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

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1  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: December 29, 2018, 06:50:15 am
Stardock requested a preliminary injunction preventing Reiche & Ford from sending DMCA notices to GOG and Valve regarding Origins.  The court has rejected Stardock's request.

This does not look good for Homestar Runner. 

I mean Wardell.

The "factual background" section seems to be essentially acknowledging all the basic points that Reiche & Ford have been arguing from the start, and includes statements like  "Wardell now avers that he offered Reiche & Ford a 'right of first refusal' [...] The correspondence between Wardell, Reiche, and Ford tells a different story, however."  The person writing this document (the judge? or one of the clerks, writing something that the judge signed off on?) then goes on to list all sorts of facts with which the Starcon fanbase is entirely familiar, and which Wardell has been desperately avoiding every chance he gets.

It also includes the following absolutely delicous footnote:
Many of the parties' objections are frivolous.  For example, Plaintiff objects to Reiche's declaration, "I created the concept for the Star Control computer game," on the ground that it lacks foundation.  Dkt 66-12 at 2.  Clearly Reiche has personal knowledge as to what he did or did not create.  See Fed R Evid. 602 (a witness's own testimony may support a finding that he has personal knowledge of the matter to which he testifies).  On the other hand, the merit of other objections is obvious.  For example, Defendants object to Wardell's declaration, "Stardock has not incorporated any copyrightable artwork from Star Control I, Star Control II, or Star Control III into the Origins game itself," on the ground that Wardell lacks the expertise necessary to opine as to what constitutes "copyrightable artwork."  Dkt 64-26 at 2-3.  Indeed, not only has Wardell failed to establish any such expertise, but his opinion as to whether the work in question is "copyrightable" constitutes an improper legal conclusion.  See United States v. Diaz, 876 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Fed R. Evid. 704).  Such legal conclusions are without evidentiary value.

There's a lot more, too much to quote.  I find it particularly interesting that the court refers repeatedly to Stardock claiming "irreparable harm" because in the event of a DMCA notice, GOG and Valve will CERTAINLY take the game down, but Stardock never provides any evidence to support that expectation.  The court  never comes out and asks this question specifically, so I'll do it for them: why is Stardock so sure that that would be the outcome?  Do they think their game DOES look like it infringes copyright?  Is that why they don't even consider the alternative, that GOG and Valve will receive the DMCA notice and respond politely with "You must have made a mistake and we're not taking this product down"?  Why does Stardock behave as though they think that outcome is completely impossible?  Why am I writing so many rhetorical questions?

The last two pages of the document are entirely hammering on the point that this situation (the risk of a DMCA takedown in the middle of a lawsuit) is of Stardock's own making and it's not the court's job to rescue them from it.

It looks to me like the judge is already half-persuaded but is being scrupulously careful that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed and all procedure is followed with rigorous fairness.  Wardell is about to discover that pulling the wool over a judge's eyes is a lot harder than shoving around an ex-employee with limited financial resources.
2  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Litigation Discussion on: October 17, 2018, 01:17:25 am
This is not exactly a surprising move by Stardock but it is equal parts depressing and despicable all the same.

I sincerely and deeply regret every single word I ever wrote or spoke in defense of Brad Wardell. I utterly misjudged the man. He's a criminal and a thief, nothing more.
3  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 31, 2018, 10:06:31 pm
Brad has said that a failure of SC:O would be ruinous to Stardock.  

1) At this point I am not willing to consider any statements he makes regarding Stardock's finances in the absence of specific external evidence.
2) Last time I saw much discussion of Stardock's finances, games were a side thing for them and WindowBlinds was the primary income driver.  Maybe that's changed.
3) There's different types of failure.  SC:O could be exactly what everyone expected it to be - a stand-alone game with expansion potential with no connection whatsoever to SC2/UQM - and have success in the market ranging from "pretty good" to "meh".  Where Stardock NEEDS it to be in order to make money is unknown to us; however, even a "meh" result would bring in SOME money.  The marginal difference in the bottom line between tacking on the SC2 IP by virtue of legal force (with corresponding antagonizing of the most vocal and dedicated SC2 fans, the ones most likely to influence the buzz around SC:O), and not having any SC2 IP involved at all, is much much smaller than the marginal difference between winning and losing a court case.  I expect the SC2 marginal benefit is significantly smaller than the cost of merely fighting the court case.
4) If SC:O's market performance without the addition of the SC2 IP is likely to endanger Stardock's continued existence, maybe that's something Brad should have thought about during the trademark auction and before spending a few million dollars more on it.

