No one is quite sure who owns the copyright
[Update: Daniel Perez of Stardock reached out to me to let me know that Star Control: Origins will be available for direct purchase from Stardock’s website. Currently (at the time of writing) it is 50% off, so you can grab the game for $19.99.]
Just a few days ago before 2019 officially started, Star Control: Origins was delisted from both Steam and GOG.com. Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, two of the designers behind the original Star Control series, had issued a DMCA takedown notice to Stardock about its “unofficial” game in the series. This is the latest development in a prolonged legal battle over who owns the rights to use the Star Control name or not.
Origins was published last September by Stardock, who maintains that it owns the rights to the series after purchasing the publishing rights and copyright from Atari in 2013. Conversely, Ford and Reiche assert that they own the copyright because when they had created the original games, they licensed them specifically to Accolade (who was owned by Infogrames, which was purchased by Atari).
Stardock took to the Steam community forums on Monday to address the delisting. In a blog post, the company states, “Star Control: Origins is our own creation without relying on the work of Reiche or Ford. We spent 5 years working on it making it our own game. It very much plays like you would expect a Star Control game. But that has nothing to do with copyright. It has its own story, setting, plot, and all new characters. It exists in an entirely new universe.” The company also goes into detail about how Ford and Reiche haven’t specifically mentioned which parts of the copyright are being infringed upon and how a certain ship was redesigned prior to launch to avoid such concerns.
Going back to last year, Stardock had requested the U.S. District Court of Northern California (where the company is located) to prevent Ford and Reiche from issuing takedown notices prior to releasing the title until all legal battles had been decided. On December 27, the court ruled against Stardock and stated that the company should have waited for an official settlement if it was scared of any DMCA takedown notices. As such, the claim from Ford and Reiche is within their legal rights.
So the game is now removed from digital storefronts and likely won’t return until this court battle is over. At the end of the blog, Stardock writes, “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.”
Anyone that purchased the game prior to its delisting will retain access to it. As for season pass owners, Stardock will be looking into alternative methods to distribute any content it creates for the game.
Star Control: Origins will be coming down [Steam Community]