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Atari demands that Alien Space Retro be removed from the AppStore

09-19-2011, 05:51 PM
#1
Atari demands that Alien Space Retro be removed from the AppStore

Hi guys,

I wanted to post this here to let fans of the game, as well as other gamers and developers, know what's going on. This might affect the future of Alien Space Retro as well as other retro-styled games in the AppStore.

What's happening is that on Thursday I received a letter from Atari (forwarded to me by Apple) demanding that my game be taken down from the AppStore for copyright violation. They claim that I'm infringing on their ASTEROIDS copyright, whatever that means exactly.

Quote:
Dear Sir or Madam:

I am general counsel for Atari Interactive, Inc. ("Atari"), the owner of the copyright and trademark in the United States for the ASTEROIDS®© computer and video games. We have recently become aware of Owens Rodriguez's app "ALIEN SPACE RETRO" currently accessible on the iTunes games website at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/alien-space-retro/id447275812?mt=8.

This unauthorized use of the ASTEROIDS®© game constitutes copyright infrintement in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 501.

We therefore demand that you immediately remove the "ALIEN SPACE RETRO" game from the iTunes website listed above.

Please acknowledge receipt of our letter. This letter does not purport to be a coplete statement of the facts or the law and is without prejudice to Atari's legal and equitable rights.

They didnt specify whether there are specific elements in the game, or if it's the entire game itself, that they claim infringes. However I do know that Alien Space Retro is a completely different game from Asteroids. And, while the game is obviously inspired by such classic vector-graphics games as Space Wars and Asteroids, I think it's clear to anyone that it's a different and unique game.

Also of interest, Atari seems to have recently been sending out letters to websites, for example:
http://www.asteroids.co.uk/atari

I guess they claim this website cant use the word "asteroids". Granted I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure "asteroids" is a word that people can use, especially if they have a website that tracks asteroids in the inner solar system.

They are also attacking those who would be their strongest supporters, the retro gaming community:
http://gamepolitics.com/2011/08/23/a...ity-developers

I havent looked further, but I'd bet there are other examples of this behavior recently. I also dont see what Atari hopes to accomplish with this. Is my game such a threat to them? They surely cant expect to get any money from me, since I make a very small amount from the game and I'm just a one-person developer. My feeling is that whether in the right or not, they believe that they can just bully me into pulling my game from the AppStore because they dont think I can defend myself.

Personally, it's sad and frustrating to see this happening, regardless of whether it's happening to me or to another developer. I would like to think that game studios and publishers would want to embrace the customers, fans, and indie developers who are their most loyal and vocal supporters. We are a community that can get stronger and help each other to grow, but not if we attack and undermine each other like this. Alien Space Retro is an homage to those classic games from the late 70's and early 80's, it's not a threat to them. In doing this, Atari puts itself firmly in the camp with companies like Sony who regularly dismiss and attack it's fanbase. Atari needs to pay attention to recent history.

For now, my game will remain in place, but I cant say what will happen if Atari continues to pressure Apple. I dont know what Apple's policy is, but I have hopes that they will do the right thing.

Thank you,
Owens
Developer, Alien Space & Alien Space Retro

Independent developer of Alien Space, Alien Space Retro, and now Annihilate

For more information and latest updates, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlienSpaceGame
09-19-2011, 06:13 PM
#2
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Flour Bluff
Posts: 1,738
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienSpace View Post
Hi guys,

I wanted to post this here to let fans of the game, as well as other gamers and developers, know what's going on. This might affect the future of Alien Space Retro as well as other retro-styled games in the AppStore.

What's happening is that on Thursday I received a letter from Atari (forwarded to me by Apple) demanding that my game be taken down from the AppStore for copyright violation. They claim that I'm infringing on their ASTEROIDS copyright, whatever that means exactly.




They didnt specify whether there are specific elements in the game, or if it's the entire game itself, that they claim infringes. However I do know that Alien Space Retro is a completely different game from Asteroids. And, while the game is obviously inspired by such classic vector-graphics games as Space Wars and Asteroids, I think it's clear to anyone that it's a different and unique game.

Also of interest, Atari seems to have recently been sending out letters to websites, for example:
http://www.asteroids.co.uk/atari

I guess they claim this website cant use the word "asteroids". Granted I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure "asteroids" is a word that people can use, especially if they have a website that tracks asteroids in the inner solar system.

They are also attacking those who would be their strongest supporters, the retro gaming community:
http://gamepolitics.com/2011/08/23/a...ity-developers

I havent looked further, but I'd bet there are other examples of this behavior recently. I also dont see what Atari hopes to accomplish with this. Is my game such a threat to them? They surely cant expect to get any money from me, since I make a very small amount from the game and I'm just a one-person developer. My feeling is that whether in the right or not, they believe that they can just bully me into pulling my game from the AppStore because they dont think I can defend myself.

Personally, it's sad and frustrating to see this happening, regardless of whether it's happening to me or to another developer. I would like to think that game studios and publishers would want to embrace the customers, fans, and indie developers who are their most loyal and vocal supporters. We are a community that can get stronger and help each other to grow, but not if we attack and undermine each other like this. Alien Space Retro is an homage to those classic games from the late 70's and early 80's, it's not a threat to them. In doing this, Atari puts itself firmly in the camp with companies like Sony who regularly dismiss and attack it's fanbase. Atari needs to pay attention to recent history.

