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

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Author Topic: My take on Stardock  (Read 61256 times)
Frogboy
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #420 on: April 09, 2018, 03:48:01 am »

A recent discussion here suggested that race names are not subject to copyright.  If this is correct, then I think he could put creatures called Spathi and Ur-Quan in SC:O...as long as he didn't make them similar enough to the Spathi and Ur-Quan in SC2 for a court to say that he was copying creative elements protected by Paul's copyright.
Correct.

When you give me actionable information, I do update my views, and try to inform people appropriately.  Give me more, and see what happens.  :-)

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And only those creatures that Paul (or Fred) created.

...or that were created by people who have assigned P&F the copyright, either long ago or recently.  I have to believe that they've been talking to all of the people who worked on the original project, and getting copyright assignments from any who are willing to provide them.


Yea but I generally don't like giving you actionable stuff because every time I do, I get another hour in a lawyer's pain amplifying chair. Wink

Now, at the risk of getting more pain amplification, I would assume that Paul and Fred have contacted all the artists they can to get any and all artist rights transferred to them. This is something I think they should do anyway regardless so that assuming they make new games in their universe they can do so unfettered from any copyright concerns.
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Soul Reaver
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #421 on: April 09, 2018, 03:54:01 am »

If we didn't want Paul and Fred to continue their story, we would have had the Ur-Quan and Spathi and so on in Star Control: Origins from the start.  

No. Trademarks do not include characters, stories, UI, themes, sounds, impressions.  

Copyright can cover some of these things, like characters, stories, music.  Stardock has no rights to the specific characters in Star Control II or the story or the music.

Brad, this is from some time ago, but the above two comments - both on the same page - show one of the sources of the major problems that prevent an amicable settlement between yourselves and F&P.

In the second statement, you say that Stardock has "no rights to the specific characters in Star Control II or the story or the music".

In your first statement, you talk as if it is only through your generosity/kindness that they aren't included in Star Control: Origins.  You said "If WE didn't want", as if it were an option.

Those two positions are contradictory (unless, of course, you're advocating knowingly infringing on F&Ps copyright?).  It's statements like your first one that F&P fear the most: that you don't respect or acknowledge their 'ownership' of the Star Control/Star Control 2 story/characters, that somehow you think you have a say over their future - in effect, statements like your first one make it sound like you believe you have rights to their IP.  A number of Stardock's actions seem to reflect a view that you do in fact somehow own that IP (ie, the various trademark filings make for those characters/story elements - why would you trademark them if you believe the IP was owned by someone else?).

And regardless of anything else that may be happening and/or they may have done to you, on the copyright ownership of the stories/characters I still believe F&P are legally in the right.

There's no contradiction here.  Trademarks and copyrights are different things.  

It was out of generosity that we didn't include the Spathi, Ur-Quan, etc. in the new games.  They have no special rights to aliens with those names, only copyrights to the parts they can show they created.

For four years, we took lumps for not having Ur-Quan and Spathi and Orz in the Star Control reboot.  People on this very forum have said "Why even call it Star Control if you won't have the Orz or Syreen?".  That's how strongly people associate those names with the Star Control brand. So yes, it was extremely generous that we didn't include aliens with those names.

But as soon as they decided to try to cancel the Star Control trademark (and I've seen some interpretation that their intention is actually to simply claim it for themselves), essentially, an attempt to kill our project, I didn't see any reason to keep doing them any favors.  

Future Star Control games will have the Spathi, Ur-Quan, etc.  They will not contain anything that would violate any copyrights that Paul and Fred may have.  Our Spathi and Orz and such will be expressed very differently due to being in an obviously different universe.  

They are welcome to oppose those trademarks just as they were welcome to try to cancel our Star Control trademark.  We will provide generous licensing terms for the use of our marks to encourage new games in what we refer to as the Ur-Quan universe though those terms will be less generous depending on their level of opposition.

@Soul Reaver:  The distinctive test has nothing to do with the name. It is a test for the character (character names are not protected by copyright).  

