty clearly done from a position of hero worship.  Just like things I did, back in the day.

And then, on the gripping hand, there's how this dispute went public.  The one thing that comes to mind when I look at how Fred&Paul announced this is "not ready for prime time".  This is not how professionals handle these disputes.  This is not how adults handle legal issues.  This IS how I, as a dumbass teenager or early-twentysomething, might have thought was a good way to handle it - but now I know better.

You don't start a legal dispute with an unclear broadside to the court of public opinion.  You start it with cease & desist letters, making it clear specifically what your objection is and what action you consider necessary to resolve the matter - and BEFORE you do that, you make damn sure you've prepared your ground properly and have a reasonable expectation of prevailing in court. 

Yelling in public about being "really, really angry" is not the sort of argument that will get ANYWHERE in a courtroom.  This is not what Fred&Paul should have done.  They should have gotten their ducks in a row, paid a lawyer, sent the C&D.  Only AFTER Stardock failed to do whatever it is Fred&Paul think Stardock should be doing (and it is a major problem that this is not remotely clear to anybody yet) - only THEN do they open up with the public statements - statements that include specific details as to how Stardock is failing to meet its legal requirements.

I'm the biggest Fred&Paul fan there is (yes i am, shaddap, i'll fite u, i'll fite u all).  I had a "STRCTRL" license plate for several years.  But ... this is absolutely not how they should have handled the issue, and starting just from the manner in which they started this makes me think they haven't thought their position through nearly carefully enough, and maybe are setting themselves up for an entirely unnecessary legal defeat.

I would hate that.  I expect everyone would.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #33 on: December 05, 2017, 01:29:46 am »

More info.

https://dogarandkazon.squarespace.com/blog/2017/12/4/star-control-i-ii-and-iii-arent-for-sale-on-gogcom-any-more-how-come

Quote
Why was it okay to sell the games on GoG, but not on Steam or elsewhere?

The simple answer is because we have had our own direct distribution agreement with GOG since 2011 and no agreement with Stardock or Steam or anyone else.

Quote
In October of this year, history repeated itself when Stardock began selling our games on Steam and elsewhere (even bundled with theirs), again without getting our permission.  This time we couldn't come to an agreement, so we asked that Stardock stop bundling and selling the games. They refused, so we've decided to end our 2011 distribution agreement with GOG as a first step to having the games pulled down.

If this is accurate, then my speculation in my previous post is completely wrong.  If Toys For Bob has indeed contacted Stardock and made this request, and been refused, then I don't know why Brad Wardell would be saying "nothing has changed".  Unless the request got lost in lower-level channels somehow and he never heard about it.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #34 on: December 05, 2017, 09:22:41 am »

Yeah, this starts more and more to sound like the guys who liquidated Atari sold from the assets remaining more rights than Atari actually had.
This would lead StarDock to believe they have the right to sell and bundle SC1/SC2 games, while actually Atari (and the liquidators) never had the right to sell that.

Now it is for both sides to document the flow of rights. (Which might be messy for Stardock, as they might not have full access to the Atari dossier. - And will never get it now the company has been fully liquidated.)
Ah well, by now I own 3 copies of SC1, and 4 copies of SC2, and one copy of SC3.... I have a copy of UQM too, but I do not own that one. And it is out of date.
Will install Megamod 0.8 once it is done (thanks to Kohr-Ah Death/Serosis!).
I wouldn't buy more, except if they will come bundled with SC:O and/or GotP.
Yet I do find it a pity that GoG took them down. (Where did the Atari share flow to after the sale of the brand name? Through this, Stardock may have known about the need for a separate agreement.)
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #35 on: December 06, 2017, 01:07:52 am »

Brad's posts on the GOG forums:

https://www.gog.com/forum/general/star_control_1_and_2_being_removed_from_gog/post67
https://www.gog.com/forum/general/star_control_1_and_2_being_removed_from_gog/post69

Notably including these bits:

Quote
Thus, upon recently finding out that the actual agreement was between Paul/Fred and GOG we contacted Paul and Fred to contacted GOG to remove the titles and, as GOG can verify, we contacted GOG to terminate that agreement so that the games can be sold as part of the existing Stardock/GOG agreement.

 Now, if GOG users don't want the games available, that's a different story. Or, alternatively, if Paul and Fred can produce some sort of documentation, even an email, that acknowledges that Atari (and by inference Stardock) doesn't have the right to sell the classic series then we will discontinue them. So far, we've received nothing.

This all shines more light on what the dogarandkazon blog posts were getting at, and at the same time, makes them look more and more like an error in judgement.

I hate seeing this.

edit: Brad Wardell announces the games are back for sale on GOG.com:

https://www.gog.com/forum/general/star_control_1_and_2_being_removed_from_gog/post89

Which definitely supports his version of events over Fred&Paul's.

Guys, you're my childhood heroes, whydja have to be so dang silly about this?

