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News: Paul & Fred have reached a settlement with Stardock!

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61  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 24, 2018, 06:45:56 am
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Where we can't concede is on the trademark issue.

If P&F were trying to call their game "Star Control", I'd agree with you.  But it seems to me that you should not try to require them to get a trademark license to say that GotP continues the story of SC2.  That is information that they have a legitimate reason to be able to advertise in order to avoid consumer confusion.

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As a counter-example, Stardock re-branded Super-Melee to Fleet Battles.  That does not mean we have conceded the right to use Super-Melee in the future.

As near as I can tell, P&F's attempt to claim control of "Super-Melee" stemmed from them mixing up copyrights with (expired) contract rights, so they never had a leg to stand on here.  With that said, "Hyper-Melee" is uncontested, and probably works just as well in any context.

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Like with Super-Melee, that doesn't mean Stardock has conceded this.  We are simply willing to wait for a court to decide (or a future settlement) before using them.

Thanks for the information.

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All Stardock sites have DMCA setups already (we've long had WinCustomize.com.  If Paul and Fred want to DMCA their own fans, they can do that.

As long as Stardock isn't making infringing content itself (or components that would easily become infringing content), that seems like a reasonable position.  Blacklisting the SC2 race names from being used in the game might also be a simple and practical measure to demonstrate reasonable efforts.

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I think you greatly overestimate the value Paul and Fred could provide to the project. As a super-fan, their endorsement meant a great deal to me.  I did, after all, make game development a career partly because of Paul Reiche. But the hard-core fan, like us here, are a tiny, tiny percent of the market.  Their approval of what we were doing meant a great deal to me personally.  But I'm in a tiny minority.

I disagree on two levels.  First, I think that Accolade's making SC3 without P&F, and its dismal reception, heightened awareness of how important P&F were; it demonstrated that even with the trademark and the rights to the SC1&2 copyrights, a SC game without P&F's input just wasn't the same.  Second, I think that with a story-driven game, especially one left on a narrative hook like SC2 was, people buy the game because they want to see more about what happens in the setting.

Imagine if Time Warner tried to make a new "Harry Potter" movie using only its trademarks, without licensing the copyright to the setting and story from J.K. Rowling?  Even if, as your theory of trademark would have us believe, they could put characters of the same names in the movie, how many of the fans would consider it legitimate?

I would content that you could probably get away with this in an Action video game...and maybe even with a 4X game, where the setting is more of a bare framework on which to hang sets of game stats.  But in an RPG, it's more like a movie or novel; the game's essence is much more tightly tied to the copyrightable elements, such that their lack makes the game fundamentally not what it had been; it no longer merits the goodwill of the brand.

So I think that Stardock would lose little by considering SC:O to be a full reboot of the brand, with no need to force an association with the prior games.  It could still be a good game in its own rights; it just wouldn't be a "Star Control" game in the same sense that the prior games were; it would be a new sort of "Star Control"; one uniquely tied to Stardock.

And that's okay.  If the old "Star Control" trademark were to be cancelled, and a new one issued based on SC:O, I really doubt that you could find a single fan who would decide not to buy it as a consequence.  And if that's the case, are you really getting a good return on the money you're diverting to pay the lawyers?
62  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 24, 2018, 03:52:05 am
As a reminder, Star Control: Origins doesn't use aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 so it's kind of a moot point.

Is it no longer using Melnorme and Arilou?

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We literally created an entirely different universe, from scratch, specifically so that nothing we did could possibly be construed as affecting Ur-Quan universe canon.

...and that was fine, up until you said (as I understand it) that the different universes shared a common "multiverse" with SC1&2.  At that point, you were asserting continuity of setting with the classic games.

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The only position of Stardock's that's really changed is that now that the one thing everyone absolutely understood from the start: Stardock has the trademark to Star Control is being challenged,

Sure, and, to be clear, I was proposing that the challenge be dropped.

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I can say, broadly speaking, we don't moderate Steam or other modding forums and we don't create ship components that make it easy to create any particular type of ship. We wouldn't set the precedent of moderating Steam workshop or any of the other modding sites.

