UPDATE: Make sure you read the official statement from Stardock regarding newer events.
Re: November's blog post by Paul and Fred claiming Stardock's objection to their new game being promoted as a "true sequel" constitutes Stardock preventing them from doing a new game.
We are disappointed that Paul and Fred, two people we have a great deal of respect and admiration for, have chosen to imply that we are somehow preventing them from working on their new game.
Stardock has been nothing but supportive of their new project and wish them the best. I personally made the post here on StarControl.com in support of it.
With regards to their contentions:
First, as many people know, the classic Star Control games have been available for sale long before Stardock acquired the rights from Atari four years ago. For the entirety of the time we have held the rights, they have been getting paid for those sales. If they had an objection to the games being sold this is something that could and should have been addressed before we were ever involved.
Second, we have stated, repeatedly and consistently for over four years that we are not using any of the aliens from the classic series. As we have stated, our position is that, to the best of our knowledge, the classic alien IP is owned by them.
We have also discussed, at length, why it wasn't commercially viable for us to attempt to continue or retell the Ur-Quan story. 25 years is just too long of a gap. This is one of the reasons why we have been so excited about Paul and Fred's project. Their game frees us to introduce new characters and a new story into the new Star Control while allowing fans of the classic series a way to continue the classic story. This strikes us as a win-win situation.
Lastly, when we acquired Star Control from Atari in 2013, many assets were transferred to us including the various publishing agreements to the Star Control franchise. The short version is that the classic IP is messy. We understand that this makes them "really really angry" but we weren't a party to that agreement. All we can do is try to put something together that releases them from the restrictions placed on their IP that they agreed to and transfer any and all rights and responsibilities to them. We want them to make Ghosts but we don't want any liability or association with it.
Given the disturbing and unanticipated post by Paul and Fred, we are persuaded more than ever that a clear and irrefutable document that makes it clear that we are not associated or involved with their new game is needed.
We have nothing but respect and admiration for Paul and Fred and wish them well in their new project.
Paul and Fred continue to make unsubstantiated claims regarding the DOS-based Star Control games. If they have any documentation to provide evidence to their assertions, we have yet to see them.
Stardock, by contrast, possesses a perpetual, exclusive, worldwide licensing and sales agreement that was explicitly transferred to us by Atari who in turn acquired it from Accolade that has Paul Reiche's signature along with a signed distribution agreement between Atari and GOG for the DOS Accolade Star Control games.
The tone of their blog posts is similar to the kind of correspondence they had with us since the announcement of their Ur-Quan Masters successor, vague, full of demands and without any documentation.
With all due respect to Paul and Fred, they really should talk to competent legal counsel instead of making blog posts.
Dealing with the sales and distribution of 20+ year old DOS games is an unusual way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. Nevertheless...
Atari had transferred to Stardock a signed agreement between Atari's President and GOG that we assumed was the agreement. Paul and Fred claimed they were the ones who had set up the agreement and upon verification with GOG, we instructed them to terminate this agreement which they have which we appreciate.
The games are now correctly transferred to Stardock and we will continue to ensue that Fred and Paul receive royalty payments for the games per the publishing agreement. We apologize if anyone was inconvenienced.
Old IP can be messy to deal with. The best way to deal with that is to have the parties talk to each other (as opposed to making public Internet posts) and work something out. We remain committed to dealing with this situation with as much restraint and gentleness as possible.
Added link to https://www.starcontrol.com/article/487690/qa-regarding-star-control-and-paul-and-fred to address Paul and Fred's latest complaints.
At this stage, the parties are seeking to resolve their disagreements in court. Stardock wishes this could have been resolved otherwise.
For the record, if Paul and Fred had simply announced their game as a sequel to Ur-Quan Masters and requested Stardock to remove the DOS games from distribution, Stardock would have complied out of respect, even if we would have been unhappy that they chose now, after 25 years, to jump back in the middle of Stardock's efforts to bring Star Control back.
However, by promoting their new game as a "direct-sequel" to Star Control (and in other places as the "true" sequel) while using the Star Control box art (which is owned by Stardock) a great deal of consumer confusion has been created requiring Stardock to protect its IP rights.
No, I was just correcting Takuma73, who was under the impression they'd actually named it Star Control. In that post I did concede that even describing it as a sequel could be trademark infringement:
As a software engineer, I have always looked up to Fred and Paul... But unless they have been living off-planet for the past 25 years they know how intellectual property works. Peter Jackson poured his heart into Lord of the Rings, but he doesn't get to make "Lord of the Rings II, Sauron on Vacation" without getting the daylights sued out of him.
It seems to me that Stardock has been bending over backwards for Fred and Paul and once Stardock did all the legwork and carved out a market for StarControl they began to regret not picking up the IP. Well too bad. I want to see what Fred and Paul can do using modern tools in the StarControl universe as much as the next guy but this... Wow.
At this point I think Stardock should pull out all the stops and make the game they want to make, irrespective of Fred and Paul's wishes or feelings about the matter.
