Fred Ford and Paul Reiche, the lead developers of the first two Star Control games from the 90s, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay legal fees in their battle with Stardock. Both sides are claiming to hold varying rights to the sci-fi RPG-o-adventure series, and scrapping to secure rights the other believes they hold. Ford and Reiche are currently making Ghosts Of The Precursors, a sequel (but not in name) to their Star Control 2, while Stardock are making alternate-universe prequel Star Control: Origins. Ford and Reiche say their defence fees will cost an estimated $2,000,000 (£1.5m) and would very much like the public’s help to pay them.
As I’ve explained in far more detail before, Stardock are courtfighting with Ford and Reiche over three main things: who holds the rights to the original games and can sell them; who can use characters and lore created for the original games; and who’s allowed to associate their new game with the originals.
Who exactly holds what is the point of contention. Stardock seem to have at least the ‘Star Control’ trademark and the Star Control 3 copyright, bought off Atari during a bankruptcy sale. Reiche seems to have at least the rights to characters and aliens from the first two Star Control games. Beyond that… both sides are jostling over the rest.
Stardock have even said the pair should stop billing themselves as the creators of Star Control, claiming that the rest of the dev team are to credit and “any authorship that Reiche and Ford may have contributed to the Classic Star Control Games was limited.” As much as I do believe that we should stop calling individual people the ‘creators’ of games made by teams, this seems mighty cheeky.
That’s a whole lot of contended ground, and that gets expensive. Stardock are a reasonably large developer and publisher with resources to call on. Court cases like this can be settled simply by one side outlasting the other, having more money to pay lawyers longer, and Reiche and Ford hope their fans will help them see this through.
This past Friday, Reiche and Ford launched The Frungy Defense Fund on GoFundMe, the crowdfunding site best known for helping Americans survive holes in their country’s social, legal, and health services. They’re looking for $2m, which seems wildly unlikely but I suppose every little helps.