SC:O was entirely capable of ending in the ballpark of its best-case scenario without legal maneuvers - and every single thing Brad Wardell has posted has left me less convinced that Stardock has justification for its legal moves.  If anything is ruinous to Stardock, it will be Stardock's own actions.

At this point I am not able to come up with a coherent explanation of what I've seen other than that Brad made all his calculations based on the assumption that he WOULD be able to use SC2 and that it was just a matter of asking often enough or nicely enough, and had absolutely no fallback plan to deal with the refusal.

Because Paul didn't register the copyright to SC2 until last December,

Copyrights don't need to be registered.  They exist implicitly as soon as the work is created.  IP infringement damages can be astronomical.  I refer you to Silicon Knights and Too Human for an example.  Unless further facts come to light, that type of outcome is well within the realm of possibility here.
4  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 31, 2018, 05:42:27 pm
But there's no way this doesn't end in a settlement. Especially now that both sides have to stop talking about the settlements publicly.

I disagree.  The only way I see this ending in a settlement is if Stardock totally capitulates on the vast majority of its claims.  Stardock has not been behaving as though they consider that an acceptable outcome.

I was discussing this case with someone yesterday who had just learned about it through the Leonard French youtube coverage.  They asked, "Something I don't understand.  Was making their own game in this a do-or-die move for Stardock?  Did they have no choice but to bet the company on it?"  I answered, "No, worst case they make the game and it isn't a commercial success - or they decide they can't make it with an expectation of a return on investment in which case they trash all the work they've done and move to a different project.  That's fairly common in gaming; you take a loss but if you have a financial margin of some sort you move on, and Stardock has other business interests, so they should be able to absorb the loss - it'd be painful but not a bet-the-company move.  What will be a bet-the-company move is if it goes to trial; if the jury finds against Stardock, the punitive damages could bankrupt them."  To which the other person said: "Yeah, that was my take on the situation too, and I don't see how Stardock can win.  Which is why I really don't understand why they went this way."

It would not surprise me at all if Ford & Reiche believe the jury will come to the same conclusions.  If they have that belief, Stardock would have to offer them a very, very sweet deal to come to some sort of settlement.  The problem, as rosepatel has been saying, is that Stardock has nothing Ford & Reiche particularly want, while Ford & Reiche have stuff that Stardock appears to desperately want and is trying to take.

The more I see of this whole affair the more I think that Stardock decided they really needed the SC2 IP associated in some way to assure their game's success, and decided they were going to get it no matter what.  That, certainly, is a bet-the-company move, and the only explanation I can think of for why they went for it is that they never took seriously the possibility that they might lose.
5  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 31, 2018, 05:24:33 pm
I apologize for being so slow on the uptake.  Clearly, I've missed something that must be patently(sorry, this is about trademark and copyright) obvious to the many non-obtuse people who are also reading this.  Perhaps one of them could help me out, and tell me how the license agreement would still be active?  Or how the settlement order relates to Rule 408?

Elestan, you have the patience of a saint.

Or else the comedy genius of Eve Online's James 315.

Either one works for me.
6  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 21, 2018, 01:36:05 pm
Once everyone knows what everyone is legally allowed to do and not do, then there can be constructive talks and actions by everyone involved.

I think the whole point here is that Stardock's view of what each party owns, and Fred&Paul's view of what each party owns, is substantially different, and each party has been acting based on the self-evident truth that their view is correct and the other party is behaving like a dastardly pirate.
7  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 21, 2018, 01:28:51 pm
So yes, you are fragrantly [...]

fragrant: Affecting the olfactory nerves agreeably; sweet of smell;
     odorous; having or emitting an agreeable perfume.
     [1913 Webster]
flagrant: Actually in preparation, execution, or performance;
        carried on hotly; raging.
        [1913 Webster]
8  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 21, 2018, 03:07:54 am
I've seen repeated claims that posting the terms of the settlement offer was a breach of confidentiality.  There's someone on the Stardock forums claiming it is illegal to discuss settlement offers in public.

