Late Friday night, donors of the Elite: Dangerous tabletop role playing game received a cryptic email from Kickstarter explaining that the nearly entire crowdfunding campaign had been suspended pending the resolution of an intellectual property dispute. The message read:
This is a post from Kickstarter’s Integrity team. We are writing to inform you that a project you supported, Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game (ED RPG), is the subject of an intellectual property dispute.
The project has been removed from view until the dispute is resolved, which can take up to 30 days. The funding of the project and the countdown to the deadline have stopped. When the project becomes available again, the countdown continues and the new deadline extends past the original deadline as long as the project was unavailable. You can find out more by reading our Copyright Policy and Trademark Policy.
wed, 15 feb. 2017 6:46 AM EST
Time remaining when project becomes available
Your commitment is currently still active. If you want to manage your pledge or contact the creator directly, you can still do so from the project page.
We have reached out to designer Spidermin Games for comment. Spidermind informed Ars that the complaint was filed by Chris Jordan, who was apparently acting for Ian Bell, or at least on behalf of an LLP bearing Bell’s name. Bell is the co-creator of the original 1984 Elite.
Ars got a copy of a statement from Jordan to Spidermind Games, which reads as follows:
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Looking at your EDRPG kickstarter page, I’m sorry to see you commercially exploiting that one man’s work without whom Elite would never have existed, without permission, credit, or even mention. Since you say you are an Elite player and fan, I assume your omission is not due to mere ignorance.
To let you know, I’m reporting your project’s copyright infringement of Ian Bell’s Elite (now owned) to Kickstarter.
And if you were to believe Frontier Development’s claim to own all rights to the Elite game (e.g. page 101 https://frontier.co.uk/docs/files/FrontierDevelopments_plc_Admission_Document.pdf), you should know that this claim is incorrect and has recently been withdrawn https://frontier.co.uk/investor_relations/aimrule26/admission_document/ .
Chris Jordan, for Ian Bell Elite Rights LLP
Elite: Dangerous creator David Braben created the original Elite in 1984 with Bell, working as a two-person team and splitting various aspects of the design and coding. The pair had an argument prior to the release of the game’s sequel, Border. Bell was not involved in the creation of the following Elite prosecutions, including those of 2014 Elite: Dangerous.
Bell maintains a Elite-related homepage, but has not been active in game design since the 1980s. Jordan’s name is mentioned on Bell’s Elite site as part of a list of people who have “provided data and/or assistance” for the site.
Jordan’s complaint seems to depend on whether or not Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game uses intellectual property from the original 1984 Elite– which Chris Jordan claims to own on behalf of Ian Bell and Ian Bell Elite Rights LLP. The UK Companies House site states that the Ian Bell Elite Rights limited liability partnership was incorporated on 8 February 2017.
“There was no way to verify his claims and he certainly didn’t add any copyright documentation that he claims to be in possession,” Spidermind executive Jonathon Lunn told Ars in an email statement late Friday night.
“We don’t make Elite RPG,” he continued, “we’re making a… Elite: Dangerous RPG and are licensed by Frontier Developments to use the Elite: Dangerous name and to make the RPG game.”
Prior to the filing of the dispute, the RPG had collected £65,407 (approximately $81,700) in pledges, exceeding its funding target of £45,000 (approximately $56,200). The campaign was supposed to conclude next Wednesday, February 15.
“We are confident that once Kickstarter looks at our contract, they will be pleased and unlock the campaign,” Lunn concluded. “Since we have artists and designers waiting for payment at the end of the campaign, I hope this gets resolved soon.”
Ars has reached out to Ian Bell, Chris Jordan and Frontier Developments for comment. No one had responded at the time of going to press. We will update this piece if we receive any statements or responses.
Revelation: The author of this piece is a financier of the Elite: Dangerous RPG Kickstarter.