Oh, I realize that.  Unfortunately that might well backfire on you if you decide to go ahead with trademarking those names and then using a varient of the alien that doesn't infringe on copyright.

You could quite concievably make a gregarious purple slug alien species and call it your newly-trademarked 'Ur-Quan' by name, and include it in your games.
However, there are likely to be two main types of people interested in your Star Control games: new customers, and old fans.
The new customers will not care whether the slugs are called Ur-Quan or Ugurz, so there's no benefit to you here.
The old fans however may find it somewhat offensive that you're trying to 'pass off' the purple slug by the name of Ur-Quan (which, naturally, they associate with the older games - including an open-source release called 'The Ur-Quan Masters').  There's no benefit to you here either, and possibly only detriment.  The customers aren't stupid, they won't associate your purple slug with the Ur-Quan they knew and loved just becuase you slapped the same name on it.

Naturally the differences between the designs may end up being more minor (just enough to skirt the copyright), but in either case it's likely to feel 'off' to old fans of the series (much like SC3 did to a lot of old fans back then).

So the only real gain I could see for you is getting revenge on F&P.  Which, fankly, wouldn't really result in any material gain for you or the fans either.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 03:56:22 am by Soul Reaver » Logged

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Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #422 on: April 09, 2018, 03:58:10 am »

I think people associate names very strongly.  That's why trademarks are so valuable.

I disagree, at least in this case.  What I associate with the original game is the creative aspects of each race - their distinctive personalities, appearances, prejudices, and quirks.  If you call the P'kunk the K'punk, they still work just as well, but if you make them anything other than space hippie birds, you've totally changed the game.

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It is interesting how passionately you are willing to defend what appears to me to be naked maliciousness in trying to cancel the Star Control trademark while simultaneously condemning something that most fans of STAR CONTROL would want: The Orz, Ur-Quan, Spathi, etc. in new Star Control games.

If such fans are like me (maybe they are, maybe they are not), this approach will backfire badly.  I don't think the fans want races that happen to have the same names as the SC2 ones.  I think they want the actual SC2 races, and will get quite upset if you hand them something that doesn't look or act like an Ur-Quan, and tell them it's an Ur-Quan.
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Frogboy
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #423 on: April 09, 2018, 04:01:42 am »

General side note on copyright vs. trademark for those interested.  

Let's talk about Harry Potter which has been subjected to a great deal of litigation.

You might find this interesting:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_disputes_over_the_Harry_Potter_series

Harry Potter is a pretty distinct character.  Lightning bolt scar, glasses, pretty specific backstory.  

Now, if Harry Potter wasn't trademarked (and he is trademarked so don't think you can use that name in a new book) you could have a Harry Potter wizard character. But each step you take towards making him appear derivative...give him glasses...lightning bolt...mother killed by dark wizard while protecting him...lives with mean relative.s..and you are playing with fire.

Now, the new Star Control will have Ur-Quan in it.  Make them green with 3 big eyes, 3 small eyes caterpillar creature wiht the same background and you're asking for trouble.

But such re-designs are common.  Consider the Klingons.  Which matters more to a Star Trek fan?

Klingons.





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Frogboy
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #424 on: April 09, 2018, 04:02:53 am »

If such fans are like me (maybe they are, maybe they are not), this approach will backfire badly.  I don't think the fans want races that happen to have the same names as the SC2 ones.  I think they want the actual SC2 races, and will get quite upset if you hand them something that doesn't look or act like an Ur-Quan, and tell them it's an Ur-Quan.

What makes a Klingon a Klingon?

I have no idea what legal things are happening behind the scenes between CBS and Paramount.  But I suspect there's more to the radical changes in appearance and attitude in the Klingons than simply artistic license.

