PC stores Steam and GOG took down the video game Star Control: Origins on December 31 following DMCA takedown notices issued by two designers of the original Star Control games, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III. Star Control: Origins, a spiritual successor to the old games, is a strategy game about exploring space in an alternate galaxy.
It’s the latest move in a long-running dispute over the rights to Star Control, a sci-fi series that first started in 1990 and has been mostly dormant since the 90s. On one side of the legal battle is Stardock, the game studio that developed and published Star Control: Origins in September of 2018. On the other side are Ford and Reiche, who maintain that they own the copyright to Star Control because they developed the games and only licensed them to the original publisher, Accolade, and in 2017 announced their own sequel, Ghosts of the Precursors. Stardock disputes this, saying it owns the rights to the series after purchasing the copyright and publishing rights from Atari in 2013.
As for Star Control: Origins, Stardock argued in a statement published on the game’s Steam page on Monday that the new work is entirely original and Ford and Reiche’s copyright claims don’t apply. Stardock CEO Brad Wardell wrote that while Origins plays like a classic Star Control game, the universe it takes place in is completely new. “We spent 5 years working on it making it our own game,” Wardell wrote, citing a few instances in which Stardock changed names and a ship design in Origins at Ford and Reiche’s request to make them more different from previous games.
Prior to releasing the game, Stardock requested the U.S. District Court of Northern California prevent Ford and Reiche from issuing DMCA requests until the ongoing litigation over who owned which parts of Star Control was resolved. On December 27, the court ruled against Stardock, claiming it should have waited to release Origins until after the lawsuits were settled if it was afraid of getting hit with DMCA takedown notices.
Now, Star Control: Origins is no longer available. While people who already bought and downloaded the game can still play it, there’s no indication of when it will be back up for sale.
[Update - 11:46 p.m.]: Stardock has begun selling Star Control: Origins directly from its website following the game’s removal from Steam and GOG.
[Update - 1/18/19]: Star Control: Origins is now back up on Steam. We’ve reached out to Valve for comment on what changed.