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

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Author Topic: My take on Stardock  (Read 61195 times)
Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #105 on: March 20, 2018, 08:03:22 am »

What, specifically, does Paul own?

Does he own the music? Does he own the art? The alien artistic design? The alien dialog?

The code, to my understanding, was Fred's, so he would own that.  Paul's notebook seems to show the origins of many of the races, ships, and other elements of the setting, giving him a pretty good claim on them - and those would be the most important ones for any sequel.  For the rest, the question is whether there was a copyright assignment/work-for-hire arrangement from the original author to Paul.  If you're saying that there was no such assignment, you could have a point; in that case, the original artists/composers would own those copyrights.

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Please feel free to find the copyright filing by Paul and these things.

To my understanding, you don't need to file to have a copyright; it's automatic for any creative work you make.  However, you do need to file to prosecute an infringement claim, so if you're saying that Paul never filed his copyright, that would invalidate his DMCA action and his copyright claims - at least until he filed the copyright; I believe it can be done retroactively.

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The order of events:

PF propose that each game differentiate based on respective rights. Fair enough.

They violate that a week later knowing exactly what they were doing. Did they associate Ghosts with Star Control II? If
 Yes, they lose. Did they do it on purposes? If yes, there are statutory damages.

Agreed.  The tension on this point, from me and from others, is that we're not convinced that any actual damages from their infringement are very large - I think that if they had omitted the use of the "Star Control" mark from their announcement, it would have had almost the exact same effect, because all of the journalists and fans of the original game would still put the same story together.  So Stardock's claims of suffering great injury from it just aren't persuasive to me; I think that they deserve some punishment, yes, but certainly not as much as this legal case is going to cost.

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Then you have months of them attacking us from their blog.

Up through this stage, I don't think their arguments were all that persuasive - certainly not to me.  I and others were saying that they should stop with the public comments and just negotiate with you.  I think Stardock came out ahead in this stage of the public relations fight just by staying quiet.

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Then they file the DMCA notices to Steam and GOG.

Based on my reading of the Accolade agreement, if they had registered their copyright, this was within their rights to do.  If Atari's distribution agreement had ended, either prior to the sale, or by its bankruptcy triggering that special license termination clause, then Stardock had no right to sell the old games - including SC3, because even SC3 used the old SC2 races, and therefore needed a license.  But equally importantly, Paul and Fred could not offer them on Steam/GoG either, because the games are called "Star Control", and that's your trademark.  So my understanding on this is that neither of you should be able to sell any of the old games without the permission of the other.

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Then Stardock files a complaint about their trademark infringement which they respond by, amongst other things, demanding our trademark be canceled.

So, I haven't heard anyone have a serious problem with Stardock's trademark enforcement action.  But your filing included a lot of other extra assertions about Paul and Fred not creating things - and I know we had a conversation about "Star Control" the game vs. "Star Control" the product identity, but most people credit Paul and Fred with the creation of the game that Accolade called "Star Control".  Perhaps these assertions were there because your lawyer felt they were good legal strategy, and maybe they were.  But this is where I think Stardock started to lose public support, because to the layman, it stopped sounding like Stardock was trying to get just compensation for P&F's trademark infringement, and started sounding like it was making a broadside attack on their IP rights.

Trying to invalidate the "Star Control" trademark was actually something that had been talked about on these boards before.  A trademark that isn't used for (I believe) three years can be considered abandoned, and that happened during the gap between when SC3 sales stopped, and when the games got put up on GoG.  For self-interested reasons, I think most people here were hoping that would happen - as fond as we are of UQM, we'd love to call it "Star Control".  But now that Stardock is actively producing a Star Control game, I think the trademark is back to strength, and I doubt that any attack on it will succeed.

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After that, yes, Stardock is going to be very aggressive.

Well, that's your right - but if you want to avoid a boycott from the old fans (the Reddit conversations are starting to head that way), I think it's important to still sound like you're trying to be reasonable, and not vindictive.  For me, 'reasonable' on Stardock's part would mean fining Paul and Fred for your actual damages suffered from their infringement (plus statutory penalties, if any).  But it does not include trying to get rights to use the SC2 setting, unless your lawyer has found a loophole in the Accolade contract.  It also doesn't include getting trademarks on phrases and races that could be used to threaten the UQM project, or keep P&F from making GotP.

So, this has been a long post.  It's my best summary of how I currently view the dispute based on the public information.  I can't say that I speak for anyone, but I think that most others are relatively close to this.  If you can make any factual corrections, I would welcome them as always.  I do realize that being under a gag order puts you in a difficult position, and I assume that the court will sanction P&F if/when they break the rules.

