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Star Control Rights Follow-up

The conflict between Stardock and Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III recently reported here was a little hard to sort through, as Ford and Reiche suggested Stardock has no rights to sell the older Star Control games or use certain Star Control assets, and Stardock indicated they have every right to sell the games and that they have no intention of using the assets in question. Each side has followed up on this to clarify (or possibly further confuse) the situation (thanks Rollory). Fred and Paul have a new blog post making the case for their ownership of rights to sell the older game, saying this was something confirmed by GOG.com. They also say they are working on getting these games removed from Steam, since they are being sold there by Stardock. They also say they have terminated their agreement with GOG.com and are removing the games from that service as well, though it's not clear how this relates to the Steam situation (our vast team of lawyers is on vacation, and not available to help us understand this). Stardock responds with further thoughts on the right to use game assets, and relevant to the more recent post from Ford and Reiche, says the pair have produced no legal documents to support their claim that they have the rights to sell the older games, while Stardock has signed contracts to that effect. In a more recent post, Stardock's Brad Wardell further discusses the rights to sell the DOS versions of these games. Here are both sides of the story, starting with Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, aka Toys for Bob, from the Dogar And Kazon blog:

We've decided to stop selling our old games, because:

  1. We think it's necessary to 'clear the decks' to help resolve our definitely-not-harmonious, until-recently-private, months-long conflict with Brad Wardell and his lawyers at Stardock.
  2. The Ur-Quan Masters HD Project is a free, vastly superior experience. Did we mention it's free? Fans have been dedicated to improving UQM for 15 years and it is awesome! Hopefully Star Control I and III will also become available for free in the near future.

Why was it okay to sell the games on GoG, but not on Steam or elsewhere?

The simple answer is because we have had our own direct distribution agreement with GOG since 2011 and no agreement with Stardock or Steam or anyone else. If you're into details, here goes:

  • In April 2011, we learned that Star Control I, II and III had been re-published on Good Old Games (GOG) ó a big surprise since the games hadnít been sold for years and no one had contacted us for permission to do so.
  • We reached out to GOG who said our games had been offered to them by Atari as part of a large batch of older Atari products. We then contacted Atari to let them know that we were the original authors and owners of the copyright to the games and that we had not given permission for them to republish our work. Atari checked with its lawyers and wrote back confirming our claims, apologizing to everyone for the mistake and informing GOG to remove the games from sale and pay any royalties earned to us.
  • Instead we suggested a way that GOG could continue to sell our games. GOG signed separate, independent contracts with: Atari to license the Star Control trademark, and us to license the rights to the games themselves. GOG has been selling the games and paying us directly ever since.
  • In October of this year, history repeated itself when Stardock began selling our games on Steam and elsewhere (even bundled with theirs), again without getting our permission. This time we couldn't come to an agreement, so we asked that Stardock stop bundling and selling the games. They refused, so we've decided to end our 2011 distribution agreement with GOG as a first step to having the games pulled down.

Here's the more recent post from Stardock's Brad Wardell from the Star Control Discussion Board:

Nothing has changed in the sense that the Accolade Star Control games have been digitally distributed for sale since at least 2011 -- years before Stardock was involved.

Paul apparently made similar claims to us as they did in the post and we asked them to show us any documentation to back up that claim, even an email from Atari would have sufficed and they refused.

It's not like the games sell a lot of units. We have a lot of titles available through many channels and the DOS games, admittedly, are not at the top of our priority list. But our publishing team isn't going to just drop products when we have a written and signed agreement. When they brought this up we said that this was a perfect example of why we need some sort of agreement to clear this up.

They seriously need to stop making these kinds of blogs and speak to an IP attorney. This drama is really unhelpful.

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19 Replies. 1 pages. Viewing page 1.
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19. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 6, 2017, 12:16 YourNick
 
Paul Reiche III also had a hand in Archon
https://youtu.be/wdfIfC9BHwQ?t=17s
 
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18. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 22:32 Rigs
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:43:
Mgshadow wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:04:
Im with you, Brad is being very careful with his wording and attitude. I feel he has done nothing wrong. No finger pointing or anything.