That extreme seems quite clearly farcically wrong, but is there any specific information anywhere that the court ordered that the specifics of the settlement offer not be divulged?

The fact that they WERE divulged is pretty clearly paired with a refusal to accept them.  I am very curious why and under what circumstances settlement offers would be accompanied by a court order not to make them public.  The only cases of which I am aware are settlements that are accepted in which case non-disclosure of the details is a standard component.  But that is not the case here.

So I would like to know why this "breach of confidentiality" stuff is getting waved around, if anyone can fill that in.
9  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 20, 2018, 11:26:40 am
Hiring PR firms to personally attack Brad and even falsifying then releasing confidential court documents.

What specifically are you referring to here?

But I'm sure Stardock's lawyers will thank you for this comment.  You're proving the damage that F&P are doing to sales.  You've implied before you intended to buy, but the actions of Paul and Fred have changed that. 

No.  The perception of Stardock's actions has changed that.
10  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: March 20, 2018, 05:15:38 am
I care, you're a voice of reason there, and that they'd shut you down is not a good sign.

I'll note in passing that Kavik Kang's rant about Star Fleet Battles is totally off base.  SC's supermelee is a ripoff of Spacewar, which predates SFB by decades - Spacewar was in fact the first video game ever made, for the first iteration they used an oscilloscope as a display because monitors didn't exist yet. 

I've read through Brad's replies in that thread including #87 and
1) my question to him about "are they not even allowed to mention that they worked on the title" has never been answered; the only way to meet the standard he seems to be insisting on would be exactly that - that they can never, ever use the words "Star Control" in any context.  I very seriously doubt a court is going to uphold that; the references to the product would definitely seem (to me) to fall in the territory of fair use.  There IS the question of proximity to Origins' release and the court might rap their knuckles for that, but not much more
2) the trademark filing for all the alien names is a fairly obvious "go for the throat" legal maneuver, but it's also one I think is very unlikely to be supported in a court.  Stardock has never had any claim to those and has admitted it doesn't on multiple occasions; those statements are going to be brought up
3) I find his claims in those posts - that people aren't noting the order of events - to be unpersuasive.

Based on what I have seen so far, the picture I am seeing is:
- P&F have clear rights to the IP in all the original games.  Those games cannot be distributed without their agreement; Stardock's attempt to do so was a clear transgression. The IP cannot be used without their agreement.  No rights to the IP or anything in it were sold in the Atari auction.  Any trademark claims by Stardock to anything in the IP are without merit.
- Stardock has rights to the words "Star Control".  P&F should not have used those words in advertising a product.

I could be wrong.  Courts interpret laws in ways that make no sense to ordinary people on a regular basis.  But we'll see.
11  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: The Star Control: Origins thread on: March 07, 2018, 04:51:17 am
(This may seem a bit off topic for a while but I'll get back there eventually, trust me ...)

EDIT: Forgot to say though, the idea of driving/hovering along on the surface of various types of alien worlds is something I find inherently cool.  I always wish Mass Effect 1 had done a better of job of it (rather than the wheeled Bouncy Castle that we ended up with)

This is one part of No Man's Sky that is genuinely fun.  It's the closest thing I've found to an updated SC2 lander experience.  It's become standard practice for me to always carry the materials for a Roamer geobay and to drop one as soon as I land on any planet, then drive around in it to do whatever it is needs doing.  Works best on desert worlds, with their broad sweeping plains and gentle hills - you can really get moving fast, covering lots of distance in little time, but it's just as much fun on rainy grassland worlds, stormy acid rain baths, volcanic hellholes and Hoth-like arctics.  The one environment where it really doesn't work is planets that are really rugged, ridges and gullies every few feet, with thick forests all over - I've been on a few of those and you quite literally go faster on foot.