Obviously, you can't control what's outside your control, and I'm not suggesting that you be required to go after your customers on external sites.  But committing to not creating or hosting infringing content on the sites you do have the power to control doesn't seem like too much of a burden, especially if for fan content it only had to be done on-notice and not proactively.

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There's no reason for Stardock to give up any of its trademarks or anything that reduces the connection to the classic games that those trademarks provide. [...] Stardock is going to do everything it can to strongly reinforce the connection between Star Control: Origins and the classic series as that was the purpose of acquiring that specific trademark.

Then I think you made a serious error in 2013:  You apparently purchased the trademark without first confirming that Paul and Fred were available and interested in contributing to your efforts.  Consequently, your attempts to reinforce the connection between SC:O and the classic series are serving no useful purpose:  New fans of your game don't care, and a great many of the old ones will consider it illegitimate without P&F's blessing, and will resent you (and not purchase SC:O) as a result.

In fact, it could be seen as causing market confusion, because fans of the old series that purchase SC:O are likely to be seeking a game using the setting and story from the earlier games, and will be disappointed when they do not get it.  In trademark terms, you failed to acquire the assets needed to produce products that would properly incorporate the goodwill inured to the classic series. 
63  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 24, 2018, 01:39:15 am
It seems to me that if BOTH sides cared about what the players wanted we could have a great game from stardock that includes beloved races from SC2 and opens the door to a larger story, also a sequel from P&F that finally continues the story we all loved. MAYBE if both sides are making enough money  they can eventually collaborate on a game that brings them both together.
An actual compromise might also include Stardock giving P&F the right to call their game Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors plus an agreement that sees all rights ceded to P&F after a reasonable number of years, for example.
In what way would this be, a compromise?

I agree that that goes too far the other way.  How about this:  

  • P&F agree to stop using the phrase "Star Control" in their advertisements, except for referring to their own historical role in making the games.
  • Stardock agrees not to use the aliens, ships, characters, maps, etc. from SC2 in its games (including using their names), and to take reasonable measures to prevent the SC:O toolkit from being used to create such elements ("reasonable" being subject to negotiated clarification).
  • Both parties agree that both parties can use music derived from the SC2 soundtrack.
  • Stardock agrees to transfer its pending trademark registrations (other than "Star Control") to P&F, and to affirm that it retains no unregistered common law marks stemming from sales of the classic games.
  • SC3 gets open-sourced as "Kessari Quadrant" under GPL/CC like SC2.  SC1 either gets open-sourced (if the source can be found), or just released as freeware (if not), as "Ur-Quan Battles".  The UQM project can host them.
  • Everyone pays their own legal bills.
  • Everyone gets back to making games.
64  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 23, 2018, 05:06:43 pm
Have they removed Arilou and Melnorme from the game itself?  That would seem to be another necessary step.  Not using the surnames "Hayes" or "Zelnick" would be a good gesture as well.
More an homage to the source material than an attack and not a hill that I'd particularly want to die on if I was P&F.

That's why I called it a "good gesture", and not a "necessary step".  I suspect P&F aren't really looking for homages in SC:O, given what's happened, but I agree that it's not worth being a red line either.
65  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 23, 2018, 04:21:13 pm
There's no more public announcements calling GOTP a sequel to Star Control. There's no more potentially unauthorized sales. And now there's no more potentially unlicensed aliens.
Not only does that mean there's no more active infringement. It also creates a pretty sustainable status quo. If everything continued on, as is, there would really be nothing to dispute.

Have they removed Arilou and Melnorme from the game itself?  That would seem to be another necessary step.  Not using the surnames "Hayes" or "Zelnick" would be a good gesture as well.  I've heard rumors that they're redesigning the Earthling Cruiser to be less similar to the SC2 one.

