The Kickstarter for the Elite: Dangerous tabletop role-playing game has hit a legal snag. Based on elements from the 1984 computer game Elite, and the sequels Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters published by the video game publisher Frontier Development, the Elite: Dangerous tabletop game's website says:
Elite: Dangerous is the modern day incarnation of the seminal space trading game Elite. 30 years after the original game reinvented the way people experienced playing computer games, Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game seeks to immerse the role player in the same cut throat galaxy experience by online players.
The problem seems to stem from the fact that one of the rights owners (who had purchased the rights owned by Ian Bell, one of the original developers of the first Elite) is saying that the company who is the current Elite publisher does not have the right to sublicense the rights originally owned by Bell. That is a confusing sentence, and it will no doubt require some legal unpacking to make sense of it. Without actually having access to the documents, it is impossible to figure out who is right in all of this. The basic idea seems to be:
- Ian Bell and David Braben created the original Elite game, and co-owned some of the rights. Bell licensed his parts of the intellectual property, to allow development of future properties.
- Chris Jordan, who is either the current owner of Ian Bell's share or the rights, or is representing Bell's share of the intellectual property stake in the Elite games, is saying that the license of Bell's rights were non-transferable. This means that, while publishers could create and publish future Elite computer games, they can not license out those rights to a third party. This would mean that Spidermind Games (the publishers of the tabletop RPG) did not actually have the rights to publish their game.
All of this seems to revolve around whether or not Frontier Development has the right to license the rights to Elite. Again, a confusing and complex sentence.
More on this as it develops...