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

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Author Topic: My take on Stardock  (Read 71565 times)
Ariloulawleelay
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #720 on: May 03, 2018, 09:16:52 pm »

I find another sorry thing about this IP struggle, is that what interested me most about Origins were the things it might do differently, particularly in terms of game play. Maintaining continuity with someone else story line never seemed important.

If it's any consolation, your position puts you in good company. It was not too long ago that Frogboy's take was that one could have Star Control without the Spathi, because for him, the core values of Star Control were "a bit more general":

Quote from: Stardock Forums
I loved the story and I ate up every bit of lore that there was.  But I never considered Star Control to be particularly connected to a specific set of aliens. Star Control, for me, is about humans exploring the galaxy and having adventures with aliens and dealing with ships with unique powers all put together through an interesting story.

If Paul and Fred had made a Star Control 3 with a totally different cast of aliens, I'd been just as fine with that as long as the game was good.

As a fan, I hope that he wasn't just being pragmatic about not having F&P's approval to use the classic lore and aliens. Right now, we are less than two weeks away from a settlement conference. I am cautiously optimistic that today's effort represents a course correction away from the notion that specific characters (e.g., the original alien races) are the elements "that people associate with" and expect from Star Control, and back towards a path where the notion of conflict between Stardock and UQM would be nothing more than rank speculation.

And speaking of the Drengin, take note of Frogboy's pre-litigation opinion regarding his rights, from that same November 2015 post:

Quote from: Stardock Forums
I don't believe anyone but Paul and Fred have the rights to mess with the Ur-Quan lore and aliens. I believe their rights to be identical to my rights on the GalCiv aliens. Personal, common-law copyright.  Paul and Fred PERSONALLY have ownership of that lore. That is our position and the one we'd be wiling to legally enforce if push came to shove

Now that they are litigants, neither Stardock nor F&P can be expected to expound an objectively accurate vision of the law (even to themselves). Each side is going to advance an argument under which it thinks it can prevail (before trial, ideally).

No one should be shocked that as the putative trademark owner, Stardock is now pushing the legal theory that trademark is everything and copyright is all but meaningless in this context. I would expect the inverse from F&P...

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Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #721 on: May 03, 2018, 09:34:52 pm »

Right now, we are less than two weeks away from a settlement conference.

Is this conference the point where a settlement most commonly occurs in litigation?  Or do they tend to stagger in unpredictably during later proceedings?
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rosepatel
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #722 on: May 04, 2018, 06:25:13 pm »

Speaking of 2015 posts...

https://web.archive.org/web/20160826230848/https://forums.starcontrol.com/471109/page/3

Quote from: Frogboy
BTW, we keep Paul and Fred (the creators of Star Control) updated on the game's progress.  They have been very supportive.

I also want to correct something I saw: Again, disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. But my position is that Stardock doesn't have the legal rights to the original lore either.  Or, if we did, we have long since refuted those rights.  The Star Control classic lore are the copyright of Paul Reiche and Fred Ford.  

I post that sort of thing publicly partially because while I own Stardock today, if something happened to me and someone else took over Stardock I don't want anyone to even be tempted.

I'm not sure which part of this post has been the biggest inconsistency with where we are now: "the creators of Star Control", "Stardock doesn't have the legal rights", or "they have been very supportive". The last one seems to have zero evidence in the first place. Paul and Fred have alleged that Stardock has done a lot to mislead fans about their support for Origins.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 06:27:44 pm by rosepatel » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #723 on: May 04, 2018, 07:17:14 pm »

No one should be shocked that as the putative trademark owner, Stardock is now pushing the legal theory that trademark is everything and copyright is all but meaningless in this context. I would expect the inverse from F&P...

Even with the copyright, things are not clear. Brad seems to argue that F&P only own the copyright to the parts of SC1 and SC2 that they had personally contributed to, while the copyright to the games as a whole was owned by Accolade (and is thus owned by Stardock now). The materials that came with the games also give conflicting information, as far as I could see. For example, the game box for SC2's original DOS version says:

Quote
Game ©1992 Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III. All other materials ©1992 Accolade, Inc.

...implying that F&P own the copyright to the entire game, regardless of who personally created what. On the other hand, the SC2 manual that came with the Star Control Collection in 1994 says that:

Quote
Portions © 1992 Paul Reiche III & Fred Ford. Game © 1992 by Accolade, Inc.

...which is more in line with Stardock's current position.

There is another, more serious problem with this whole situation, it seems. Another Stardock employee implied that Fred and Paul may be facing criminal charges for their DMCA takedown attempts. How likely do you think that is?
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 07:28:28 pm by PRH » Logged
rosepatel
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #724 on: May 04, 2018, 07:43:01 pm »

Creating a false DMCA notice is punishable by law. But by the same token, creating a false counter-notice is punishable by law. And both of those are for effectively perjuring yourself with complete falsehoods, which would be near impossible for Paul and Fred to do given the facts. They most certainly asserted their copyrights in all three games, and they for sure had the documentation to back it up (including the 1988 Agreement, copyright notices on the game boxes, etc.).

