I’m not sure what it is exactly about Star Wars games specifically that makes some people throw caution to the wind and completely disregard existing intellectual property laws, but here we are, the second time in recent memory that the development of an unlicensed Star Wars video game has made the rounds on various gaming news sites.
In case you hadn’t heard, a group of indie game developers going by the name of Poem Studios has announced their intention to release “Apeiron,” a modern reboot of the 2003 Xbox classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. According to their website, they are “a group of dedicated programmers, artists, voice actors, world builders, and writers that have all come together to breathe life back into a wonderful game,” and they intend Apeiron to be “a remake and remastering of the original game with added content, new worlds, missions, HUD, inventory, items, and compainions [sic].”
And all that really does sound fantastic – fans of the original game would get to experience the game anew on modern machines, and people who missed it the first time around would get to be introduced to a classic game without having to look past the “classic” graphics and game design.
Or, rather, it would be fantastic, if what they were doing was in any way legal, and if I wasn’t fairly certain a cease and desist letter (or worse) is headed their way at some point in the future.
It seems that Poem Studios has not sought permission from LucasFilm/Disney (who hold the copyright to the Star Wars setting and elements) nor Electronic Arts/BioWare (who hold the copyright to the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic game). On their website, under the question “Is this legal?” the answer they currently have up there is “WE BELIEVE SO.”
It’s safe to say they probably haven’t sought the advice of an IP lawyer. I suspect the Apeiron developers’ confidence in the legality of their project is based on a number of common myths about intellectual property law. I’d like to address a few of the more common myths here. Continue reading