I don't think either has done anything wrong, though Brad is clearly much more savvy in these regards (which seems like a duh, given that he also retails.)

Until there's proof, Brad isn't doing anything wrong. But the lack of proof doesn't mean that Toys for Bob is wrong, either. But it does mean they're less actionable. Rights issues like this, where it isn't clear who has what, are fairly common.

Hmmm, so if I someone takes a dump on their neighbor's lawn, who owns it? (Asking for a friend!)

=-Rigs-=
 
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17. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 18:51 theyarecomingforyou
 
Cutter wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 18:12:
Agreed. Much as I don't care for Wardell, those 2 clowns aren't doing themselves any favors, and really only harm, by acting like this. If law and PR aren't your forte, hire someone for who it is.
Exactly. I suspect they are acting in good faith but Wardell is a business man and will do what he can to get an advantage. Even if they have documentation it may end up in a legal battle they can't afford.
 
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16. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 18:12 Cutter
 
Agreed. Much as I don't care for Wardell, those 2 clowns aren't doing themselves any favors, and really only harm, by acting like this. If law and PR aren't your forte, hire someone for who it is.

 
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You've got to be cruel to be kind...in the right measure.
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15. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 17:52 NegaDeath
 
Mom, Dad, please stop fighting!  
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14. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 17:02 Beamer
 
jdreyer wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 15:35:
Beamer wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:43:
Mgshadow wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:04:
Im with you, Brad is being very careful with his wording and attitude. I feel he has done nothing wrong. No finger pointing or anything.

I don't think either has done anything wrong, though Brad is clearly much more savvy in these regards (which seems like a duh, given that he also retails.)

Until there's proof, Brad isn't doing anything wrong. But the lack of proof doesn't mean that Toys for Bob is wrong, either. But it does mean they're less actionable. Rights issues like this, where it isn't clear who has what, are fairly common.

What's your take on why they aren't providing the docs to Stardock? They don't have them, and they're trying to use social pressure to get Stardock to relinquish rights for free?

That they were probably crap at record keeping.

Even if they have the documents, they don't necessarily prove anything Atari could told each something different. I think both are acting in good faith, but think only one has been through this before and knows how to handle the situation, and both should be willing to make a reasonable deal.

Honestly, I'd like to see an arrangement where Stardock keeps the games up, both sides get the name with Stardock forced to use a longer title and not just Star Control (:Origins may work, or Star Control Legacy, or whatever), and both get some of the races but Toys for Bob gets the main storyline and main races whereas Stardock needs to branch out more and new.

Seems like that'd be fair to most. Frankly, I don't know how much real value there is in the races, anyway. What percentage of people who will buy this are very familiar with StarCon2?
 
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13. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 16:43 DangerDog
 
I'm still waiting for a reboot of Starflight

 
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12. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 16:32 Kxmode
 
+ Star Wars Battlefront 2
+ Star Citizen
+ Star Control

2017 is shaping up to be the Year of Science-Friction.
 
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11. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 15:59 sauron
 

...our vast team of lawyers is on vacation, and not available to help us understand this...

You mean the Gunnar-man?

 
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Kittens!
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10. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 15:35 jdreyer
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:43:
Mgshadow wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:04:
Im with you, Brad is being very careful with his wording and attitude. I feel he has done nothing wrong. No finger pointing or anything.

I don't think either has done anything wrong, though Brad is clearly much more savvy in these regards (which seems like a duh, given that he also retails.)

Until there's proof, Brad isn't doing anything wrong. But the lack of proof doesn't mean that Toys for Bob is wrong, either. But it does mean they're less actionable. Rights issues like this, where it isn't clear who has what, are fairly common.

What's your take on why they aren't providing the docs to Stardock? They don't have them, and they're trying to use social pressure to get Stardock to relinquish rights for free?
 
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Stay a while, and listen.
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9. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 15:02 Creston
 
Atari checked with its lawyers and wrote back confirming our claims, apologizing to everyone for the mistake and informing GOG to remove the games from sale and pay any royalties earned to us.

Fine. So produce that document, and this entire saga will end. Instead, all we get is the two of them continuously claiming all existing rights belong to them, without anything to back it up.