I think the remaining unresolved piece is fan mods.  I suspect that P&F probably want a commitment from Stardock that would prevent SC:O from being used to recreate substantial parts of SC2.  That might not mean pre-inspection or active policing, but I could see some other steps that wouldn't seem too onerous:

* Blacklisting the SC2 race and ship names (except for 'Cruiser' - too generic)
* Not putting in weapon and secondary primitives that just happen to exactly mimic the SC2 weapons and secondaries.
* Not creating, hosting, or distributing ports of SC2 elements like aliens, ships, or maps.
66  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 18, 2018, 09:22:49 am
The point of my post was to caution that a hasty person might respond to the subpoena without checking with an attorney first, and thereby forfeit their opportunity to object to it.
But that's the whole point is you can object to it easily, and even if one is issued arbitrarily, then it's not only grounds to reject it, but grounds to hold the party responsible for filing it in the first place. Stardock is having enough trouble getting a subpoena through when they claim F&P issued a giant negative PR campaign, do you really there's grounds for some random internet user?

I don't know if I would say "easily".  I think a lot of people would just assume they had to comply, and waive their right to challenge.  And many more would not want to hire a lawyer to do it, so they'd try do it pro se, miss some obscure rule in the preparation of the proper motion, and legally kneecap themselves.
67  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 18, 2018, 04:25:09 am
Subpoenas have to be of someone directly involved in evidence that affects the case, it's not for random people off the internet.
Could I ask for your source on this?
Undue burden is the protection,

...which is why what I said was:
Actually you can, though there are more restrictions on how burdensome they can me.

Quote from: CommanderShepard
you need a standard of evidence in order to request a subpoena in the first place,

Yes, but the standard is that it is "relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case", which is a low bar.  And subpoenas are issued automatically by the court clerk at the request of any of the party lawyers involved in the case, to whomever they please; the the judge does not review them before they are issued.  The recipient can object to them after receiving them, and possibly get the judge to quash them, but you'll have to argue with the opposing attorney about how the burden on you is "undue", relative to the value of the evidence that the lawyer claims you might be able to provide. 

The point of my post was to caution that a hasty person might respond to the subpoena without checking with an attorney first, and thereby forfeit their opportunity to object to it.  A wise person would have their own lawyer who knows the rules of that game on their side when playing it.
68  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 17, 2018, 04:09:53 pm
Actually you can, though there are more restrictions on how burdensome they can me.
They can ask expert witnesses, very specific people such as those who worked contracted under F&P's game development company, which isn't the same. Subpoenas have to be of someone directly involved in evidence that affects the case, it's not for random people off the internet.

Could I ask for your source on this?  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not appear to contain any such restriction, and other articles specifically discuss non-party subpoenas.
69  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 17, 2018, 08:35:17 am
You can't subpoena "non-parties",

Actually you can, though there are more restrictions on how burdensome they can me.

A news tidbit that I'd been intending to share before I got a bit...distracted:  Paul's registration of "Ghosts of the Precursors" has been suspended until the trial is over, and it's caused a bit of a logjam.  The MOO remake called "Remnants of the Precursors" filed right after GotP, was deemed in conflict, and got suspended itself.  Meanwhile, P&F filed for "Precursors", which was deemed too similar to "Remnants of the Precursors", so it's been suspended as well.

I expect that most or all of the new trademark registrations are going to get suspended as they reach the appropriate stage of the proceedings.  From what I read, it's possible for one of the parties to try to fight the suspension, but I think the trademark appeal board probably takes a dim view of duplicating arguments that are already schedule to be heard in court.

I've sorted the FAQ trademark list by next action due date, to make it easier to keep track of them.
70  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 17, 2018, 01:49:42 am
By the way, since the threat of subpoenaing non-parties has been raised, it's worth posting a bit of basic sense:  If you get a subpoena, take it to a competent attorney.  Many things about subpoenas are negotiable, including who has to pay for them, so don't reply until you understand all the implications.
71  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 14, 2018, 04:10:53 pm
Nice Internet lawyering, Lak.

You really don't have standing to criticize.  What he posted was a better sourced and more coherent argument than anything you've provided on the topic.  So here, once again, you seem to be trying to argue your point by demeaning the person arguing with you.

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I am quite certain that all parties would appreciate seeing any examples of actual copyright infringement. We would never want to copy someone else's work, even unintentionally and have taken effort to make sure our expressions of the Star Control aliens are our own.

