Despite being released not that long ago, Star Control: Origins has been delisted from Steam and soon on GOG due to an ongoing battle with developer Stardock Entertainment and the original creators of the Star Control franchise.
The game was removed from both digital stores because Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford have filed a DMCA claim on the game. Both were contractors on the classic DOS Star Control game, Star Control 2 for developer Accolade, and are considered the creators of Star Control.
There has been an ongoing legal dispute between Stardock, who have owned the trademark for Star Control for years, and both Reiche and Ford. Despite the legal dispute already existing, Reiche and Ford have issued DMCA takedown notices for Star Control: Origins on both stores.
The legality of DMCA takedown notices is typically abused in this fashion, as digital content distributors have automatic systems that will take down music, videos, and yes – video games regardless of the validity of the takedown notice. The vague takedown notice provided is murky at best.
Copyright law cannot protect general concepts like ideas, individual or short phrases, mechanics, concepts, game design(s), and so on. Iconic characters, associated worlds and comprehensive works, can all be tied into what we commonly refer to as intellectual property.
The reason why this DMCA takedown notice is such a problem is that as far as I know, a DMCA takedown notice has never been used to remove a shipped game before. In comparison, Nintendo has issued such notices to a number of fan-made games, which contain their copyrighted works.
It’s worth reiterating Stardock owns the trademark for both Star Control: Origins and Star Control 3. Legally, they own the Star Control name but have used no copyrighted materials from Reiche or Ford in Star Control: Origins.
For now, it remains unclear when Stardock will be able to get Star Control: Origins back onto Steam and GOG. Valve has assured fans that anyone owning the game can continue to play it, however the loss of income has forced the developer to lay off some staff assigned to the game.
Lastly, Stardock noted they “will do our very best to continue to support the game” and that “hopefully Star Control: Origins will return as soon as possible.” This includes selling the game by other means, possibly their own website.
Star Control: Origins is now available for Windows PC. In case you missed it, you can find my thorough review for the game here (I highly recommend it!).