And if Paul and Fred read this, I'd ask them to try to keep trying to stay reasonable as well.  If there's a gag rule, don't break it.  And if Stardock wants to use some minimal setting elements...please at least consider it.  Stardock appears to have genuinely wanted to empower you to make a new Star Control; their offer to sell the mark at cost is evidence of that, even if they overpaid for it.  And now they have a bunch of sunk costs that they might not have sunk, if you had clarified your IP claims earlier.  Try to enable them to make their game, while you go and make yours.  You have smart fans.  We read comic books.  We can understand multiple continuities.  We won't be confused if they have Precursors in their game.  Honest!
« Last Edit: March 20, 2018, 09:09:10 am by Elestan » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #106 on: March 20, 2018, 08:26:59 am »

Brutal tactic to delay FF and PR's game.
I would've spent money on both, now I'll buy Origins only once GotP is out, by which time I'll get origins on the discount table, or even used...
The game they've had 25 years to work on?

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.  You're literally the embodiment of the reason this lawsuit's been brought up.

We won't be confused if they have Precursors in their game.  Honest!

Especially since Precursors are a huge fantasy/sci-fi trope? 
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Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #107 on: March 20, 2018, 08:58:00 am »

Brutal tactic to delay FF and PR's game.
I would've spent money on both, now I'll buy Origins only once GotP is out, by which time I'll get origins on the discount table, or even used...
The game they've had 25 years to work on?

My understanding is they couldn't.  Their company was bought by Activision, and Activision kept them working on Skylanders.

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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.
He can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's saying that Stardock's actions changed his mind.  F&P aren't liable for damage Stardock does to its own reputation.

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We won't be confused if they have Precursors in their game.  Honest!
Especially since Precursors are a huge fantasy/sci-fi trope?

Sure, that too.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #108 on: March 20, 2018, 09:14:29 am »

Does he own the art? The alien artistic design?

Well, at least some of it, and he might be able to prove that from his old notebooks.  But I don't necessarily think he is going to be able to prove that all the aliens are based upon his art work. So, I wouldn't be surprised if the court settles on making you the legal owner of some aliens, while making PR the legal owner of other aliens. That would split the SC universe....
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #109 on: March 20, 2018, 09:26:01 am »

He can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's saying that Stardock's actions changed his mind.  F&P aren't liable for damage Stardock does to its own reputation.

The information that Ghosts was held back directly because of Stardock could be falsified.

P&F could create it and release it but the only thing holding it back is themselves.

Remember, Brad was the one who was excited enough to post the announcement of Ghosts here himself.
He wanted Ghosts just as much as any of us.

Ghosts is vaporware at this point until we hear otherwise, but it sure seems like P&F want people to think they can't work on it.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #110 on: March 20, 2018, 10:03:37 am »

So, this has been a long post.  It's my best summary of how I currently view the dispute based on the public information.  I can't say that I speak for anyone, but I think that most others are relatively close to this.  If you can make any factual corrections, I would welcome them as always.  I do realize that being under a gag order puts you in a difficult position, and I assume that the court will sanction P&F if/when they break the rules.

And if Paul and Fred read this, I'd ask them to try to keep trying to stay reasonable as well.  If there's a gag rule, don't break it.  And if Stardock wants to use some minimal setting elements...please at least consider it.  Stardock appears to have genuinely wanted to empower you to make a new Star Control; their offer to sell the mark at cost is evidence of that, even if they overpaid for it.  And now they have a bunch of sunk costs that they might not have sunk, if you had clarified your IP claims earlier.  Try to enable them to make their game, while you go and make yours.  You have smart fans.  We read comic books.  We can understand multiple continuities.  We won't be confused if they have Precursors in their game.  Honest!
You are very close to my position. Thank You for summarizing it so well.


FF and PR have so far only stated, that they now finally can find some time to make a continuation of the story they started in "Star Control II"  "The Ur-Quan Masters[/i]".
I'm purposefully using the trademarked name, as the game was created and marketed under that name. As such, the use of the trademarked name Star Control is purely factual and difficult to object to.
The issue I had when reading the announcement was the addition of "true sequel". They meant "true continuation of the original storyline" (thus omitting the botched SC3 attempt), but it can be interpreted as being the only sequel to the Star Control trademarked games, which thanks to unluckily split rights is not true.
What FF and PR further stated, is that they still have to work out the story they want to put into the new game.
And the scope of the project and the targeted audience. A real small Indy game just enough to satisfy the old fans. Or a fully blown modern game appealing to all gamers, new and old alike.
The scope will matter a lot later on too. If the target are just us "old" fans, and the UQM fans, then the project will remain having only a minor impact, as such a game would likely have only a limited financial interest for the developers.
But the intended scope is unknown, likely even to PR and FF themselves.
And as the whole original development has shown, it may blow up from a modest game to the fully blown experience we enjoyed just within the last 6 months, while the developers are hiding away in Alaska.
But now, any court action must and will be done considering a fully commercial interest. Which blows up lawyer and court fees. And potential damages.