I think this could use a point of clarification, because "the IP" has more than one piece. It's currently looking like Stardock has a pretty solid claim on the trademark to "Star Control", but P&F have a pretty strong claim on the copyright to the setting. Which means when you say:
...Stardock actually does need to be careful, because while the trademark gives them exclusive control over the name, it does not give them the right to use the setting, unless they are able to find a loophole around that language in Paul's contract with Accolade.
So, unless they agree to some kind of cross-license, or one of them pulls off a legal surprise, Stardock can use the name, but not the setting, while P&F can use the setting, but not the name.
Thanks for clarifying! However, I do think this kind of foreshadows exactly what Frogboy fears: that there will be consumer confusion. I'm a consumer who read the P&F article before I started referring to the game by any name, and I was confused.
Also, I think it's important to think about how naming sequels works. Generally speaking, when someone makes a direct sequel to a story (or even a prequel), we add a colon after the original title followed by the name of the sequel, as the subtitle. Applying that logic to Ghosts of the Precursors, especially seeing as it has been labeled the direct sequel to Star Control II, it would be unofficially/officially named Star Control (III/IV): Ghosts of the Precursors. Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that's how it works.
It may be argued that "they never refer to it as "SC: GotP and SC:O is always referred to as SC:O, so this kind of association shouldn't exist." However, it should be noted that SC:O has been referred to as just Origins, validating the concept covered in the previous paragraph that even a title just like "Ghosts of the Precursors" or "Origins" will turn into "SC: GotP" and "SC:O" if either is associated with the original series. Here is an example of the usage of "Origins" by itself:
"That Ford and Reiche are purposefully trying to delegitimize and jeopardize Stardock's upcoming game, Origins" ~ Bullet 7 under the header of A Boy Named Sue in "Star Control countersuit aims to invalidate Stardock’s trademarks [Updated]" published on Ars Technica.
I agree with you on this one. If they want to use the name Star Control on their product, as in "Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors", they have to have Stardocks agreement.
What they can do, is call it "Ghosts of the Precursors" with a sticker saying "from the creators of Star Control I and II", or if you want to be picky, "from the producers of Star Control I and II".
And to be honest, that is everything I expect them to do. They are smarter than that.
On the other hand, with a strong "Ghosts of the Precursors", new players would be more willing to come to Star Control: Origins to live one of the many new adventures in a new universe.
You all have to win.
Do some cross promotion. Work together.
I would like to say they can do this, but I'm not at all sure this would be legal without Stardock's permission. If they and Stardock could come to an amicable agreement, I think it would be great, but given the current climate, if I were Paul or Fred, I wouldn't ever say "Star Control" in public without checking with my lawyer first.
This is one of the reasons why I really hate when lawyers get involved: It ascribes malign intent, where I'm not convinced there was any, at least before the legal war commenced. Both sides' legal filings are doing it. And there can be reasons of legal strategy to do so...but unfortunately, this means that good legal strategy also means demonizing the other side, and it becomes increasingly difficult to think reasonably about the facts of a dispute when the other side is describing you in terms only a Druuge would find flattering.
It's the timing I find suspicious.
They haven't even started their game. It's going to take them YEARS to bring anything to the table. Hell, Stardock has been working on SCO for 4 years and they're still not finished. Paul and Fred could have waited another year before announcing their game, actually had some early development stuff to show instead of just promises, and not stepped on Stardock's toes because by then SCO would be out.
But no, they timed their announcement to coincide with interest ramping up in SCO and literally right as the public beta was starting. That's pretty clearly either (or both of) a) trading on SCO's name to get free publicity, and/or b ) trying to derail SCO and make fans lose interest "because after all, the real SC sequel is coming out, so screw the fake one".
Both of those are shitty shitty reasons to do what they did, and it smacks of unprofessionalism. Then they pulled a DCMA for games that have been on sale since before Stardock even owned the IP, including SC3 which Paul and Fred had no part in building and absolutely no possible claim over. They knew the DCMA would be defeated (and it was) - it was all a tactic.
I have lost a lot of respect for Paul and Fred over this.
A less malicious possibility is that they had already been planning an announcement at some point in 2017 for the 25th anniversary of SC2.
Also, legal conflicts were already brewing before the announcement. By Fred and Paul's account the announcement came only days after an argument over whether the license was still valid - probably not a coincidence. I'm sure Stardock has their own side of how that conversation went, but I doubt they would disagree that there was one. Maybe Fred and Paul thought announcing the game after the argument would be a good way to signal to Stardock "hey, we're serious about that license to our IP having expired" rather than to upstage the beta.
If they hadn't been fighting, we might have found out about Ghosts a couple months later instead. That said, if this was their tactic, it may have been a mistake that helped heat tensions up.
They licensed their IP for SC3 to be made and sold. If the sales license has expired (which I won't go into the details here, but it is of course one of the central contentions and their argument for it looks at the very least plausible), you would need to get another one from them to sell SC3, so far as I understand these things. Atari and GOG thought so at least.
