Stardock, the developers and publishers of the long developed title, Star Control: Origins, have announced today that the game has been removed from both Steam and GOG after a DMCA notice was issued to the digital retailers. The notice was made by Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, who worked on the original Star Control games and have credited themselves the creators of the series. For those who don’t know, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a copyright law for digital properties that protects the rights of both the copyright owners, as well as the consumers.
Stardock released a statement regarding the removal of Star Control: Origins, specifically calling out Reiche and Ford for their unscrupulous tactics:
Unfortunately, rather than relying on the legal system to resolve this, they have chosen to bypass it by issuing vague DMCA take-down notices to Steam and GOG (who, btw, Reiche and Ford are suing using GoFundMe money). Steam and GOG both have a policy of taking down content that receive DMCA notices regardless of the merits of the claims. To my knowledge, never in the history of our industry has anyone attempted to use the DMCA system to take down a shipping game before. For example, when PubG sued Fortnite for copyright infringement, they didn’t try to take Fortnite down with a DMCA notice.
The developer continues by saying that Star Control: Origins “does not contain any copyrighted material from Reiche or Ford” before assuring current owners of the game that they have spoken with Steam and GOG and made sure that they can still play it on their respective launcher. Stardock then goes onto say, “Unfortunately, without the income from Star Control: Origins, Stardock will have to lay off some of the men and women who are assigned to the game. We will do our very best to continue to support the game and hopefully Star Control: Origins will return as soon as possible.”
There has been a legal dispute going on between Stardock and Reiche/Ford since 2017, when the beta for Star Control: Origins was just getting started. Around the same time, Reiche and Ford announced that they were working on a direct sequel to Star Control, called Ghost of the Precursors. This created a problem, as Stardock had acquired the rights to the IP back in 2013, and therefore asked Reiche and Ford to stop using the name as part of their promotion. Not only did the latter refuse, they went on to claim that certain features in Star Control: Origins violated their own copyrights.
Reiche and Ford then promptly filed DMCA claims for the distribution of the first three games in the series, while Stardock filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement. What follows is a long and arduous legal battle that is still going on today, one so long that Stardock has put together a lengthy timeline/history of the legal battles between themselves and Reiche/Ford, including emails between the parties, which you can check out here.
Whenever two parties clash over who has the rights to a respective IP, we never know how long and how bad it could get. However, it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, where the livelihood of the developers are now at stake. Those who are employed at Stardock may find themselves without a job unless the DMCA notice is rescinded sooner than later. Either way, the battle over the Star Control IP continues, and it just got a lot uglier.