But the fact that Stardock tried to devalue the IP claims of FF and PR, and filed for trademarks obviously not belonging to anything Stardock could have a right to, made Stardock overly aggressive in my opinion, and devalued their original grievances.
As such, I have little empathy left for Stardock.
But I also have less empathy for FF and PR, because what I get to read from them seems to be very much edited.
I had that feeling before Serosis hinted at the "full mails" having been published on the Stardock Starcontrol forums, but his hint just strenghtened the belief.

Neither side is a winner. The only winners will be the lawyers.


So far though, I have the slight feeling that Stardock did acknowledge quite some rights of FF and PR. The new game (Origins) uses "fleet battle" instead of "Super-Melee", and it refrains from using Star Control II intelectual property. And that Atari previously acknowledged they transgressed FF and PR's rights when they published on GoG.
But Stardock seems to have chosen to go for the financial attrition route. They seem to have more money than I would've credited them for, doing these broadside attacks.
Just keep on attacking, and at some point the defence will cumble due to a lack of money.
Which I also find makind Stardock even less desireable.
Which will mean I will have to find a way to make my old floppies run instead of simply buying GoG SC1 again (which would send money to Stardock AND PR/FF).


Brutal tactic to delay FF and PR's game.
I would've spent money on both, now I'll buy Origins only once GotP is out, by which time I'll get origins on the discount table, or even used...
The game they've had 25 years to work on?

My understanding is they couldn't.  Their company was bought by Activision, and Activision kept them working on Skylanders.

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.
He can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's saying that Stardock's actions changed his mind.  F&P aren't liable for damage Stardock does to its own reputation.
Exactly. The filing of new trademark requests which are unrelated to Star Control: Origins.
The belittling of the design work done by FF and PR.

I wanted to buy both games each one once it is published.
With what I know now, I'll be saving the SC:O money because I do not want to reward Stardock for their behaviour towards the original creators and designers of Star Control and Star Control II.
(Which means I'll be boycotting the game - despite looking forward to SC:O.)

Ghosts is vaporware at this point until we hear otherwise, but it sure seems like P&F want people to think they can't work on it.
Well, if they have to crawl through attics finding old contracts so that they can prove their claims, that means the same amount of time less to think about the new story...





Also, should we move/rename the UQM main project side? It's just using an abbreviation, but one that one is starting to be uncomfortably close to the battleground, IMHO.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #111 on: March 20, 2018, 10:41:54 am »

With what I know now

To be brutally honest we don't know anything more than what P&F have spoon-fed us through their blog posts.
And the more they keep "informing" us in this manner the more I'm skeptical of their true intentions.

Well, if they have to crawl through attics finding old contracts so that they can prove their claims, that means the same amount of time less to think about the new story...
They wouldn't have had to do any of this if they had simply acquiesced to calling the game a sequel to The Ur-Quan Masters and politely asking Stardock to take the games down from Steam/GOG.
They had their chance to be civil.

Also, should we move/rename the UQM main project side? It's just using an abbreviation, but one that one is starting to be uncomfortably close to the battleground, IMHO.

No, UQM is not under fire nor will it ever be.

Though I would be more concerned about the forum banner using the 3DO box art.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #112 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.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #113 on: March 20, 2018, 11:59:43 am »

You can expect Stardock to be very aggressive going forward.

"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"
It's just going to hurt everyone involved (and anyone caught in the blast radius).

That said, my morbid curiosity means I am now dying to know the actual legal status of the IP...
« Last Edit: March 20, 2018, 12:52:19 pm by Soul Reaver » Logged

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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #114 on: March 20, 2018, 12:40:26 pm »

With what I know now

To be brutally honest we don't know anything more than what P&F have spoon-fed us through their blog posts.
And the more they keep "informing" us in this manner the more I'm skeptical of their true intentions.
Same is true for the other side. And so far, the court documents have reinforced the claims made by FF and PR more than they've reinforced the additional claims by Stardock, IMHO.

I've changed my opinion whether I'll be buying once. If the available information changes, I may change again.

But anyway, I'm happy I stayed true to my general principle of not pre-ordering (and pre-paying) games, or "buying" "early access" (or similar) for SC:O.
I'm old fashioned with regard to "first the goods, then the money".
Although I've always said I'll make an exception if FF and PR ever make a continuation of their story.



Also, should we move/rename the UQM main project side? It's just using an abbreviation, but one that one is starting to be uncomfortably close to the battleground, IMHO.

No, UQM is not under fire nor will it ever be.