Sadly, in the games industry, being the creator very very very very very often means you do NOT, in fact, own the rights to said game. If these rights lay with Accolade, later bought by Infogrames, later turned into Atari, then sold to Stardock, then Stardock has every right to sell your games.

If all Brad Wardell wants to see is a document that proves what you say is true and he'll stop selling your games, why are you continuing to whine on your blog about how unfair it all is? Show him the freaking document already.
 
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8. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 14:01 eRe4s3r
 
That's a lot of text for 3 games really absolutely nobody cares about anymore.... and that aren't sold anywhere legally aside by the one who owns the license to sell them on Steam (which is Stardock) otherwise Steam would have pulled the games long ago. The reason GoG sold them is that GoG signed extraneous and illegal distribution agreements by the way, if what Wardell says is true the 2 dudes are NOT legally allowed to sell "their own game", so their permission is completely irrelevant.

TL;DR, maybe they should hire an actual lawyer instead of making blog posts....

That said, if they do own the rights to sell the games I would be very surprised, I always assumed they gave them away for free because they LITERALLY can not sell them ^^ So I was even more surprised when I saw them on GoG being sold. Something along the lines is either 1 party spreading a lie or both sides lie or both sides don't understand IP law.
 
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7. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:53 ShadowofWard
 
datachasm wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:37:
would be great if they open sourced the games. star control 1 was a great game. 2 and 3... not so much.


Wow that is something i have never heard any gamer ever say. Either you never played Star Control 2 OR you never played Star Control 2.

Star Control 2 is hailed by many as the best PC game ever made.

That's why everyone wants a real sequel because SC3 had nothing to do at all with the series and is not canon.

*edit* Ninja'd by Orogogus

Also Stardock only got the rights to the name Star Control. They cant use any of the races or ships or history of the series. So we literally will be getting another SC3, that has nothing to do with the series.

As for all this drama between Fred&Paul VS Brad I have a different take on it.

Look at who is giving away their game and who is trying to sell their game.

This comment was edited on Dec 5, 2017, 14:08.
 
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6. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:47 Orogogus
 
datachasm wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:37:
would be great if they open sourced the games. star control 1 was a great game. 2 and 3... not so much.

That's possibly a unique opinion. Everyone agrees 3 was garbage, but I've never heard anyone liking 1 but not 2. Is it that you really liked the beer-and-pretzels strategy game component, and the whole action-RPG story in 2 did nothing for you?
 
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5. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:43 Beamer
 
Mgshadow wrote on Dec 5, 2017, 13:04:
Im with you, Brad is being very careful with his wording and attitude. I feel he has done nothing wrong. No finger pointing or anything.

I don't think either has done anything wrong, though Brad is clearly much more savvy in these regards (which seems like a duh, given that he also retails.)

Until there's proof, Brad isn't doing anything wrong. But the lack of proof doesn't mean that Toys for Bob is wrong, either. But it does mean they're less actionable. Rights issues like this, where it isn't clear who has what, are fairly common.
 
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4. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:37 datachasm
 
Hopefully Star Control I and III will also become available for free in the near future.

would be great if they open sourced the games. star control 1 was a great game. 2 and 3... not so much.

its good to see these guys fighting for their ip, and im looking forward to Ghosts of the Precursors.

the whole deal reminds me why i dont like Stardock, werent they trying to make original ip and didnt have much luck? now they are trying to revive this old ip, with rights to only the name. they have taken many stances over the years i dont agree with (and they were wrong everytime).
 
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3. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:07 Slashman
 
Beginning to think that no such documents exist. If they did, they would not be trying to settle this in blogs and social media. Just give them to your lawyer and he/she talks to Stardock's lawyer and it goes from there.  
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2. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 13:04 Mgshadow
 
Im with you, Brad is being very careful with his wording and attitude. I feel he has done nothing wrong. No finger pointing or anything.  
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1. Re: Star Control Rights Follow-up Dec 5, 2017, 12:18 jdreyer
 
Kinda taking Brad's side here. If these guys can't produce documents, what else is Brad to do? Am I missing something?  
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