The game has been removed from Steam and Stardock expects it will be removed from GOG, too.
Evidently the original developer and ore publisher of Star Control is not happy with the situation. Claims for trademark and copyright have been asserted.
Recall that when Atari became bankrupt that Stardock acquired the game trademark rights and some copyright rights too. So there is a dispute the game since as the copyright was in the sale of assets. There has been a lot of media attention over the dispute over the years and we have discovered that game is now unavailable. The bankruptcy and the sale of assets made a bigger mess than anyone expected.
Stardock has said that existing purchases will continue to work. They have also said they have laid off some staff due to the dispute. Most likely this mess will result in a lot more headaches for both sides given the situation with the Atari bankruptcy and the court mandated sale of assets.
We are aware that a lawsuit is ongoing and it may be some time before motions can be heard to deal with the takedown etc, We have seen other games disappear so we are not clear on the case law etc.
- Stardock Systems, Inc. v. Paul Reiche III (4:17-cv-07025)
We suspect that the matter will take some time for it to be resolved. The issues are complex due to the trademark and open source code given to Atari before it folded. So what we see is at issue is how the source code plays into the matter being considered. More issues with music which can be a separate copyright item simply muddy the water.
We can safely expect that the game will be long forgotten by the time the matters are resolved. Game sales tend be be high on launch and then fade quickly. Catalog sales are comparatively slow.
COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK & PATENT LAW
For those not familiar with copyright law, you CANNOT copyright ideas, individual or short phrases, concepts, mechanics, game designs, etc. United States copyright law has not been favorable to protecting game mechanics up to this point, and a recent summary judgment from a Texas judge in DaVinci Editrice S.R.L. vs. Ziko Games, LLC means this likely will continue be the case going forward.
Namco holds a dubious patent on “auxiliary games” that play while the main game loads. Namco’s patent, US Patent 5,718,632, was filed in 1995, it expired in 2015. Many legal actions over patents are ongoing and it has become a real headache for many. Ambush patents are the worst.
Trademark and Wordmark law is different where we claim trademark for Hardcore Games. Copyright applies to the site generally which typical of how copyright works. We defend our trademark.
Legal issues over a game ends up costing consumers a lot. Hiring a swarm of attorneys can be extraordinarily expensive.