Star Control III made enough changes to some of the aliens that they'd probably past muster.   That's not a complement of the SC3 character designs however.. Wink
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 04:05:52 am by Frogboy » Logged
Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #425 on: April 09, 2018, 04:11:00 am »

Yea but I generally don't like giving you actionable stuff because every time I do, I get another hour in a lawyer's pain amplifying chair. Wink

The way I see it, if I'm getting basic IP concepts as badly wrong as you've said, you should be able to correct me without saying anything that P&F's lawyers didn't learn in law school.  That should get you out of chair time.  Smiley
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Frogboy
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #426 on: April 09, 2018, 04:12:59 am »

I mentioned GalCiv earlier.

Altarians in GalCiv for OS/2:


Altarians in GalCiv for Windows:


Altarians in GalCiv III for Windows


Despite having millions of fans, they didn't really care how the re-designs.  I remember being..not super happy that they changed the Altarians in GalCiv III because I was certain the fans would riot.  They didn't care.  They're still the most popular non-human civ.

Full line up from 1992:


When GalCiv III didn't include the Korx though, people were upset.  Some people claimed they wouldn't buy the game because of no Korx even though they were basically a Ferengi clone and only showed up in GalCiv II for Windows.

See the race above listed as "Empire"? That's the Arcean Empire.

Here's how they look now:



« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 04:18:37 am by Frogboy » Logged
Frogboy
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #427 on: April 09, 2018, 04:16:50 am »

Yea but I generally don't like giving you actionable stuff because every time I do, I get another hour in a lawyer's pain amplifying chair. Wink

The way I see it, if I'm getting basic IP concepts as badly wrong as you've said, you should be able to correct me without saying anything that P&F's lawyers didn't learn in law school.  That should get you out of chair time.  Smiley

Well here's a free one: You can't copyright a name.  The more distinctive the name is, the stronger its trademark could be but it means nothing for copyright.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #428 on: April 09, 2018, 04:30:00 am »

I think people associate names very strongly.  That's why trademarks are so valuable.

In Galactic Civilizations we redesigned the aliens when we made the Windows version as we had much better visual capabilities by then.  Nobody cared that the Arceans and Drengin looked different.  The fans cared that the Arceans and Drengin were in the game.

The Orz, Spathi, Ur-Quan are all very strongly associated with the Star Control brand.  It's not circumventing anyone's copyright.

It is interesting how passionately you are willing to defend what appears to me to be naked maliciousness in trying to cancel the Star Control trademark while simultaneously condemning something that most fans of STAR CONTROL would want: The Orz, Ur-Quan, Spathi, etc. in new Star Control games.  I also find it pretty amazing that you describe what happened as Stardock using its trademark against Paul and Fred. Wow.

The fact that you think that simply using the NAME Ur-Quan somehow equates to actually having 'the ur-quan in new star control games' shows a disappointing lack of understanding.

When I think 'Ur-Quan' I think enormous green predatory catepillar aliens, with a horrifying and tragic tortured past, their damaged psyche driving them to almost compulsively enslave all life around them, too blinded by their own past trauma to see the pain they are causing to other sentient species.  I see imposing, enormous green ships with devastating fusion blasts and swarms of tiny fighters inexorably punching through the Alliance's defences.

You say Ur-Quan, that's what I see, and chances are this is the Ur-Quan you cannot use.  And if you put something else in the game and call it Ur-Quan and I'd wonder if you think I'm some kind of moron.

But hey, maybe you're right!  Maybe people are morons.  Yours wouldn't be the first marketing strategy predicated on that assumption.

The truth is that I'm not even convinced F&P can pull off a narrative sequel to SC2 story either.  To capture that nebulous "right feel" without outright recreating what has gone before is hard enough even if it's the same creators in the same time period - let alone after such a long time has elapsed.  People often feel the need to explain every mystery and fill in every blank, forgetting that it was those mysteries and blanks that made the original universe feel so much larger and more alive.

Personally I think the path you took with Origins - coming up with your own original aliens and plot - is probably the better one for you to follow rather than trying to shoehorn in names without the associated characteristics.

(Also, after 2 minutes of googling: https://forums.galciv3.com/456357/request-give-us-the-old-altarians)
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 07:12:30 am by Soul Reaver » Logged

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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #429 on: April 09, 2018, 04:45:25 am »

I think the fans have expectations of the roles different aliens will have.  