It's questionable whether they presented that evidence at the time of the takedown, but it's largely irrelevant. Having been through the DMCA Takedown Process, it's basically a CYA for the platform that's hosting the allegedly infringing content. You send the takedown notice to the host (Steam, GOG, etc.), and assert that someone else is using your copyright without permission. The host ultimately doesn't care, they forward it to the alleged infringer (Stardock) and give them a chance to contest it. If they contest it, the host usually has Terms of Service that say that they don't take sides in legal disputes, and so they leave the allegedly infringing content up until there's a Court Order to take it down. At that point, the host has done its job, and it's up to you if you want to escalate your takedown to the courts.

In other words, the DMCA process is designed to be contested. There's a canyon of difference between a contested takedown and one that is false in the criminal sense.

I don't think Stardock's employees are deliberately lying. What's likely happening is they've been told that their company is in the right, and some employees have individually extrapolated that to some absurd conclusions based on a limited understanding of the law. It's no different from some of their fans. There's a lot of misinformation out there, and it's why I try to be very careful in delineating between interpretations that are accepted vs. disputed, or likely vs unlikely vs certain. (And even then, I prefer words like "near" certain, even for stuff that I would consider basic IP law.)

If anything, there's more risk to Stardock on this front, as they don't have the copyright to the first two (and a half) games. There's also the Atari emails that showed that they had conceded the fact that the publishing deal had expired, and that Atari couldn't sell the games without Paul and Fred's permission. (Although, by the same token, Paul and Fred would similarly need Atari's permission to use the Trademark in commerce.) Point is, it's harder for Stardock to assert "we have the multiple permissions needed to distribute this game" than it is for Paul and Fred to say "you don't have our permission".
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 08:04:48 pm by rosepatel » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #725 on: May 05, 2018, 06:34:10 pm »

As a fan, I hope that he wasn't just being pragmatic about not having F&P's approval to use the classic lore and aliens. Right now, we are less than two weeks away from a settlement conference. I am cautiously optimistic that today's effort represents a course correction away from the notion that specific characters (e.g., the original alien races) are the elements "that people associate with" and expect from Star Control, and back towards a path where the notion of conflict between Stardock and UQM would be nothing more than rank speculation.

I know saying this would get me a firm beating over on the Origins forum but... if we just look at the general associates and meanings of the words, isn't "Stardock" actually a better name for a space adventure game than "Star Control"? The Star Control trademark was originally for a cross genre 4X/Arcade game developed from the Archon model. Then Star Control II took the basic story universe of that game and converted the actual game play over to an RPG/Arcade cross. So it kept the name to maintain continuity with the story universe, yet the meaning of the name still implies a 4X game, which it is not. Whereas the name "Stardock" has a more genre-neutral meaning. Whether you are ultimately conquering space or just exploring it, you will probably need a stardock to base your operations from (and indeed all of your adventures were based out of an orbital stardock in Starflight, Starflight 2 and Star Control II). No subtitle would be necessary either.

The most fitting name for the product was the company name itself. Hidden in plain sight all along.

Stardock - an epic space adventure action role playing game.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #726 on: May 05, 2018, 08:39:17 pm »

Stardock did a top-down space game in the 90s called Stellar Frontier. I think it was more of a no-story ship-to-ship combat game like Subspace, but that's another very good name for a Star Control-alike. Regardless, I doubt their current game's name will change no matter how everything else shakes out.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2018, 11:17:18 pm by Shiver » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #727 on: May 05, 2018, 09:49:19 pm »

As a fan, I hope that he wasn't just being pragmatic about not having F&P's approval to use the classic lore and aliens. Right now, we are less than two weeks away from a settlement conference. I am cautiously optimistic that today's effort represents a course correction away from the notion that specific characters (e.g., the original alien races) are the elements "that people associate with" and expect from Star Control, and back towards a path where the notion of conflict between Stardock and UQM would be nothing more than rank speculation.

I know saying this would get me a firm beating over on the Origins forum but... if we just look at the general associates and meanings of the words, isn't "Stardock" actually a better name for a space adventure game than "Star Control"? The Star Control trademark was originally for a cross genre 4X/Arcade game developed from the Archon model. Then Star Control II took the basic story universe of that game and converted the actual game play over to an RPG/Arcade cross. So it kept the name to maintain continuity with the story universe, yet the meaning of the name still implies a 4X game, which it is not. Whereas the name "Stardock" has a more genre-neutral meaning. Whether you are ultimately conquering space or just exploring it, you will probably need a stardock to base your operations from (and indeed all of your adventures were based out of an orbital stardock in Starflight, Starflight 2 and Star Control II). No subtitle would be necessary either.

The most fitting name for the product was the company name itself. Hidden in plain sight all along.

Stardock - an epic space adventure action role playing game.

It isn't exactly the name of the game that's the problem with renaming it. Star Control is an entity in the game itself as is Origins.
Your character is a member of Star Control and the first human to command an interstellar vessel for the Star Control program.

