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Thread: The strange and infuriating legal battle for ownership of Star Control has finally ended.

  1. The strange and infuriating legal battle for ownership of Star Control has finally ended.

    I thought we had a thread about this somewhere, but apparently not.

    So before the latest update, I guess I'll summarize the history of this case:

    Ancient history

    1) The Star Control trademark and copyright are held seperately (think: Wonder Boy). The original agreement between Accolade and creators Paul Reiche and Fred Ford granted the creators copyright. Accolade wished to continue the franchise without them, which is forbidden by these terms, so in 1993 they compromised and they sold Accolade the trademark to the name "Star Control," which is why SC3 had no connection to SC canon.

    2) The contract also spelled out conditions for the termination of Accolade's publishing rights. Either if sales (as quantified by royalty payments) fell below a certain threshold, or if Accolade went out of business, all publishing rights were null and void. Both of these conditions happened, and Star Control 2 was released as open source (sans SC trademark) in 2002.

    3) Atari bought the corpse of Accolade. Atari never used the Star Control trademark, but they did file to renew it when it came up. Since trademark renewal required a company to show the mark's use in commercial products, Atari created a flash "game" over the course of a weekend and named it Star Control, for no greater purpose than this application. Although the renewal would likely be considered frauduelent, it went uncontested due to lack of interest.

    Enter Stardock

    1) Stardock purchases the remnants of Atari's Star Control rights at a bankruptcy fire sale in 2013. These rights amount to a dubiously registered trademark and the assets from SC3 (although possibly not the license to use said assets). Stardock immediately announces they are developing an original name using the name called Star Control Origins.

    2) Behind the scenes, Stardock spends years trying to beg and pester Fred and Paul to work on his game or license their IP to him, so he can use the classic universe. Fred and Paul politely decline as they are working on a plan to bring the series back on their own. There are reams of email correspondence demonstrating that CEO Brad Wardell has a clear understanding of where his IP rights begin and end.

    3) After years of planning, Fred and Paul (now heads of a very successful Activision studio) negotiate both time off and an exception to their no-compete so they can work on a new Star Control, under the name "Ghosts of the Precursors. It will be a true sequel to SC2, obviously sans trademark.

    Here's where it goes to hell


    1) Stardock CEO Brad Wardell, a delusional narcissist with a history of abusing the legal system to get his way, is enraged by the announcment of a competing Star Control from the original creators, despite being explicitly told years in advance. So he files a lawsuit against Fred and Paul in which he claims full ownership of all rights to everything related to Star Control, above and beyond what Accolade even had when the agreement was valid. He not only demands they cancel their game, but he also claims in his filing that Fred and Paul aren't the real creators of Star Control. He also files for trademarks on a dozen or so names and terms from the classic SC canon.

    2) The lawsuit is, of course, baseless, and meant only to exhaust the other party. He rejects a settlement offer at the onset which agrees to amicably split the IP into Star Control and UQM and let both parties make their games. He responds with a demand that Fred and Paul pay him a quarter million dollars, never use the words "Star Control" again, agree to not make any space games for 5 years, publicly apologize, and admit they didn't make Star Control. Stardock takes every opportunity to delay and prolong, hoping to exhause their opponents, since they have absolutely no legal merit for any of this shit.

    3) Stardock hastily tosses bits and pieces of classic SC canon into Origins, as well as some of the music and other bits of copyright material. As the proceedings advance, someone explains to him that this leaves his game vulnerable, so they remove specific names, even as they sue over the trademarks for those names.

    4) As a result of these proceedings, Fred and Paul file a DMCA against Star Control Origins and have it yanked from the store. Brad throws himself a massive pity party online where he cries about how this is unfair and how SC:O has nothing to do with the classic canon, even as his own court filing contradicts this. He agrees to indeminify himself to Valve and GOG in order to get the games relisted, and then publicly claims they were relisted because Valve and GOG understood the DMCA claim was fraudulent. The judge resists his petition to stop the DMCA, saying "The court is disinclined to rescue the plaintiff's chestnuts from a fire of his own creation."

    And now...

    Everyone worked it all out? Reading between the lines, it seems like Paul and Fred were realizing if they dragged this out any longer they'd lose their opportunity to actually make a game, and that Brad, as a narcissit really just wants people to "Respect" him. So they told him they liked his game and his bees, and then Brad agreed to basically the same fucking agreement that was offered him at the start of this whole mess, except now he has the validation of the "creators of Star Control" so he feels better about it.

    Honestly, I have never seen a bigger legal clusterfuck in this industry. I am glad it's over.

  2. #2
    I really liked GalCiv2 (and SoaSE) a lot and advocated them loudly. However, even before this debacle it became clear that Frogboy (Wardell) was a shitheeland I'd never buy anything from again. After fucking with the creators of one of the best games of all time, I became actively against. Origins looked like total ass too (I refuse to call that bullshit "Star Control"). He tried real hard at getting the Master of Magic name similarly for Elemental.

    Unfortunately what little has been seen of Ghosts of the Precursors doesn't look great either. Star Control II I think, was great in part due to a perfect storm of elemets that would be hard to replicate. Like, you need the combo of Erol Otus's art with those specific voice actors, plus great writing, etc...A modernized look or sound design, etc, just will not work for it.

  3. Quote Originally Posted by Vasteel View Post
    Unfortunately what little has been seen of Ghosts of the Precursors doesn't look great either.
    It hasn't even begun development. Absolutely nothing has been shown.

  4. #4
    I'm must have it mixed up with Origin then. I thought they had shown ship or character art or something.

  5. Quote Originally Posted by Frogacuda View Post
    The judge resists his petition to stop the DMCA, saying "The court is disinclined to rescue the plaintiff's chestnuts from a fire of his own creation."
    Did he actually say this? That's great.

  6. I'm kind of surprised at the outcome but also fairly happy with it. The original idea was that both Fred & Paul and Stardock could make their own Star Control games, and it ended up back there again. Sure, I was unquestionably on the Fred & Paul side, and they were well on the way to crushing Stardock based on the progression of the various lawsuits, but this really is a better outcome.

    I could hold a grudge about Brad Wardell but, seeing as everyone is friends now and working together, I'm done. The people who have the right to angry aren't any more, to the point that they're hanging out together when they don't have to, so as far as I'm concerned the question of right (Fred & Paul) and wrong (Wardell) is irrelevant now.
    Last edited by James; 12 Jun 2019 at 05:07 PM.

  7. Quote Originally Posted by Melf View Post
    Did he actually say this? That's great.
    Yeah, this was actually in the text of her ruling on Stardock's motion for an injunction against the DMCA

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