Elite: Dangerous Tabletop Kickstarter Hits Snag
  • Elite: Dangerous Tabletop Kickstarter Hits Snag



    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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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...
    Comments 37 Comments
    1. fritsk's Avatar
      fritsk -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ovinomancer View Post
      That this claim appears vexatious and potentially false does not change any of this -- your assumption of how copyright litigation works is just wrong.
      Yup. the basics of this kind of litigation is to shake someone down in the hope they cave in because lawyers are expensive.
    1. Ovinomancer's Avatar
      Ovinomancer -
      Quote Originally Posted by fritsk View Post
      Yup. the basics of this kind of litigation is to shake someone down in the hope they cave in because lawyers are expensive.
      Pretty much all civil litigation is like that. Losing bankrupts you, winning bankrupts you.
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ovinomancer View Post
      Pretty much all civil litigation is like that. Losing bankrupts you, winning bankrupts you.
      I never said the rights holders should sue only in one particular order. I simply pointed out the obvious vexatious strategy by the failure of this hostile group of rights holders to challenge David Braben himself in 2012 and conveniently delaying their lawsuit until this this February 2017.

      Therefore, when any judge reviews this particular case, that judge will obviously notice the sequence of predatory practices by this new group of greedy litigators:
      (a) they were oblivious to suing David Braben when he launched the "Elite: Dangerous" computer game,
      (b) oblivious to suing the many other Elite Kickstarters using the same "Elite" IP,
      (c) only took notice when Spidermind Games launched an Elite inspired IP, and
      (d) these litigators only registered a corporate entity many days after Spidermind Games already launched on Kickstarter and months after Spidermind Games already received the same sort of licence granted to other third party publishers of the "Elite" IP.

      David Braben already owned Frontier Developments since 1994. Contrast this period of exercising the rights to the "Elite" IP with the obviously late corporate registration by the competing rights holders "Bell Elite Rights LLP" which was only incorporated on the 8th February 2017 in the United Kingdom.

      Also, it is important to consider that Ian Bell did not do anything substantial with his own share of the"Elite" unlike David Braben who launched a very successful "Elite: Dangerous" computer game via Kickstarter.

      So yes, all IP license holders are free to exercise their rights, but when the rights are shared between both David Braben and Ian Bell, it is important for us all to also recognize the obvious spite that may have sparked this particular lawsuit against Spidermind, who to remind us all here, still hold an official third party license from David Braben's Frontier Developments.
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Some extracts from the Plc. document submitted by Frontier Developments.

      14.2 IP Assignment AgreementThe Company has entered into an agreement dated 1 June 2008 with David Braben (“IP AssignmentAgreement”) in respect of the assignment of all rights to the games known as “Elite”, “Elite 2:Frontier”, “Frontier: First Encounters” (collectively, the “Elite Sequel Products”) and “Zarch”,“Virus”, “V2000” (collectively, the “Virus Franchise Products”).

      So there seems to be some confusion around the phrase "all rights" to the original "Elite" by David Braben (which was included in the Plc document sent to shareholders of Frontier Developments) and sub-licensing part of those rights to Third Parties.
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Insights from a recent ArsTechnica article below:

      https://arstechnica.co.uk/gaming/201...perty-dispute/



      1. David Braben, Frontier Developments, et. al. have a perpetual licence to all Bell's designs, etc. This licence cannot be sublicenced (this is pretty normal).

      2. The guy doing the legal stuff is not Ian Bell. He purchased all Bell's property and interest in the Elite IP. Ian Bell doesn't really want much to do with it.

      3. Elite: Dangerous contains designs and IP (e.g. the design of the Cobra, Python, Anaconda, etc.) formerly owned by Ian Bell. These cannot be sublicenced by Frontier Developments as they do not belong to Frontier Developments.

      4. This sort of thing is completely normal in the wonderful world of intellectual property, copyright derivatives and works produced by parties who are no longer operating as a single party.
    1. Ovinomancer's Avatar
      Ovinomancer -
      Quote Originally Posted by imagineGod View Post
      I never said the rights holders should sue only in one particular order. I simply pointed out the obvious vexatious strategy by the failure of this hostile group of rights holders to challenge David Braben himself in 2012 and conveniently delaying their lawsuit until this this February 2017.