Though I would be more concerned about the forum banner using the 3DO box art.
Yes, that banner too.

But I', not so sure about UQM being outside the line of fire.
The moment someone started to claim the trademarks for "Ur-Quan Masters", "Ur-Quan", "VUX", "Spathi", "Yehat", ..., that changed.
It'll be hard for someone to actually win a court case against this project, but then I fear nobody will step up to defend this project in court if push comes to shove.
The project has no money, so it cannot defend itself in court.
And I know I would not put myself in the line of fire to defend it with my resources.

Hence, the project would, through lack of defence, disappear, after everybody downloaded as much as he could.
The project would shift underground, but there would be no more central point to coordinate it.

And I saw Stardock's claim on reddit, that they did this to protect the UQM project. [edit: correction] did this to secure any possible donation to the project they might want to make in the future[/edit:correction].
But companies are known to change their mind.
Like Stardock did after first stating that "FF and PR own the copyrights to all characters in Star Control II", and now claiming that they were chef-designers at best, and some other artists owns the copyright.
(Which would make an even larger mess out of the current IP mess. Then nobody would be able to continue with this story, as it would be very hard to get all agreements from everybody involved to continue. At least until after expiry of copyrights. Which will be well beyond my lifetime.)


edited to add:
the comment I alluded to:
Quote from: draginol_on_reddit_(Stardock_CEO)
The concern was that Paul and Fred would begin trademarking it and use that as leverage against Stardock and place barriers between Stardock's many time stated goal (since 2013) of supporting the UQM project as a Lanham act violation (you'll need to read that to understand as I am not a lawyer).

Short version: Stardock wants to be able to send more Star Control related assets to the UQM community in the future (like release the Star Control III source code, which we own and future Star Control Origins tools and content) without fear that Paul and Fred would claim we are creating "confusion" by doing so.
(source: https://www.reddit.com/r/starcontrol/comments/8120uu/star_control_legal_issues_megathread/dv0rzt5/)

(Lanham act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanham_Act: the law-enacting act laying the foundations for trademarks in the US, named after the leading representative)
« Last Edit: March 20, 2018, 12:52:11 pm by Krulle » Logged
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #115 on: March 20, 2018, 01:05:10 pm »

Followed Elestan from the Stardock forums - it was pretty clear my days there would be numbered too if I continued to challenge the Stardock narrative. I pretty much agree with Elestan's analysis, Paul could been clearer when he declined to buy 'what Stardock owned'. Still, Stardock's behaviour has been unjustifiably aggressive from pretty early on - P&F aren't the creators of Star Control, even when the copyright notice in the game literally names them?
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #116 on: March 20, 2018, 01:52:26 pm »

Followed Elestan from the Stardock forums - it was pretty clear my days there would be numbered too if I continued to challenge the Stardock narrative. I pretty much agree with Elestan's analysis, Paul could been clearer when he declined to buy 'what Stardock owned'. Still, Stardock's behaviour has been unjustifiably aggressive from pretty early on - P&F aren't the creators of Star Control, even when the copyright notice in the game literally names them?
Stardock was fairly civil at the start, but once P&F started demanding to take out anything that resembles SC2 in SCO (like Super-Melee) that's when Stardock started getting aggressive. Brad is pretty adamant at preserving the work he and his team put into SCO including the bits P&F wanted removed (addressing it as "protecting the livelihood of Stardock's employees" in several posts now).
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #117 on: March 20, 2018, 02:06:27 pm »

Stardock supports the UQM project and will be donating the SC3 source once the legal mess is over.

As for the litigation, layers escalate things. Thatís why itís better for people to work things out on their own. Even Elestan seems to recognize the one sided gradual escalation.

I donít know what is worse, that they violated the confidentiality of settlement talks or that they so misrepresented it, in either case, we are legally forbidden (as were they) from discussing it.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #118 on: March 20, 2018, 02:40:34 pm »

\Even Elestan seems to recognize the one sided gradual escalation.

That does not seem to be a reasonable reading of what Elestan wrote. Unless you're oddly claiming that you're the only side to escalate, or that when you escalated it was anything but gradual?
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #119 on: March 20, 2018, 02:43:58 pm »

Even Elestan seems to recognize the one sided gradual escalation.

Sounds to me more like you are twisting Elestan's statements to bolster your narrative.

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As for the litigation, layers escalate things. Thatís why itís better for people to work things out on their own.

Yeah, blame the lawyers. Pretty sure everything goes to you for approval first.

Good luck milking the Star Control trademark now when you have all but alienated a good chunk of the Star Control community. You certainly threw all that good will down the gutter. Much of the value of the brand was only pretty much the resonance with the older players.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2018, 02:48:56 pm by d00dz » Logged
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