Some of my best experiences with the game have involved the Roamer.  When I finally got around to doing my run to the Hub (the region of space where NMS players were congregating and putting up bases and signposts), it took me most of a week, several hours each day of jump-jump-jump-jump-gather resources-build more warp cells-jump-jump-jump.  About two thirds of the way there, I popped into the local space station, noted they had a tech upgrade for sale that I'd been looking for, but I was a few nanites short.  Launch, do a scan, abandoned base detected on the planet the station was orbiting.  Score!  Ok, nose down and head for the ground.  I figured: quick landing, hit the base, grab the nanites, back up, buy the thingy and back to jumping.  I land on the shore of an ocean, jump out - whoa, super high radiation atmosphere - and wouldn't you know it, my target base is out there under the water somewhere.  Ok, I figure, it's not far; I'll just set up the Roamer and drive out along the sea bottom.  There's another base nearby, on land, with a landing beacon; first head there to set up the geobay so I can take off easily when all's done.  It's not far, just a minute or so on foot - and good thing it's not far, because in the short time it took me to localize that base, I get attacked by two different forms of hostile life.  (Two is pretty much as bad as it tends to get in NMS; just one is lots more common.)  While I'm dealing with that - and desperately recharging my hazard protection along the way, which is not standing up well to "Unstable Atmosphere" conditions - the local sentinel drones get mad at my killing the poor innocent harmonious-with-nature facerippers, so now I'm shooting them too - and still frantically recharging hazard protection.

Well, I make my way to the base, discovering along the way a third form of hostile life that also wants me for lunch.  Whatever, I won't be here long.  Get to the beacon, set up the geobay, hop in the Roamer, head out for a peaceful undersea drive.  I roll into the water, ignoring the "high radiation" warning;  the waves close above the cockpit canopy, and I see something I have never before seen in NMS: elevated levels of radiation within the Roamer cockpit.  I actually stopped still and just sat there looking at the numbers to see what they'd do for a few seconds.  They stabilize, at high-but-still-safe levels, so I go on.  With 30 seconds left to go before reaching destination, the Roamer tips over the edge of an undersea canyon, noses down, and does a beautiful slow-motion tumble into said canyon.

It quickly becomes clear that there will be no driving the Roamer out of here: it is stuck.  Only thing for it: eject, swim to the drowned base, grab the nanites, then swim back to shore, recharging hazard protection AND breathing equipment the whole way.  It'll be rough, but I figure I can do it.

And I do.  Barely.  No thanks to the two different types of aggressive aquatic life that harassed me the whole way back.  (For those NMSers keeping track, that's FIVE aggressive species.  On one planet.  I named it Hellabad.)

This is the kind of experience I figure the SC2 lander drivers kept having.  I know there were plenty of occasions where I'd take off with 1 or 2 guys left alive.  It's not "core" Star Control.  It's not anything I expect to see in Star Control games anytime soon.  But ... it was a fun experience, and desperately searching through the hostile environment and dangerous lifeforms for that one artifact or key resource you need before you can leave this planet and hit deep space again - that's definitely something we are all familiar with.  Even going back to Starflight.  It doesn't need to be the focus, doesn't need to be first-person, and I'm not expecting this from Origins, but gameplay experiences of this sort would definitely fit in well with Star Control and add to the overall experience.  If Origins works (and I hope it does) it might be the sort of idea we could hope to see show up in later iterations.
12  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming! on: February 28, 2018, 04:18:09 am
I actually did buy SC3 off GOG the very day they said they wanted the games taken down.  (It's actually not that bad.  It's not a suitable sequel and there's some mind-bendingly stupid design choices in it, but some fun stuff too.) (edit: just realized I bought SC1 and 2 off GOG some years earlier, too.  I still have the original SC2 floppy install disks, as well as a later copy I bought on CD, but GOG's convenience factor is high)

From my reading of all this, their objections to Stardock's actions do seem to turn on Stardock selling and distributing the games on Stardock's terms instead of theirs.  I am of course no lawyer but reading through their suit it looks like that was the action that made them decide Stardock was deliberately overstepping boundaries rather than pushing annoyingly hard for cooperation.  That in turn makes the DMCA takedown understandable, and the DMCA takedown looked like the trigger for Stardock's suit.  I am not sure how the trademark claim justifies the lawsuit.  Are they not allowed to even mention the fact that they worked on the product? I am not asking you to say yes or no, I'm not trying to trap you - just that this is the sort of question that springs to mind.  People can and will talk about their past projects as a way of establishing credibility for future ones.  Chris Roberts for example talked a LOT about Wing Commander in pitching Star Citizen.  In that case of course his total inability to deliver has made it increasingly clear that there was a lot more to Wing Commander than just Roberts himself, but I haven't seen EA make any noises about trademark lawsuits.  If EA Legal doesn't have a problem with such behavior, I'm curious why Stardock Legal does.
13  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: NEWS: Ghosts of the Precursors is coming! on: February 27, 2018, 11:53:58 pm
For anybody who isn't reading the Dogar and Kazon blog or PNF,