      Therefore, when any judge reviews this particular case, that judge will obviously notice the sequence of predatory practices by this new group of greedy litigators:
      (a) they were oblivious to suing David Braben when he launched the "Elite: Dangerous" computer game,
      (b) oblivious to suing the many other Elite Kickstarters using the same "Elite" IP,
      (c) only took notice when Spidermind Games launched an Elite inspired IP, and
      (d) these litigators only registered a corporate entity many days after Spidermind Games already launched on Kickstarter and months after Spidermind Games already received the same sort of licence granted to other third party publishers of the "Elite" IP.

      David Braben already owned Frontier Developments since 1994. Contrast this period of exercising the rights to the "Elite" IP with the obviously late corporate registration by the competing rights holders "Bell Elite Rights LLP" which was only incorporated on the 8th February 2017 in the United Kingdom.

      Also, it is important to consider that Ian Bell did not do anything substantial with his own share of the"Elite" unlike David Braben who launched a very successful "Elite: Dangerous" computer game via Kickstarter.

      So yes, all IP license holders are free to exercise their rights, but when the rights are shared between both David Braben and Ian Bell, it is important for us all to also recognize the obvious spite that may have sparked this particular lawsuit against Spidermind, who to remind us all here, still hold an official third party license from David Braben's Frontier Developments.
      (a) irrelevant
      (b) irrelevant
      (c) irrelevant
      (d) only relevant if the claim is being reviewed as vexatious, in which case it goes towards showing this behavior.

      In short, your idea of what a judge will look for is wrong. The judge will ask the plaintiffs for their claim of copyright, what infringed, and what damages occurred, and the defense will be allowed to respond. At no point will the judge use your a-c to consider the strength or legitimacy of the claim, because those things do not matter in a copyright claim. I can ignore everyone but you, and it doesn't matter.

      Again, though, (d) matters only if the initial claim is vexatious. If the claim is a true claim, when they incorporated an entity has zero bearing on the legitimacy of the claim.

      Honestly, at this point, you should stop trying to be an internet lawyer, especially about things on which you're just wrong. Having the opinion this is vexatious bullpoppy is fine, I rather think it is, too, but your attempts to invent law don't help anyone.
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ovinomancer View Post

      Again, though, (d) matters only if the initial claim is vexatious. If the claim is a true claim, when they incorporated an entity has zero bearing on the legitimacy of the claim.

      Honestly, at this point, you should stop trying to be an internet lawyer, especially about things on which you're just wrong. Having the opinion this is vexatious bullpoppy is fine, I rather think it is, too, but your attempts to invent law don't help anyone.
      But the vexatious claim is important because if the judges entertain every single fraudulent lawsuit by newly-registered predatory firms, the courts will be swamped with everyone registering new firms as sub-licensees and suing every other sub-licensee.

      (a) Hence, in this particular case it is crucial to review the date of the registration of "Bell Elite Rights LLP" (8th February 2017), which means this entity was NOT in existence when the Kickstarter by Spidermind Games was launched, so the "Elite Dangerous" Kickstarter could NOT infringe upon the Intellectual Property Rights of an entity that did NOT exist at the time David Braben created "Elite: Dangerous", did not exist when Frontier Develoments granted Spidermind Games the license to "Elite: Dangerous" (not the 1984 Elite) and did not exist when Spidermind Games launched. What we see is a victim being created by "Bell Elite Rights LLP" after the alleged IP crime.

      (b) Furthermore, Bell Elite Rights LLP is a corporate entity separate from Ian Bell, thus once again, the original Intellectual Property rights that belonged to Ian Bell do not automatically belong to this entity. They only belong to this entity from the date they may have received a signed legal document from Ian Bell to sign away his rights to them and he must have specifically signed a contract for them to represent Ian Bell (I am yet to see this, so it is possible Ian Bell signed this contract).

      (c) Following up on (b) since the original 1984 "Elite" IP belonged to both Ian Bell and David Braben but only David Braben is involved in the creation of the new Intellectual Property of "Elite: Dangerous" Ian Bell does not hold any Intellectual Property rights to "Elite: Dangerous" and only owns rights to those parts of "Elite: Dangerous" that inherited the original co-created 1984 "Elite" IP.

      (d) Spidermind Games licensed "Elite: Dangerous" the sole Intellectual Property of David Braben and Frontier Developments produced in 2012 as a separate Intellectual Property to the 1984 "Elite" co-created by Ian Bell and David Braben. Therefore, Spidermind Games cannot be infringing on the rights of Ian Bell since they received the "Elite: Dangerous" license and not Ian Bell's original 1984 Elite game license. So if "Elite: Dangerous" is NOT infringing upon the rights of Ian Bell, then a game licensed upon "Elite: Dangerous" (and NOT Ian Bell's co-created 1984 Elite) cannot infringe upon those rights either.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      New ownership can sue over existing infringements to existing properties they purchased after the infringement.

