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back to article Elite Systems pulls ZX Spectrum games after deluge of 'unpaid royalties' complaints

The owner of Elite Systems Ltd finally broke his silence on Saturday after a number of British game developers for the 1980s 8-bit ZX Spectrum home computer claimed that Steve Wilcox had failed to pay royalties owed to them. As The Register reported on Friday, Wilcox, 44, raised more than £60,000, via a Kickstarter campaign, to …

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Avoiding a takedown notice?

A good way to avoid a takedown notice would be to pull the games yourself. Then there's nothing to take down!

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Re: Avoiding a takedown notice?

The Apple resolution procedure usually involves a complainant contacting Apple, then Apple contacting the developer, giving the two a chance to come to an agreement before it takes action.

So if the copyright holders had raised legal issues with Apple, Apple would have forwarded them to Elite and waited for further instructions. At that point Elite could easily "voluntarily" pull the apps.

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We will pay the £10,000....

...just as soon as you send the money for our latest Ponzi scheme, errm sorry Kickstarter investment opportunity.

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Note he said *Contracted* Developers.

Which means, if you didn't have a contract (signed, on paper, offline variety) then you can just go piss up a tree.

This is why the whole crowdfunded/Indiagogo/kickstarter routine is such a crap shoot: there's no guarantee that anything will ever come from it, the person with their hand out can just take the money & run, and unless you can find them to serve a Warrant, you can kiss any recourse goodbye.

Caveat Emptor, and you probably don't even have a receipt to use as proof to help talk to a lawyer.

Sure there are good ones that deserve the assistance, but finding them is akin to finding the one gold needle in the ginormous pit filled with brass coloured ones.

I hope this one turns out in a good way for everyone involved, but I won't be surprised if it flushes itself completely down the bog.

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jai
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Re: Note he said *Contracted* Developers.

Kickstarter is like gambling. It is definitely not like Amazon.

Only play with money you are prepared to lose.

Then, if the project fizzles, you've only lost what you were happy to loose. and if it's successful, then you get a reward that you were not expecting :)

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Does anybody know how much it costs to join the Bluetooth SIG as I can't seem to find Elite Systems name on there. Or is the required membership going to be funded out of the kickstarter funds?

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Why would they need to join the Bluetooth SIG? Surely that's just for people wishing to implement bluetooth chipsets? My guess is that this is just going to use an off-the-shelf bluetooth chip. Do you need to be in the SIG to use Bluetooth branding or something?

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Anonymous Coward

@Richard 22

According to the SIG itself, they own the trademark and companies need to be a member to use Bluetooth tech in their products and "leverage the Bluetooth brand in its products and service offerings." Dunno how much legal clout that has and whether it applies to end users of say, a bluetooth chipset.

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From the Bluetooth.org website

"1.2 Who should join the Bluetooth SIG?

Any company using Bluetooth wireless technology in their products, rebranding or reselling Bluetooth enabled technology, or advertising qualified Bluetooth products must become a member of the SIG. (Membership in the Bluetooth SIG is for companies, not for individuals.)"

Elite are planning on using Bluetooth technology in the product. - That's enough from what it says above.

Even if they are going to reuse an off the shelf chipset I would expect that as a piece of consumer electronics they will still need to get the correct certifications which would include one for the wireless system. (Qualified product?)

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Basic membership is free, but qualification for each product (a required step) is a chunky $8000, although there is a discount for small caps that bring it down to $2000-3000. Add a thousand or so for getting your paperwork together and another couple of thousand for EMI/RFI testing even if it passes first time.

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Anonymous Coward

Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

There was a lot of fuss about a computer program called "The Last One". So called because it's developers claimed it would be the last computer program ever written, since it's job was ... to write computer programs.

Anyway, come the PCW show, they had a couple of people at their stand who were very interested, and kept on putting scenarios to it for demonstration. Turned out they were taking the output code, and flogging them at a stand a few doors down.

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Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

Sounds like an urban legend to me. No doubt that's why you posted anon.

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Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

I've actually seen ads for that program, so that much is real - I was going to say 'legit', but that would be misleading.

I think my favorite "what were they thinking" moment in low-rent '80s computing were the guys who were trying to sell software on vinyl LPs (rather than tapes). Seemed like a good idea at the time... One of their ads consisted of giant text saying, "FIRE SALE! That's right! If we don't sell some of these, we're going to get FIRED!"

Yuhh huh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

C&VG did a cover flexidisc with the Thompson Twins Adventure on it. With my limited understanding of how computers worked (at the time) I didn't think it would work and that the crackling of the sound would stop it loading.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s @"Irongut"

"Guy hiding behind pseudonym in whinge about anonymous posting shocker! Film at 11!"

Don't bother with the usual arguments - I've pointed out the glaring flaws before. Just stop being a hypocrite.

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Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

I actually know someone who worked at the company that was flogging the last one. They existed all right, and I even recall them. I met the guy who worked there many years after it was history

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Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

The disc worked okay - I remember playing and finishing the game. I seem to remember the item you had to obtain was 'non-burning lotion' (a pun based on their biggest hit.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

Yeah, I remember a neighbour loading it up on his spectrum after recording it to tape.