and that email chain is indeed pretty convincing.  That would seem to be the evidence Stardock claimed they needed.  Well, they have it now.
14  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: My take on Stardock on: February 26, 2018, 03:41:34 am
But I find it odd how defensive you are on Stardock's behalf.

See my post in the other thread.  I think it's perfectly believable that both sides here think they're the good guys and it annoys me to see people jumping to emotion-based conclusions and getting really hostile on the basis of impressions as opposed to facts.

But in the legal proceeding, it's:

Later, in 1992, Accolade developed and published Star Control II: The Ur-Quan  Masters, a sequel to Star Control I under the 1988 Agreement, and incorporating new characters of space ships and alien races (hereinafter “Star Control II”). Similarly, Reiche and Ford contend that he/they contributed certain undefined material and/or programming to Star Control II, in collaboration with numerous other authors and contributors, to assist Accolade in the development of the game

You can't tell me there isn't a huge disconnect between the PR and the reality.

It's lawyer tactics.  Throw everything you can and see what sticks.  It would not surprise me at all to see the court decide that the balance of evidence does indeed indicate that Paul Reiche & Fred Ford can accurately be described as "the creators of Star Control".  The point is that without actually looking at all the evidence ourselves, we can't know that, and getting angry about a lawyer putting a point up for question is silly.  Having lawyers question points all up and down the line and supply evidence for or against is how these sorts of arguments get resolved.

For my part I am perfectly fine with granting Paul Reiche & Fred Ford full and exclusive credit to everything marvelous about SC2 - I think in my original post on this board (or maybe it was on PNF) I pretty much said that my understanding was that Stardock could only have bought the "Star Control" name and not much else.  I took Paul Reiche's characterization of the legal situation at face value at the time.  Since then, I've seen more than a few datapoints indicating that Stardock does have certain justifications in believing that it has bought a bit more than that.  All of which adds up to the conclusion that there IS cause for a legal case, and there IS reason to need a court to look things over and find some sort of settlement between the two parties, and putting every aspect of the situation up for close examination will make for a more complete picture for the court and - hopefully - a more accurate and just final settlement.

Assuming they can't work it out on their own, which I really wish they would.
15  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Re: Stardock Highest Bidder on Star Control Trademark on: February 26, 2018, 03:29:42 am
We see consistently that they own the IP within it.  Stardock's claim (as I understand it) is that part of what they purchased was a license to sell and distribute the games - a license with no termination.  The quoted email exchange seems to support that - Wardell is talking about having purchased distribution and marketing rights, Reiche doesn't argue.  Paul Reiche and Fred Ford were the ones to issue the DMCA takedown, which, if the email exchange quoted is correct, appears to be something they might not have had the right to do.  Take it out of the Star Control context for a moment: you have a company, you've bought a property which - as you understand it - includes the right to sell certain things digitally.  So you do that.  Then somebody starts throwing DMCA takedowns at you, on - as far as you can tell - fraudulent bases.  What else is there to do besides lawsuit at that point?

I'm not saying I like seeing lawsuits flying here.  I'm not saying Stardock can't possibly have done anything wrong.  I AM saying that I can see it's very possible or indeed probable they think they're doing perfectly reasonable things in the interests of SC and are suddenly getting whacked by a two-by-four out of left field for doing things that, as far as they can see, they think they have a perfect right to do and paid good money for.

I can also see how and why Reiche & Ford might not want someone else capitalizing on their work if they think that other party doesn't have a right to do so - and also how Stardock, in full admiration of what Reiche & Ford created, could talk about it in positive terms, in the context of what they've bought and hope to accomplish, without expecting it to be taken badly - even if they're wrong in that expectation.  But that's the whole point of having a legal dispute and getting it settled in a courtroom in the first place - to figure out what's what, and who actually has what rights.

I don't see any bad guys here.
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