« Last Edit: December 06, 2017, 01:21:41 am by vok3 » Logged
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #36 on: December 06, 2017, 01:52:24 am »

For what it is worth, I pulled out my old SC manuals from the original releases of the games and on the back cover is all the legalese. I quote:

(Star Control): The software and the user manual are copyrighted 1990 by Accolade, Inc.

Star Control II is a trademark of Accolade, Inc. Game (C)1992 Paul Reiche III & Fred Ford. All other materials are copyrighted 1992 by Accolade, Inc.

Star Control 3 and ACCOLADE are trademarks of Accolade, Inc. (C) 1996 Accolade Inc. All rights reserved. Star Control 3 is based upon characters created and used under license from Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford.

Accolade seemed to believe that they required a license from Paul and Fred to use characters (ie. races) from SC 2. I don't know whether rights to SC 1 were at some point transferred to Paul and Fred or remained with Accolade; that would seem to introduce ambiguity over ownership of races appearing in both games.

If Accolade did need a license from Paul and Fred, then presumably the rights to the characters so licensed were owned by them and not Paul and Fred, and could therefore not be sold either to Atari or to Stardock. My memory may be imperfect, but my sense was at the time of Stardock's purchase there was a lack of clarity about whether the rights to the characters/races were included or not.

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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #37 on: December 06, 2017, 01:58:15 am »

That would cover creating new material based on the IP.  It doesn't say anything about who does or doesn't have the right to put the games up for sale.  It kind of doesn't make sense that the publisher would agree to delegate sale rights to someone else.

This is why a carefully written legal document dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's would be useful, if Fred&Paul have such a thing, and I really hope they do.

As you say, there's a lack of clarity about lots of different aspects of this.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #38 on: December 06, 2017, 05:29:19 am »

And it should be noted that Stardock absolutely does not claim any ownership of the characters, setting, lore,

Our reading has always been that Accolade had no ownership rights whatsoever to what Paul and a fred created.

The problem, and this was common in these older agreements which were based on commercial software contracts (think mainframe style) is that the contract is actually a licensing agreement. And the licensed content was permently tied to the product through a series of restrictions. This kept the developer from doing exactly what Paul and Fred are trying to do. And this even survives termination of the agreement. Itís pretty nasty stuff.  Itís still common, even today, in commercial software development agreements.

Nowadays, you handle this with a concept called first right of refusal on sequels and we call the game publishing agreements modeled after book agreements instead of mainframe licensing agreements.

So how do you solve this? You sit down and detangle this and eliminate this restriction and transfer all those rights back.

Why would Stardock do this? Because Ghosts solves a huge problem for Stardock. Stardock isnt going to touch the Ur-Quan story wo Paulís involvement. So it is making Origins in a new universe. But the hard core fans will want to know about the deal with the Orz and such, Ghosts solves that.

Now, as has been stated elsewhere, Stardock has taken the position that it would just not enforce the restriction provisions but thatís not a good idea long term. I may not always be in charge at Stardock so this would be a good time to get this straightened out since we arenít asking for anything beyond indemnification and  for it not to be associated (I.e. donít confuse the market by calling it a Star Control game or a sequel to Star Control II. Call it UQM II or something instead).

Obviously, so far, weíve failed to come to an agreement and the public acrimony has not been terribly helpful. But I do think something will come together that will ensure both games get made.
 
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #39 on: December 06, 2017, 09:54:16 am »

So how do you solve this? You sit down and detangle this [...]
YES!

But I do think something will come together that will ensure both games get made.
You want me to LOVE YOU? I do LOVE this sentence here!

I really hope you all find a conclusion to this mess.
I am not expecting UQM II to be finalised in 2018 anyway (although I would love to buy some copies (IF they even go for sale) for Christmas 2018).
I am still in for a long wait, but having this mess sorted will help all sides.


edit2: to further Narsham's post: on the PoNaF-forum (star-control.com), I looked at some versions of the Legal Mumbo Jumbo as printed on the manuals:

Quote from: http://replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.1119 (page 102 of the PDF)
LICENSE AGREEMENT AND LEGAL MUMBO JUMBO

This computer software product (the "Software") and user manual are provided to the
Customer under license from Accolade, Inc. and are subject to the following terms and
conditions, to which the Customer agrees by opening the package of the Software and
user manual and/or using the Software. Granting of this license does not transfer any
right, title or interest in the Software, or user manual to the Customer except as
expressly set forth in this License Agreement.

Star Control II is a trademark of Accolade, Inc. Portions (c) 1992 Paul Reiche III & Fred
Ford. Game (c)1992 by Accolade, Inc. All rights are reserved. Neither the Software nor the
user manual may be duplicated or copied for any reason. The customer may not transfer
or resell the Software or user manual.

[...]

All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.
Here, only portions are copyrights by FF and PRIII.
This contradicts Narsham's version posted above.