It was supposed to work on the C64 as well, perhaps a different track on the disc?

I imagine on the Spectrum you could compensate for getting the recording levels wrong by increasing the volume on your playback deck. Not sure if the C64 used any sort of dynamic level control or not?

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Happy

Re: Just been reminded of an old story from the 80s

"I think my favorite "what were they thinking" moment in low-rent '80s computing were the guys who were trying to sell software on vinyl LPs (rather than tapes)."

I'm right there with you. One of the BBC Micro magazines that I picked up randomly came with this square of plastic inside that had grooves baked into it, so it could play on a record player. I remember I laughed and thought "yeah, right". Several years later I found it and it was a rainy weekend so...plug this into that and...

...damn thing worked. Don't remember what the software was, a MODE 7 demo I *think*, but I was more blown away by successfully loading a program from a record player. It just seemed to unbelievably retro, even back then when "retro" was only just last year's tech!

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It's a shame for the people that invested in this thing, but even as described it's crap. It is a Bluetooth keyboard resembling a ZX Spectrum that may, or may not, only work with certain emulated games. Whoopee-doo! I have read information suggesting that they do not have a license to make such a device:

http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2014/01/the-elite-bluetooth-keyboard-breaking-down-the-problems/

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Reminds me of that Big Train sketch...

...where the boss keeps distracting the employees by juggling or opening a drawer full of puppies before making his escape.

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As far as I've ever heard, that's basically how all software houses operated in the 80's (and may still do).

Write/buy games, sell them off, spend money on your bonuses, declare yourself bankrupt, flog off the kit, sell off the developers, start a new company, hire the same developers (at less money), but up the kit (and now don't have to pay those royalties to anyone because you're a different company).

Throw in some company director changes and paperwork shenanigans and it was (apparently) above-board. But from what I read in the 80's to how those places got bought up in the modern age, it's always been the same.

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WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

Apart from Psion I can't think of any games companies from that era still around and I can't believe bedroom coders from that era would bother trying to get a few quid for 30 year old games they'd probably even forgotten about themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

The companies don't need to exist, the games were copyrighted by the developers in some cases and just published by a company.

In many cases the developers owned the publishing company.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

There are still companies around from that era. They might have changed their names and their line of business completely but they are still very much around. For example Durrell still exist but now sell business software. Alternative and Codemasters are still around and selling games. System 3 actually have a launch title on the Xbox One! Rare were around until recently and even launched a new version of Jetpac for the Xbox 360 before consumed by Microsoft.

And of course although Frontier Developments dates from the early 90's, they are very in touch with their 8 bit roots with their new Elite game as were the Oliver Twins before Blizzard folded.

In short you'd be surprised how many companies and programmers are still around!

I use all those companies and people as examples of entities that are still around today from the 8 bit era. There is no explicit or implied connection with Elite.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

"In short you'd be surprised how many companies and programmers are still around!"

It was fairly comment back then for the developer to retain copyright, especially if they were not an employee. There are probably a lot of grey haired developers who still own their copyright and so could get involved in this.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

> I can't believe bedroom coders from that era would bother trying to get

> a few quid for 30 year old games

Why on earth not?

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

Lets see....

EA

Activision

Capcom

Atari

Psygnosis - Now owned by Sony

Codemasters

Rare

Alternative

come to mind not to mention many individuals who still work in the industry and as also mentioned companies who have gone into other software genres.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

>> I can't believe bedroom coders from that era would bother trying to get

>> a few quid for 30 year old games

>Why on earth not?

Because they'd have to cough up a fortune in legal fees up front - I don't many no-win-no-free sharks would take it on - and for what , a few hundred quid? Why would anyone bother.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

Steve owes me about £6k which he won't pay me (for the porting of my official Irem R-Type on mobile from about 7-8 years back)... though some commenters on here suggested I take him to the small claims court, maybe I'll reexplore that avenue with a legal person after all. Last time I asked for my money and threatened to get a lawyer involved, he said he would "counter sue" me. The guy is just a dick basically. Plus I'm certain he's not going to pay all those speccy developers, that's why he's pulled all the apps, and said all that "chastening experience" crap. He's just out to extract as much money from the retro scene as he can.

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

Counter-sue is what all dicks do. Happened to me. Judge laughed it out of court.

It is the classic scare and delay tactic. In my case the person who owed me money invented a load of backdated invoices that conveniently added up to the amount owed. Judge threw them out.

The judges see these tricks all the time.

The final irony was after the judgement the idiot who owed me money wrote me a letter saying the judge was biased and he did not agree with his view!

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Re: WHo exactly is claiming the royalties?

Not if the debt is less than £5000. Small claims court, no lawyers, low costs.

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Anonymous Coward

What's really missing here is a BBC film crew.

Isn't that de rigueur for a slow-motion train wreck like this?

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Re: What's really missing here is a BBC film crew.

Playmobil film crew would be better.

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