Origins Spoilers:
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #728 on: May 06, 2018, 06:42:43 am »

And let's not forget that even before the lawsuit started, Origins had many UI and gameplay elements that were clearly derived from SC2 - the Fleet Battles UI, the planet type names, and of course the title/hyperspace theme, which is a remix of SC2's hyperspace theme. And if memory serves, Origins has been marketed as a "prequel/alternate history" of the SC "multiverse" from day one. All of this means that none of these UI and lore elements can be used in GotP without creating confusion, unless GotP is marketed as a Star Control game under Stardock's wing - or all these elements are removed from Origins, which would likely delay Origins' release by quite a significant time. And that, I believe, is also one of the reasons for the lawsuit.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2018, 07:00:19 am by PRH » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #729 on: May 07, 2018, 04:27:17 am »

Copying elements like characters, lore, world art, interface art, and music all fall under the realm of Copyright. And the test there is whether someone copied someone else's work in a way that was substantially similar. (Confusion is not relevant here.) Since Paul and Fred own the Copyright in the original games, they can't get in trouble for copying those elements. This is where Stardock could hypothetically be in trouble.

Confusion is only relevant in Trademark law. Trademarks are about the mark being used to sell/market/advertise the product, and not the actual contents of the product.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #730 on: May 07, 2018, 06:45:11 am »

Copying elements like characters, lore, world art, interface art, and music all fall under the realm of Copyright. And the test there is whether someone copied someone else's work in a way that was substantially similar. (Confusion is not relevant here.) Since Paul and Fred own the Copyright in the original games, they can't get in trouble for copying those elements. This is where Stardock could hypothetically be in trouble.

Confusion is only relevant in Trademark law. Trademarks are about the mark being used to sell/market/advertise the product, and not the actual contents of the product.

Unless the 1988 agreement is still in effect, giving 'publisher' exclusive rights. Stardock is unable or unwilling to explain how it could be the case, would anyone like to play Devil's advocate?
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #731 on: May 07, 2018, 02:27:23 pm »

Confusion is only relevant in Trademark law. Trademarks are about the mark being used to sell/market/advertise the product, and not the actual contents of the product.

Thanks for pointing that out (I mean that sincerely). Shows just what I know.  Embarrassed

By the way, do you think that the Ur-Quan universe can really be divorced from the Star Control trademark, either legally or in terms of actual public perception? One fact that really speaks in Stardock's favor is that the SC trademark has been used for decades to market nothing but games based in the Ur-Quan universe, and that universe, and the characters that populate it, is firmly associated in the public's eyes with the name "Star Control". Plus, it is a self-evident, trivial fact that a sequel to UQM is a sequel to Star Control II. I would love nothing more than to see Fred and Paul being able to create a sequel to UQM without any interference from Stardock, but can it be accomplished even in principle? Have there been any works of fiction in the past that saw a similar split in IP ownership?

Unless the 1988 agreement is still in effect, giving 'publisher' exclusive rights. Stardock is unable or unwilling to explain how it could be the case, would anyone like to play Devil's advocate?

No, IIRC that should only be true if Accolade, and not Fred and Paul, held the copyright to those elements (and would therefore still be true if the 1988 agreement had expired). If I remember correctly, even Accolade could only use the old SC2 races in SC3 if F&P licensed those races to them. Accolade's exclusive rights were only about developing and marketing a new Star Control game. If F&P had refused to license the SC2 characters to Accolade for SC3, SC3 would have been made regardless - just without any of the old races from SC3. And by the way, that would mean that Brad's statement that Stardock could use the classic SC races in their new game without F&P's permission is false.

Then again, I could be wrong, and, as it should already be obvious, I'm not a lawyer.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2018, 03:49:39 pm by PRH » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #732 on: May 07, 2018, 04:37:09 pm »

If I remember correctly, even Accolade could only use the old SC2 races in SC3 if F&P licensed those races to them. Accolade's exclusive rights were only about developing and marketing a new Star Control game. If F&P had refused to license the SC2 characters to Accolade for SC3, SC3 would have been made regardless - just without any of the old races from SC3.

I thought that under the 1988 agreement, Accolade already had the licensing it needed from F&P to make SC3 with whatever copyrighted SC2 components it wanted. The trouble for Stardock is actually that the 1988 agreement almost certainly self destructed long ago due to more than one of its expiration clauses being triggered in the intervening time.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #733 on: May 07, 2018, 06:27:48 pm »

The SC3 license is in the first addendum to the 1988 agreement...
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #734 on: May 08, 2018, 05:23:10 am »

Another Stardock employee implied that Fred and Paul may be facing criminal charges for their DMCA takedown attempts. How likely do you think that is?

From what I've heard, you can only really face criminal charges if you were lying when you attested that you *believed* you were acting on behalf of the copyright owner. So if *I* went and threw a DMCA notice at the Star Control games, yes, criminal charges. But it would be really difficult to prove that P&F *knew* they weren't the copyright holders. And, as far as I can tell, they really are the copyright holders, which would make the issue moot...
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