Most fans would expect a visual update after 25 years. That doesn’t make them “morons”.

Did fans accept the Klingons in Star Trek the motion picture? Yes. The only thing they have in common with the TOS is the name. It doesn’t make the fans “morons”.



« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 04:49:06 am by Frogboy » Logged
Elestan
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #430 on: April 09, 2018, 05:13:36 am »

Despite having millions of fans, they didn't really care how the re-designs.  I remember being..not super happy that they changed the Altarians in GalCiv III because I was certain the fans would riot.  They didn't care.  They're still the most popular non-human civ.

When GalCiv III didn't include the Korx though, people were upset.  Some people claimed they wouldn't buy the game because of no Korx even though they were basically a Ferengi clone and only showed up in GalCiv II for Windows.

As I understand it, your plans would legally require you to alter the SC2 races until they no longer bear substantial similarity to the originals.  That's not just a visual update; it's a much deeper change.  How would your players react if your next GalCiv kept the names the same, but made the Altarans into a race of barbaric warmongers, and made the Korx into hippie peaceniks?  I suspect not well.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #431 on: April 09, 2018, 05:13:42 am »

I think the fans have expectations of the roles different aliens will have.  

Most fans would expect a visual update after 25 years. That doesn’t make them “morons”.

Did fans accept the Klingons in Star Trek the motion picture? Yes. The only thing they have in common with the TOS is the name. It doesn’t make the fans “morons”.

There have been heaps of attempts by fans - and series creators - to reconcile those differences in a narrative way.  They notice this - and feel the need to reconcile it - precisely because they are not morons.  It bothers them unless they can find an explanation.

Certain allowances are also made for technology (which audiences do understand to an extent).  If I play Warcraft 3 I don't expect the Orcs to be pixellated 2D sprites.  I do however expect them to be green and burly.  If they're not, there had better be some sort of narrative reason why they changed, otherwise I'll start to wonder why they suddenly changed.

Looking at your GalCiv pictures, I would be wondering that exact thing about the design changes.

I can't see why the artists changed the Arcean Empire to a big green mostly human dude from what looks (in the admittedly small and pixellated picture) like some sort of green bug man.  There's no reason you couldn't have done a big green bug man, but with better graphics.  Personally it would have bothered me, and make me wonder why the artists didn't just stick to the original design.

But I write stories and as such am pretty OCD about things like internal consistency, continuity and so on.  Not everyone may share my view.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 05:55:18 am by Soul Reaver » Logged

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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #432 on: April 09, 2018, 05:19:36 am »

I think people associate names very strongly.  That's why trademarks are so valuable.

Indeed.  People identify things with names.  And I will agree that trademarks are valuable.

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In Galactic Civilizations we redesigned the aliens when we made the Windows version as we had much better visual capabilities by then.  Nobody cared that the Arceans and Drengin looked different.  The fans cared that the Arceans and Drengin were in the game.

But, I would question what response such a OS/2 to Windows drastic change would garner today.  After the OS/2 transition, most of the appearances seem to derive from each other.

You can look at the progression of the Drengin and can make a valid argument that Early GalCiv III Kona is directly derivative of Early 90s Kona: https://forums.galciv3.com/450345/the-evolution-of-the-drengin  Most of the core aspects that characterizes the Drengin have not changed drastically.  The representation of the concept of Drengin has not drastically changed.  No matter where you start on that scale, someone who becomes familiar with one can be shown the others and will recognize them a Drengin.  When it comes to copyright, these are the thing that are examined.

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The Orz, Spathi, Ur-Quan are all very strongly associated with the Star Control brand.  It's not circumventing anyone's copyright.
Association?  Yes.  Highly.  But as a trademark, a mark that denotes the source of a good or service?  I disagree.

In way it can possible circumvent a copyright.  If you claim you are referring to your trademark when talking about race names within product, you can effectively step around the context such unique names would normally fall under with copyright.  It has been shown to interfere with referencing copyrighted work, at this point I would be curious as to what else it could be manipulated for.

