Stardock’s attack on the community

Recently, Stardock’s CEO, Brad Wardell, launched an attack against our community. Brad has posted on Reddit confirming that these are authentic:

You can also read a separate log of him “venting” on Pastebin. In his own words, “The UQM forum may need to go away. (…) if they’re going to try to harm us, we won’t tolerate them.”

(for those of you new to the franchise: The Ur-Quan Masters, or “UQM” for short, is a free, fan-driven open-source remake of Star Control 2, which has been active since 2002)

Brad Wardell would have you believe these were said in anger. It is true that he’s received abuse and death threats over this game, and that’s vile behavior that none of us should tolerate. However, it’s important to understand that indeed the community has not tolerated that behavior. You’ll never see a post from these vile people, because they are long-since banned, their comments deleted.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never felt the need to call an entire community “vile” due to a few bad apples, especially when the community is quick to exile those problematic members. No community is perfect, but I think our mods have done an admirable job staying neutral while still keeping toxic behavior in check.

These chat logs are only half the story.

At the same time that these logs came to light, it was also revealed that Brad Wardell had attempted to trick the administrators of the Ur-Quan Masters (“UQM”) project in to signing away any legal rights they might have to the “Ur-Quan Masters” trademark, and any related trademarks.

Under the guise of responding to fan concerns that Stardock’s alleged trademark on the Ur Quan Masters might be used, Stardock offered the project a “trademark license”. However, the second draft of their offer tries to sneak in this little gem:

Should it at any time be determined that Licensee at any time established any rights to the Marks prior to the Effective Date of this Agreement, Licensee hereby agrees to assign and does assign any and all of its right, title and interest in and to said Marks and all goodwill associated therewith

That’s a really surprising clause to add, when Brad’s own email summarized the changes as "provides more protection for the UQM project than v1 did."

Things get really interesting when you learn that Stardock only just filed to claim “The Ur-Quan Masters” as a trademark. Their registration has not been approved by the Trademark office, and no court has ever affirmed them. The UQM project, however, has been using them continuously since 2002, and nobody else was using them from 2001-2010. It’s entirely possible that the UQM admins have a stronger claim on this trademark than Stardock does; but Stardock wants them to sign that away in exchange for… licensing the disputed trademark back to the UQM project? For their own “protection”?

Brad isn’t gentle about this, either: I'm going to have to ask that you or one of the
other members with administrative access to the UQM project site to sign
the trademark license no later than Friday, August 3.

It seems clear to me that this was not an offer made in good faith. If this was all just an honest mistake, and not an underhanded attempt to trick the UQM admins, why not accept Serge’s counter offer? Stardock can keep the UQM Project safe, without asking them to sign away rights they’ve held since 2002.

Previous attacks

Brad calls it “venting in private”, but even in public he’s been clear that he has little respect for the community: “I’ve yet to see a Paul and Fred defender who doesn’t resort to emotional appeals or magical interpretations of the law.” – Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock

Another Stardock employee felt the need to threaten legal action against a skeptical poster in a Q+A thread: “When ‘FUD‘ is intentionally disseminated upon various forums you have to wonder the motive and perhaps even whether there could be a defamation case to answer.”

Stardock’s CEO has made it clear that anyone who disagrees with him should fear the consequences: “Let me be perfectly clear not just with you but the others reading this: I don’t subscribe to your right to pure anonymity. I never have. Others here are well aware of my position on this. You try to harm someone in the real world, your expectation for anonymity is forfeit.” (And let’s be clear: the “harm” here is simply speaking ill of his company)

He’s even gone so far as to gather personal information on prominent dissenters via the lawsuit’s Discovery process, and threatened to reveal it: “Okay, maybe it’s time to just refer to him by his full name. and where he works.”

We must stand against this behavior

I put a lot of thought in to whether I wanted to host this site. In the end, I decided I would not let a coward like Brad silence me. I put my name on this site, because I knew that a high-profile website speaking out against him meant I was forfeiting my anonymity. But that shouldn’t be the case.

Part of doing business is accepting criticism. You don’t have to agree with it, but you do need to handle it with grace. Unfortunately for Stardock, Brad Wardell hasn’t done that. When the community has been critical of him, he has responded with attempts to undermine and discredit it.

It has become remarkably clear that Brad is not a friend to our community, or to anyone who appreciated the classic Star Control series. He has been sowing discord, seeking to tear us apart. He riles up his fans by calling us “vile” behind closed doors, and spreading lies in private channels.

I would like to think that fans of Star Control 2 can co-exist with fans of Origins. New or old, we’re still fans of the same franchise. We all enjoy cool new alien races, and can have fun exploring a vast universe mapping out which planets have the best resources. Whether we did it in an old 90s DOS game, or a shiny new Windows 10 release, we have the common bond of Star Control.

We need to make it clear to Brad Wardell that this community still belongs to the fans, not Stardock. We must stand together, against this attack.


– Cassie (u/kaminiwa)

 

Star Control is a registered trademark of Stardock Systems, Inc