      See also Paramount vs Steven V. Cole DBA Amarillo Design Bureau...

      ADB was validly sublicensed by Franz Joseph Schnaubelt DBA Franz Joseph Designs in the early 1970's, who was himself licensed by Desilu Studios Incorporated around 1973. Paramount figured out the extant perceived infringement and sued. They only lost because the license was valid on its face when issued (even if the terms were relatively ludicrous...).

      At no point was the question asked by the court "Why now?"

      Likewise, in the same timeframe, Paramount's licensee, FASA, violated their license by publishing TNG material. Their license said Star Trek TV series. Paramount established that ST TNG was separate (derivative) IP to which FASA was not licensed. End result? FASA pulled STRPG from the market. This was about the same time as the ADB suit.

      If Ian Bell sold his rights, David Braben still has to adhere to the extant license or get sued by the new owners. Looks like the new owners are doing just that.
    1. Ovinomancer's Avatar
      Ovinomancer -
      Quote Originally Posted by imagineGod View Post
      But the vexatious claim is important because if the judges entertain every single fraudulent lawsuit by newly-registered predatory firms, the courts will be swamped with everyone registering new firms as sub-licensees and suing every other sub-licensee.
      Sure it is, but the evidence looked at is 'do you have a valid copyright and does this claim of infringement have at least some merit?' Merit, in this case, means 'assuming everything the plaintiff says is correct, is that a violation?" It's a ridiculously simple bar to proceed.

      As to 'is the claim vexatious?' that's only considered AFTER the initial look at the merits is done.

      And, to top it off, the judge only looks at the merits prior to the case if the defense files a motion to dismiss.

      (a) Hence, in this particular case it is crucial to review the date of the registration of "Bell Elite Rights LLP" (8th February 2017), which means this entity was NOT in existence when the Kickstarter by Spidermind Games was launched, so the "Elite Dangerous" Kickstarter could NOT infringe upon the Intellectual Property Rights of an entity that did NOT exist at the time David Braben created "Elite: Dangerous", did not exist when Frontier Develoments granted Spidermind Games the license to "Elite: Dangerous" (not the 1984 Elite) and did not exist when Spidermind Games launched. What we see is a victim being created by "Bell Elite Rights LLP" after the alleged IP crime.
      Utterly irrelevant. Not only does it not matter when they incorporated -- you can transfer ownership of IP and that doesn't prevent suing for prior infringement -- it's not even interested to the copyright claim.

      (b) Furthermore, Bell Elite Rights LLP is a corporate entity separate from Ian Bell, thus once again, the original Intellectual Property rights that belonged to Ian Bell do not automatically belong to this entity. They only belong to this entity from the date they may have received a signed legal document from Ian Bell to sign away his rights to them and he must have specifically signed a contract for them to represent Ian Bell (I am yet to see this, so it is possible Ian Bell signed this contract).
      Again, irrelevant. If the entity owns the rights, they can sue for ongoing infringement. They can even sue for prior infringement. When you get the rights doesn't remove your ability to sue, that's not how copyright law works.

      (c) Following up on (b) since the original 1984 "Elite" IP belonged to both Ian Bell and David Braben but only David Braben is involved in the creation of the new Intellectual Property of "Elite: Dangerous" Ian Bell does not hold any Intellectual Property rights to "Elite: Dangerous" and only owns rights to those parts of "Elite: Dangerous" that inherited the original co-created 1984 "Elite" IP.
      Perhaps, I doubt the provenance of your facts, given your failed understanding of how this generally works. But, if true, that doesn't remove claim to those elements. If anything carried over, even in derivative form, copyright can apply.

      (d) Spidermind Games licensed "Elite: Dangerous" the sole Intellectual Property of David Braben and Frontier Developments produced in 2012 as a separate Intellectual Property to the 1984 "Elite" co-created by Ian Bell and David Braben. Therefore, Spidermind Games cannot be infringing on the rights of Ian Bell since they received the "Elite: Dangerous" license and not Ian Bell's original 1984 Elite game license. So if "Elite: Dangerous" is NOT infringing upon the rights of Ian Bell, then a game licensed upon "Elite: Dangerous" (and NOT Ian Bell's co-created 1984 Elite) cannot infringe upon those rights either.
      Nope. If I write a book, and someone else writes a sequel to that book, and then someone else writes a sequel to that book, I can sue under my rights to the original. I don't have to sue the person who wrote the 1st sequel, that doesn't reduce my rights. Perhaps I didn't find what the 1st sequel did with my characters to be bothersome, but I don't like what the second sequel does. That's good enough.