Perhaps I'm more easygoing than most, but that's not enough for me to infer that they were actually intending to damage Stardock, at least without hearing their side of why the timing worked out that way. They'd been wanting to make this sequel for a very long time (and their fans have very much wanted them to), so I can certainly understand why they would not want to sit on the news for another year. So I don't fault them for making the announcement, except in that they used "Star Control" in it without permission.
Frankly though, I suspect that their use of the words "Star Control" probably did not make much of a difference in the announcement's impact. They could have started with the sanitized announcement, and the fans and press would have all still made the connection.
Double Post By Accident
I do agree that this is probably bad timing for Stardock. What we basically see is fans on both sides you probably can't convince them that your guy is right. All Stardock has hear is legal precedence. At least Brad tried to talk it over first. If they would have said Ur Quan Masters then the press would probably of said Star Control, and Stardock would have none thing to say except suing I guess electronic magazines. We should probably just let them figure it out. I do agree most probably why they announced it when they did was to ride some of Star docks publicity with Stardock going to hurt from it. But that is just guessing on my part.
While I agree about the timing being suspicious, I need to point out that the games were on sale since before Stardock owned the trademark precisely because F&P had a mutual agreement with Atari and GOG. The games were only on sale because F&P allowed them to be. What they objected to (rightly or wrongly) is Stardock publishing the games on Steam etc. without consulting them.
Secondly, they do control some of Star Control III's copyright as it makes use of characters and settings created by them. Plus they have reason to believe that all of the rights reverted to them if and when the 1988 agreement was dissolved. All of this remains to be proven in court, but I don't think it's fair to call the DMCA just a tactic - they genuinely believe that Stardock shouldn't be selling the old games without their permission.
Wow ok, I've just seen P&F's latest blog post and I'm very much interested in hearing Stardock's side.
Please tell me their interpretation of the settlement terms isn't correct, because some of the things you're apparently asking for are completely ridiculous.
Is this question directed at the so-called moustache-twirling villain?
As far as I know it is illegal to discuss settlement offers in public. So Stardock can't confirm or deny anything of what P&F have alleged.
I will state this: P&F have not provided any emails as proof. And as this progresses you may get to see them.
So this could end up a bit like the Championship Manager/Football Manager split: Sports Interactive kept the database and match engine, Eidos kept the name and interface. IMHO Sports Interactive won that battle.
So which one - setting or name - are fans most "married" to? Of course, there's going to be public confusion: get Star Control and a different setting that you may not like, get F&P's game and think "gee, this is like Star Control!"
Well exactly. If Brad cares to deny this then I will of course treat it as unverified, but until then that's certainly how he looks.
EDIT: Strictly speaking I have already left the forum as I expect to get canned like Elestan soon. See you!
I'm all aboard the P&F train... I got on Stardock at first because it was 'something'. I was hoping it was going to be two things with that announcement and not... this.
^ What train? I don't know if you're that naive or what... FaP showed nothing for Ghosts. It's literally Ghost of a game at the moment. What train are you on?... A Ghost train that doesn't exist?... Fkin' kids these days........
Between Stardock's cost of acquisition of the title, cost of development and lawyer fee's,
this game better sell a ton.
I wonder if Brad had a crystal ball would he have bothered.......?
Kids? I owned SC1 and 2 as launch titles!
I'm on the Ur-quan train. I want to know what happens after the Sa-Matra...
If even one of those 7 points that P&F brought up is true, I'd have a hard time defending Stardock going forward... When they first picked up Stardock, I had plenty of friends warning me that something like this was going to happen.
Assuming P&Fs post is true, StarDock's proposal is preposterous.
I can understand that you drop in a couple of items for negotiation purposes, but Stardock's proposal is borderline offensive.
Until you guys start having a win-win attitude, this is just going to be a waste of money.
You should really stop listening to your lawyers... they are only stirring up the waters to keep this going and the money flowing into their pockets.
^ What about assuming FaP are lying through their teeth?
Well, shet. How they say? Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone... There's literally ZILCH of proof that continuation of Ur-Quan story is in the works.
That’s the key phrase is t it? Assuming it is true.
If it were true, I can only imagine the enforcement. Special electric shocks if they say Star Control?
As for who is keeping this gong, that would be Paul and Fred. They are the ones who keep posting defamatory, misleading public statements.
And that is exactly why I used that phrase... unfortunately this is all becoming a "they said", "you said" kind of argument, so we can only go by what the parties post online.
With this being said, as my grandmother likes to say, "where there's smoke, there's fire" and given that everything they post online can be used against them in court, they cannot be that far off from the truth, otherwise they would just be shooting themselves in the feet.
It is very sad to see such a wonderful franchise being dragged down to the mud due to some petty dispute. I really hope you guys don't spend more on legal fees than the brand is currently worth.
Wish all the parties the best and that you can all reach a sensible agreement.
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