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It is interesting how passionately you are willing to defend what appears to me to be naked maliciousness in trying to cancel the Star Control trademark while simultaneously condemning something that most fans of STAR CONTROL would want: The Orz, Ur-Quan, Spathi, etc. in new Star Control games.  I also find it pretty amazing that you describe what happened as Stardock using its trademark against Paul and Fred. Wow.

Let's break it down.  The attempt to cancel the Star Control trademark, I see as a defensive measure on the part of Fred and Paul.  Stardock filed the claim, first, as of December 8, 2017.  The counter-claim was filed by Fred and Paul, later, as of February 22, 2018.  So, this is roughly two months of them trying to figure what they are going to do.  Even if they fend of this trademark infringement claim...  What's to stop it from happening again?  What's the best way to prevent someone from hitting you with a stick?  Get rid of the stick.  It's NOT an attack of Stardock's creation of Star Control: Origins.  It's a means to disarm the Star Control trademark, so they cannot be harmed by it again.  This is a defensive measure.  All canceling the trademark would do is force Stardock to come up with a more defined trademark to use:  "Stardock's Star Control" or stylized "Star Control" over the Stardock logo in the background.  That's it.  Stardock can still have a Star Control game, just with nice logo as the trademark instead of a general text mark.

People want The Orz, Ur-Quan, Spathi, etc in a new game...  But if you have to create appearances, personalities, and more that cannot be considered derivative of a copyrighted work, then they are only going to be names... assigned to completely different aliens.  People have associated a lot to the alien names as their identities.  Cowardly Spathi, strictly business Melnorme, overlording Ur-Quan, and more...  What good are the names if they cannot be properly associated with the proper representations?

And Stardock is using the Star Control trademark against Fred and Paul.  Stardock filed a claim against Fred and Paul stating many trademark law violations.  Stardock is invoking the litigation allowed by having the Star Control trademark to file a federal claim against Fred and Paul.  When a party files a claim, it does so against another party.

I was pretty much at the sidelines even with the initial claim.  I thought "Well dammit...  Looks like they got to sort things out and draw up the boundaries a bit clearer."  Then...  Stardock filed "The Ur-Quan Masters" trademark.  That is when I started questioning everything Stardock was doing, because that did not and still does not make sense under the assumption of good faith.  When there's a dispute about trademarks...  why do you file for a trademark a little over a week after filing a claim (December 14, 2017)?  Now the trademark filings for the alien races' names pushed me well away from Stardock side.  Why?  Fred and Paul filed their counter-claim and 4 days later...  Trademark filings for the alien races' names were filed (February 26, 2018).  So in the starting procedures to even determine the validity of both sides' various rights...  Stardock is filing behind the scenes.  That is some dirty pool right there.

If Stardock hadn't filed for anymore trademarks, I wouldn't have much of an issue with Stardock.  You bought the Star Control trademark.  You are using it as brand and have established its presence.  Neat.  I still think filing a trademark infringement lawsuit was overkill, but should be easy to settle.
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P&F First Amended Response
« Reply #433 on: April 09, 2018, 05:42:59 am »

Just as a public service announcement, P&F's first amended response is now available here.  I skimmed through it, but did not notice any substantive changes from their original response; it mainly seems to be minor edits to keep it in sync with Stardock's first amended complaint.
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Re: My take on Stardock
« Reply #434 on: April 09, 2018, 06:04:42 am »

When I think 'Ur-Quan' I think enormous green predatory catepillar aliens, with a horrifying and tragic tortured past, their damaged psyche driving them to almost compulsively enslave all life around them, too blinded by their own past trauma to see the pain they are causing to other sentient species.  I see imposing, enormous green ships with devestating fusion blasts and swarms of tiny fighters inexorably punching through the Alliance's defences.

I just want to say that I like the way you wrote this, I really imagined what you said. You are a writer? If you are not, you should write a book about The Ur-Quan Masters.
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