      Again, it's becoming painful how wrong you are about how copyright law works. None of the things you say have to be answered first are even relevant to the claim. They may become relevant to a subsequent determination on if the claim is vexatious, but, honestly, given one of the people involved in the claim actually does hold some rights related to the IP, it's highly unlikely it will be determined to be vexatious. It may not succeed, given copyright law I'm not wiling to go over 50/50 on that proposition, but it's very unlikely to be determined vexatious given the information you've provided. But who knows, going to trial is unpredictable.
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      too bad all these legal experts can't just go lend a hand to the Spidermind Games guys instead of kicking each other in the balls here
    1. Lwaxy -
      ED - the game that can't seem to get it up.

      I think there is no point arguing about it, their lawyers will have to figure it out.
    1. cmad1977's Avatar
      cmad1977 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Desh-Rae-Halra View Post
      too bad all these legal experts can't just go lend a hand to the Spidermind Games guys instead of kicking each other in the balls here
      Some folk on this board insist on regularly shaming themselves.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lwaxy View Post
      ED - the game that can't seem to get it up.

      I think there is no point arguing about it, their lawyers will have to figure it out.
      I know. and I do wish they wouldn't use that abbreviation. I read it and think it is either shorthand for Erectile Dysfunction, or just some guy named Ed.
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      I wonder how long this will take....weeks, months?
      Kickstarter has made it where people can cancel their pledge, and I don't think the project was in it's last 24 hours, otherwise this clause would kick in:

      "You can change or cancel your pledge at any time before the project’s funding deadline (with one exception). You can increase, decrease, or cancel your pledge at any time during the campaign, with one exception. During the last 24 hours of the campaign, you can’t decrease or cancel your pledge without contacting customer support first — if that action would drop the project below its funding goal. Once the project has been funded, you can only cancel or change your pledge by making special arrangements directly with the creator."

      I hope people keep their pledges in and wait to see the outcome, but I worry that a long wait might have an adverse effect.
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      Newest Backer Update:

      Hi Folks,
      A quick update just to let you know what is currently happening with regards to our campaign and its current hiatus.
      We completed the paperwork required for the DMCA Counter Notification last Thursday and this notification was then sent to the complaining party (Ian Bell Elite Rights LLP and is three partners). This had to go via Kickstarter for them to pass on.
      Once they had confirmed that the paperwork was in order, they sent us an email stating:
      'Your counter-notification has been received and forwarded to the original notifier. We may unhide your project 10-14 business days from now if we do not receive notification in that time that the alleged copyright owner has filed legal action relating to the allegedly infringing material.'
      In the 5 business days since this email we have heard nothing from this LLP or its partners nor have we received any detail as to what in the books it is that we have allegedly breached.
      Until we hear from Kickstarter, there is not much we can do but any news we do have, including new artwork that is still being commissioned we will publish on the following platforms.
      EDRPG Facebook Page
      https://www.facebook.com/Elite-Dangerous-Role-Playing-Game-1866957180207364/

      EDRPG Twitter
      https://twitter.com/E_DRPG

      EDRPG Forum Page on Frontier Developments forum
      https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/312638-Elite-Dangerous-Role-Playing-Game

      Spidermind Games YouTube Channel
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGRjhuJ2WUJBOlAqhvufp9g

      Spidermind Games Facebook Page
      https://www.facebook.com/spidermindgames/

      Spidermind Games Twitter Account
      https://twitter.com/SpidermindGames

      (Sorry hyperlinks not permitted by KS)
      Ars Technica have written an article on this and there is also a fan created EDRPG Facebook page which I strongly recommend you check out.
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/EDRPG.Fans/
      As soon as we know something we will be letting you know and in the meantime, many thanks for your continued patience and support.
      Jon & Oliver
      Spidermind Games
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      And the superb team at Spidermind Games are both Elite and Dangerous and defeated the forces of darkeness today, the 3rd of March.

      Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game is back. Only 4 days to go to a super successful Kickstarter, so come join the party.

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    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      Very happy about this!!!
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