[UPDATE] Stardock Responds To Ghosts Of The Precursors Legal Allegations From Creators
Update: Stardock founder Brad Wardell has posted a more thorough statement regarding the matter. "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," says Wardell. "Stardock has been nothing but supportive of their new project and wish them the best."
Regarding Dogar and Kazon's specific claims, Wardell says that since the Star Control games have been available from Stardock since 2013, the issue should have been brought up earlier. "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," he said.
Wardell goes on to say Stardock is not using any alien species from the original Star Control games, since "the classic alien IP is owned by them." He also attempts to clarify the legal situation regarding ownership of the game itself; when Stardock bought the rights from Atari, they received the publishing agreements for the series, giving them the right to release games under the series despite not having the rights to the aliens in the game itself. "The short version is that the classic IP is messy," Wardell says. "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."
Original Story: Dogar And Kazon, the people behind a space flight game they refer to as a "direct sequel" to Star Control II, Ghosts of the Precursors, are claiming that Stardock is impeding them from creating their game for legal reasons.
In order to understand Dogar and Kazon's claims, we need a bit of history. Toys for Bob (which Dogar and Kazon founders Fred Ford and Paul Reiche also founded) developed the original two Star Control games, which the now-defunct company Accolade published. After Accolade published a couple of sequels not developed by Toys For Bob, the franchise went into deep sleep, and its rights were later picked up by Atari. In 2013, Stardock bought the rights to series from Atari when the company liquidated its assets as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Stardock is currently listed as the publisher of the series on Steam). Stardock is creating its own entry in the Star Control series, Star Control: Origins.
On their website, Dogar and Kazon claims Stardock has no rights to the series. "It’s our opinion that Atari’s rights to publish our earlier games terminated over a decade before the [bankruptcy] auction and we contend that Stardock has zero rights to our games, including any code and other IP we created," the two claim. The post seems to imply Dogar and Kazon own the rights to the series and that, "as far as we can currently tell, we have no relationship with Stardock that lets them sell the three earlier Star Control games without our permission, either bundled with their other products or separately."
The post then says the two are currently in a legal battle, as Stardock "seems to think that not only can they use our aliens, ships and narrative without our permission, but thinks that we cannot make a sequel to The Ur-Quan Masters without their permission," the post says. "This is where we got really, really angry." Despite these claims, the bottom of Ford and Reiche's site states that Star Control "is a registered trademark of Stardock Systems, Inc."
Despite the legal issues, the two claim they have no animosity towards the developers working on Origins. "We have nothing but respect for the talented, passionate developers working on Star Control: Origins, but we apparently have a BIG problem right now with Stardock’s management."
Stardock, for its part, acknowledges Ghosts of the Precursors and has previously spoken about it in a positive light. Stardock founder, president, and CEO Brad Wardell spoke to Ars Technica and on forums earlier this year about Ghosts of the Precursors with anticipation.
Wardell has also commented on Dogar and Kazon's post, saying that Stardock doesn't "appreciate the implication in [Dogar and Kazon's] post that somehow we are keeping them from making their game... given their post, there is more reason than ever to get them to sign some sort of document that acknowledges that we are not preventing them from making their game." We've reached out to Stardock for an official statement regarding the matter and will update this article should they reply.
[Source: Dogar And Kazon Official Blog]
This is definitely a strange scenario, and I'm surprised the legal issue hadn't arisen earlier. The Dogar and Kazon site seems to send conflicting signals about who owns the Star Control series, though right now, it seems Stardock does. I ultimately hope both Star Control Origins and Ghosts of the Precursors get released without too much legal trouble.