For now, my game will remain in place, but I cant say what will happen if Atari continues to pressure Apple. I dont know what Apple's policy is, but I have hopes that they will do the right thing.

Thank you,
Owens
Developer, Alien Space & Alien Space Retro
Wow, That is just not right and very sad and frustrating. I don't see how that could stick. Asteroids? Really? I don't see the connection at all.
I am going to guess that they saw the "spaceship" and then said "Hey, that is asteroids!".
As for Apple's policy when it comes to copyright infringement, it is take down now, let it settle itself later. I really don't want to see Alien Space Retro taken down from the appstore, but knowing Apple, that is what will happen, unless they changed their practices after Jobs left.
I wish you all the best Owens, and pray that this will all just go away without you having to do anything.

"The previous Dead Trigger thread was the most reported thread in the TouchArcade forum's history." - Eli Hodapp

09-19-2011, 06:16 PM
#3
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 10,965
You think they'd go after all those Llamasoft games that have stock copied (or very close) Atari (2600) asteroids, Berzerk Robots, etc... instead.

They're probably after your ship design, which does look like the asteroids ship a bit. Your asteroids look nothing like the asteroids in the arcade game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NickFalk View Post
Squids!?

Worst idea ever!
09-19-2011, 06:16 PM
#4
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: The red Skittle
Posts: 5,768
I don't see why they would suddenly be doing this - unless they want to release something of their own. How long has ASR been on the App Store? App Shopper says just over 2 months...



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09-19-2011, 06:17 PM
#5
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: Ankh-Morpork
Posts: 2,564
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienSpace View Post
They didnt specify whether there are specific elements in the game, or if it's the entire game itself, that they claim infringes. However I do know that Alien Space Retro is a completely different game from Asteroids. And, while the game is obviously inspired by such classic vector-graphics games as Space Wars and Asteroids, I think it's clear to anyone that it's a different and unique game.
Well, without getting into the merits of the action they've taken, Atari is probably - and quite legitimately - seeing similarities to the original game in screenshots like this one from ASR:



For comparison, Atari's original Asteroids game:



Are they pursuing Alien Space as well, or just Alien Space Retro?

Last edited by Appletini; 09-20-2011 at 04:48 AM. Reason: Corrected image.
09-19-2011, 06:25 PM
#6
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Somewhere
Posts: 2,538
Maybe they should just change the ship and maybe make the asteroids a bit different... they do look VERY similar

Add Me on Gamecenter/Steam: Fireball926
09-19-2011, 06:26 PM
#7
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 5,146
I'm fairly certain it's the visual element. The game icon, player ship, and the asteroids in game. I doubt Atari even played the game as that's irrelevant to them if they believe they have a case on the point of visuals. If/when you enter into negotiations with them, keep that in mind. I doubt gameplay is the issue at all.

Also, yes, if past history is a guide, Apple will simply remove the app and let you and Atari sort things out between yourselves.
09-19-2011, 07:24 PM
#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Echoseven View Post
I don't see why they would suddenly be doing this - unless they want to release something of their own. How long has ASR been on the App Store? App Shopper says just over 2 months...
Yes, about 2 months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Appletini View Post
Well, without getting into the merits of the action they've taken, Atari is probably - and quite legitimately - seeing similarities to the original game in screenshots like this one from ASR:

Are they pursuing Alien Space as well, or just Alien Space Retro?
Just Alien Space Retro. I'll grant there are similarities. There's really only so many ways to draw a simplified outlined rock. As far as the ship, mine is sort of arrowhead shaped, while the one in Asteroids was an "A" shape. And, both are similar to the ship in Space War, which predates Asteroids:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Wars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabrien View Post
Also, yes, if past history is a guide, Apple will simply remove the app and let you and Atari sort things out between yourselves.
Luckily they didnt. They emailed me and asked me to tell them if I'm infringing, to which I replied saying that I'm not.

As far as just generally similarities in games, there's always bound to be some similarities in elements from different games. I dare anyone to look at screenshots of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 and tell me which game is which. I dont see how Atari could claim to have a copyright on an outlined triangle-shaped spaceship.

Independent developer of Alien Space, Alien Space Retro, and now Annihilate

For more information and latest updates, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlienSpaceGame

Last edited by AlienSpace; 09-19-2011 at 09:41 PM.
09-19-2011, 07:40 PM
#9
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 555
The new Atari are known to be legal bullies. They work by intimidating small companies by using close association that holds close to zero legal weight.
  • See this thread on AtariAge;
  • Get some helpful legal advice from credible sources;
  • Do NOT use legal advice taken from an internet forum that could compromise your business;
  • Do not bend or show weakness to Atari.

My own personal opinion is that your product does not infringe on any of Atari's trademarks. Obviously, this is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer.
09-19-2011, 08:53 PM
#10
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: a[V-O-I-D]
Posts: 14,101
Send a message via MSN to syntheticvoid
Hmmm... The dev from Asteroid2012 got the same letter, but then they retracted it. Same thing might happen here... But this is just wrong. Hate to see this kind of thing happen.