Crystal Dynamics, GEX and Off-World Interceptor are trademarks of Crystal Dynamics. Star Control II is a trademark of Accolade, Inc. (c) 1994 Fred Ford and Paul
Reiche III, 3DO, the 3DO logo and the Interactive Multiplayer are trademarks of The 3DO Company. This game is licensed for home play on the 3DO Interactive
Multiplayer system. Unauthorized copying, reproduction, [???-possibly hiring/lending], public performance, or broadcast of this game is a
violation of applicable laws. (c) 1994 Crystal Dynamics Inc., [?]7 Encina Ave., Palo Alto, CA94[?]01. All Rights Reserved. Developed and manufactured in the U.S.
Here, the copyrights are fully with Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III.
Something has changed, or an error was made on one of the two manuals.

Anyway, I do get conflicting messages here.

And 1992/1994 is a long while ago. It may take a while for either party to find complete documentation of their claims. IF it is even possibly for Stardock (IF they even received a complete documentation when they bought the Star Control brand). IF the papers have been kept.....

last edit: disabled smileys....
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #40 on: December 08, 2017, 07:17:28 pm »

I think you've nailed it on the head actually...

The Narsham version was for the 3DO version, which was licensed and published in such a way that they retained control of the code... (where we got the Ur-Quan Masters).

Your version looks like the PC version, which was where the rights that Stardock obtained came from.

Their initial post talked about making a direct sequel to Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters (Way-Back Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20171020202532/https://dogarandkazon.squarespace.com/)

As they do not have the rights to the Star Control name, they cannot make a direct sequel to any star control games... but, they can make a sequel to Ur-Quan Masters... MAYBE.

As Frogboy said, easiest way to fix this was to sit down, untangle the rights, transfer what needed to be transferred, and clean up the rights mess... this would allow them to make a direct sequel to Star Control II, while minimising backlash against Star Control: Origins if things should go sideways...

Going for the 'Stardock can't stop us, so we'll take games off steam/gog to prove we hold the rights' approach is childish, and a bad-faith negotiating tactic.

There is no 'win' for them down this line... just a whole lot of money for lawyers.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #41 on: December 09, 2017, 07:43:41 pm »

I was quoting from the physical manuals for the PC versions of SC 1, 2 and Kessari, all of which I purchased in the store and still possess.

I would wager that when subsequent SC collections were packaged and sold, the copyrights had changed.

At this stage, it sounds to me like the solution is for each side's lawyers to sit down and hash out the tangle. Nobody is making themselves look good right now, and both sides have made public statements that contradict available facts.

In a matter of disagreement over the law, lawyers are the proper channel to resolve the disagreement. I doubt many people would recommend having a brain tumor removed by someone who isn't a professional neurosurgeon...

I think you've nailed it on the head actually...

The Narsham version was for the 3DO version, which was licensed and published in such a way that they retained control of the code... (where we got the Ur-Quan Masters).

Your version looks like the PC version, which was where the rights that Stardock obtained came from.

Their initial post talked about making a direct sequel to Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters (Way-Back Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20171020202532/https://dogarandkazon.squarespace.com/)

As they do not have the rights to the Star Control name, they cannot make a direct sequel to any star control games... but, they can make a sequel to Ur-Quan Masters... MAYBE.

As Frogboy said, easiest way to fix this was to sit down, untangle the rights, transfer what needed to be transferred, and clean up the rights mess... this would allow them to make a direct sequel to Star Control II, while minimising backlash against Star Control: Origins if things should go sideways...

Going for the 'Stardock can't stop us, so we'll take games off steam/gog to prove we hold the rights' approach is childish, and a bad-faith negotiating tactic.

There is no 'win' for them down this line... just a whole lot of money for lawyers.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #42 on: December 10, 2017, 01:16:48 am »

I am not expecting UQM II to be finalised in 2018 anyway (although I would love to buy some copies (IF they even go for sale) for Christmas 2018).

Not a chance in hell.  I'd expect it's 3-4 years away.  Best case, they've already been prototyping code and drafting scripts and plotlines for a while, and have still 2 years of solid dev time to go.

I just really wish - if their claims are as well-founded as they seem to believe - that they had found a way to convince Stardock of that without this mess.  IF Brad Wardell's statement that Stardock has received no documentary evidence from them at all is correct - and it's the sort of claim that is easily disproven - that makes it look like they're deliberately trying for a legal fight for some reason.  That's nearly always a terrible move.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #43 on: December 10, 2017, 09:26:30 am »

My feeling is that they've went through the logistics of making Ghosts and now feel like they can't pull it off.
So they started this legal battle to create an antagonist as a scapegoat.

Maybe my tune would change if P&F actually reached out to their fans like they used to, which Brad is actually doing now.
Instead of taking pot-shots from the sidelines only to go radio silent after every blog post.

At this point in history, 2017, Paul & Fred should realize that no matter how famous someone is they are not too famous to be taken down.
If they keep this shit up Stardock is going to be forced to shut them down.
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Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming!
« Reply #44 on: December 10, 2017, 12:17:16 pm »

The goal is telling more stroyline.
The game might be less important.
They might go the Project 6014 (?) route, by adapting the UQM code sufficiently to continue the story, and thus care less about actual coding, or delivering code according to modern standards.

Anyway, they wrote they are at a VERY EARLY stage, meaning they got permission from TfB owners to do a sideline project not affiliated to TfB, on their own time.
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