Star Control Origins developer Stardock is celebrating another victory. The company has announced that its space-faring adventure game has returned to GOG.com for sale. The franchise’s original creators, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, filed a DMCA takedown notice in December, claiming that Origins too closely resembled Star Control II and, therefore, infringed on their copyright. This caused the game’s removal from both GOG and Steam at the beginning of January. This forced Stardock to offer the game for sale solely through its official website until they could resolve the matter.
Origins returned to Steam a few weeks later. With its return to GOG, the game is now fully available once again. With the DMCA matter resolved, Stardock released an official statement regarding the matter. In it, the company addresses the issues Ford and Reiche raised through their infographic, which cites the use of words such as “Hyperspace” and 2D positioning as infringements.
Stardock’s rebuttal is that the grievances listed in the chart are almost all “ideas” and therefore aren’t subject to copyright. It further states that the only item on the list that is subject to copyright is the music. However, Ford and Reiche don’t own the rights to that. According to the company’s statement, the original composer retained the rights to the music and worked with Stardock on Star Control Origins.
No Copyright Infringement
Both Valve and GOG agree with this assessment, so they have re-listed the game on their respective storefronts. Stardock’s statement goes on to explain how dangerous DMCA abuses can be for developers and the video game industry. It asks that PC, console, and mobile game players “think about how other games in the same genre play or how it may share features in common with other games that have previously been released.”
With potential layoffs averted, the silver lining from this conflict is that consumers are a little more aware of DMCA abuses. Many other cases aren’t resolved so quickly. In the statement, Stardock makes a point of showing how misinformed Ford and Reiche are with their claims.
“Most targets of DMCA abuse do not have the fortune of having the instigators post a chart demonstrating how misinformed they are on the nature of copyrights and thus, we believe, helping persuade most people familiar with IP law to realize the ridiculousness of the claims being made.”
However, the litigation between the original franchise creators and Stardock, which purchased the rights to Star Control from Atari in 2013, is still ongoing. In the meantime, the company will continue with its plan to release episodes from its Earth Rising season pass.
An email that the US Patent and Trademark Office sent to Ford and Reiche’s lawyer follows the statement. It informed him about copyright misconceptions and provided an example of similarly failed claims.