The following was posted on July 21, 2013 by Brad on the Stardock forums
It won't be a continuation but more akin to a revisit (ala XCOM using Star Control 2 as the inspiration and start back before the earthlings were in any kind of slave shield). We'll be talking more about our plans as we go forward.
We won't be making any changes to the existing Star Control games. And Atari doesn't actually own the copyright on Star Control 1/2 so it's not like one could make a Star Control 2 HD or what have you without a license from Paul Reiche. And even if we did have rights to SC 1/2 I wouldn't touch them without his blessing.
I think what most Star Control fans are looking for is a new Star Control game where the inspiration comes from Star Control 2. They want a game with fun, adventure and top down ship battles like in Star Control 2 that all play within a fun sci fi universe. Preferably one with Ur-Quan and Spathi and lots of insults.
Ford and Reiche expressed many times over the past two decades a desire to reenter the Star Control universe, but the difficulty has always been acquiring the rights to the name, which were held by Accolade. I am sure this is something Chris Roberts is familiar with, which is why he opted to create a new Wing Commander universe with another name.
So let's take a trip down IP lane starting from Accolade. In April 1999, Accolade was acquired by Infogrames Entertainment for a combined sum of US$60 million (at that time, Infogrames owned the IP, rights, and Star Control name). The copyright for Star Control 1 and 2 remained with Ford and Reiche. In May 2009, Infogrames announced that it would change its corporate name to the Atari (at that time, Atari owned the IP, rights, and Star Control name). Meanwhile, the copyright for Star Control 1 and 2 remained with Ford and Reiche. In July 2013, Atari began to sell its game assets, the famous tripod logo, and the Atari name in a large auction. Outside the sale, Ford and Reiche continued to have copyright ownership of Star Control 1 and 2. A few highlights of the deal include:
- Rebellion Developments bought the Battlezone and MoonBase Commander games,
- Epic Gear bought The Backyard Sports franchise,
- Tommo acquired Humongous Inc. and over 100 different games (including games from the companies Accolade and MicroProse, and Math Grand Prix),
- Wargaming purchased Total Annihilation,
- Stardock bought Star Control
Through the IP trip, Stardock eventually became the legal owner of the IP, rights, and name: Star Control. What they did not, nor did any other business through the trip, ever own is the copyright on Star Control I and II. It remains with Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford until the copyright becomes public domain.
It is clear from the purchase and from what Brad wrote that he knew to buy the rights to Star Control came with limitations in that his company did not have permission to touch Star Control 1 and 2. However, under section 102 (b) of the United State's Copyright Law, it states: "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."
"Regardless of the form" means the user interface (one of the things Paul and Fred are arguing SC:O violated) and not covered by copyright law. It's one reason why so many websites look the same despite the fact there's a copyright notice at the bottom, or phones started looking like iPhones. You can't copyright an interface. As this article notes
, a patent is the best option for copyrighting an interface (and even then there are limitations).
The exemption of ideas is also why for over a hundred years there have always been legal knockoffs. It has blessed us with a stream of FPS clones, then WOW/MMORPG clones, then MOBA clones, then trading card game clones, battle royale clones, and so on. It's given us Gobots and Yu-Gi-Oh. And the list is endless.
Star Control: Origins is inspired by Star Control 1 or 2. That is well within the exclusive right Stardock has of the game. Conversely, if Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford wanted to make a follow-up Star Control game, and call it Star Control, they legally cannot. They would have to license the rights to use the name from Stardock, which, judging by the delusional actions, is likely to be a "No" from Stardock.
The IANAL conclusion is clear-cut. Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford are delusional if they believe striking a DMCA notice on a product legally owned by Stardock with the rights they possess isn't going to have dire consequences on them. Conversely, perhaps they know that, and the move is a hell mary driven by rage and ego.
Bottom line: Paul and Fred own the copyright on two products that no one but they can touch. Meanwhile, Stardock owns the IP and exclusive rights to the name for everything else and can create games inspired by the ideas presented in Star Control 1 and 2.
"Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times." - Those Who Remain by G. Michael Hopf