Since the question of Substantial Similarity is a subjective question for the jury, I'm not sure how worthwhile arguing about it is.  If it goes to trial, you'll be rolling the dice.

I am curious, though:  You said that you "reached into the Star Control name vault" when naming these aliens.  Can I ask who selected the name to put on this "new" alien race?
72  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 14, 2018, 03:43:22 am
I just can't believe a supposedly neutral forum...

I don't believe that this forum ever claimed to be neutral.  Paul and Fred founded this community by contributing the game.  Stardock filed to trademark our name, and has requested an injunction that could be used to shut the forum and project down; I think it's safe to say that most people here have good reason to be rather miffed at it.
73  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 14, 2018, 03:30:41 am
@Elestan: It's not up to me to prove you wrong.

It is when you assert that "the law is pretty clear on this", and that my words "demonstrate a lack of understanding".  Having made those assertions, you bear the burden of supporting them.

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You know very well I'm not going to litigate an ongoing legal dispute on a forum.

Then bluntly, you should stop participating.  It is not fair to assert your positions, and then claim immunity from the need to back them up.  All you're doing is wasting peoples' time, including your own.

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You guys tried to suggest that Stardock is infringing on copyrights.

I made no such suggestion.  Please confine your request to the people who did.

FYI, I am not an employee, agent or representative of Starock, or have any other tangential relationship to Stardock.

I have but one question:  Are you an individual who has been previously banned from this forum under another handle?
74  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 14, 2018, 02:54:01 am
@Elestan: I understand where you are coming from.   However, the law is pretty clear on this.  This is why I don't think you still understand trademarks.   When you say things like "it wouldn't be a big deal if Stardock lose the Star Control trademark.." combined with your argument in thinking that a copyright could somehow cover some sort of...I dunno...universality of expression it tells me that you aren't understanding the general concept here.  

Sometimes, I think that you're purposely trying not to understand because this seems so obvious but then I'll talk to you on Discord and be convinced that you mean well so I don't know what to think.

It's not that I'm not understanding you; it's that you're not making persuasive arguments.  The above is a prime example:  You're not responding to the substance of the argument at all; you're just asserting that I'm wrong.

Most of your other arguments boil down to various forms of demeaning the qualifications of the person you're debating with, or asserting yourself as an authority on IP law, or citing personal anecdotes of talking with unnamed attorneys that we have no way of verifying.

I'd suggest reading those links, and then going back and reviewing some of your posts.  Remove the parts that fall under the various argumentative fallacies, and see how little is left.

If you want to make persuasive arguments, then start citing some sources other than your own authority, whether that's statutes, case law, journal articles, whatever...just as long as it's something written by an independent source.  For example, above, you said
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the law is pretty clear on this

Okay, fine.  If the law is clear on this, then it should be no problem to give me a link to the statue or case law that supports your point.  Or at least make a step-by-step argument saying what you think the law says.  If you're not willing to at least do that, then you're not making an argument that can be taken seriously, and it would be better to follow Paul and Fred's example and stay out of the conversation completely.

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The bottom line is that future Star Control games will have Star Control aliens in them.  And Stardock will vigorously defend its rights in perpetuity.  If someone wants to use our IP, they will need our permission.

...and this line is similarly unpersuasive.
75  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: August 14, 2018, 01:23:55 am
Stardock owns the Star Control aliens.

Sure, you're probably right there.  But I would contend that the Spathi, Orz, and the rest ceased to be "Star Control Aliens" when Atari's license to use them expired.

Just because a product is licensed for sale under one brand name for a while doesn't mean that the owner of the brand gets to retain ownership of aspects of the product once its license expires.  For example, Chrysler licensed the Dodge Stratus to be sold in Russia by GAZ under its Volga brand from 2008-2010.  Even if aspects of that car came to be associated with the Volga brand name during that time, I highly doubt that GAZ could claim that it somehow acquired the rights to use them (and keep Chrysler from using them) after its license expired.

One could, perhaps, say that the Stratus was a Volga car.  But it would be inaccurate to say that it is a Volga car, now that the licensing arrangement has ended.
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