What would the copyright to Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 do for us? I didn't even bother copyrighting it. The art, source code, etc. are worthless today.
The copyright was granted automatically by United States Copyright Law the second it was put into a tangible form. Explicit registration just allows added legal precedence and the ability to claim more damages upon.
What stops someone from making a new game with the Drengin Empire, Arceans? Not the copyright. The trademark. The trademark to Galactic Civilizations ensures that the Drengin Empire won't show up in another game.
That would be the territory of copyright. Copyright covers the representations/instantiations of an idea. So protection against someone trying to duplicate the Drengin Empire or Arceans in a very similar or derivative way would be protected by copyright laws. The Galactic Civilizations trademark DOES NOT protect the actual contents of a product, just the branding/labeling of a product's source.
"Galactic Civilizations" trademark keeps people from creating another computer entertainment software product called "Galactic Civilizations". Unless Stardock has trademarks for Drengin Empire or Arceans, then these elements of lore and story would fall under copyright. (I've checked the USPTO system and no trademarks exist of the Drengin Empire or Arceans.)
So, based on arguments made in relation use of the Star Control 1 and 2 aliens names... So long as they are different enough to avoid a similarity check by under copyright law or are under parody/fair use under copyright law... Other games can have Drengin Empire or Arceans.
People in this debate have demonstrated they have no idea what a trademark is. They think it's about a name. They're to protect consumers from confusion. If another game came out and claimed to have the Drengin Empire and we could show that gamers might be confused into believing that game was related to Galactic Civilizations that would be trademark infringement.
It IS about a name, that is used as a label or mark upon the goods or services. They do protect customers by using that name as a identification of the product's origin. Trademarks are about namesakes and identities around a mark, that's often a name. If another game came out and claimed to have the Drengin Empire in it... The "Galactic Civilizations" Trademark would provide hardly any protection, if any, so long as the game didn't market, brand, label, or title itself as a "Galactic Civilizations" game. Copyright would come into play at this point. In theory, a turn-based empire building computer game could have the Drengin Empire in it, in these situations:
Parody. Protections are in place for both Trademark and Copyright Law.
Drengin Empire in the game is too dissimilar to the automatically and explicitly copyrighted material of Galactic Civilizations series and the game is not titled "Galactic Civilizations" in any way, shape, or form that would confuse the origin of the product. Since copyright does not protect a name by itself, (that would be closer to trademark territory IF the name is used as a mark of origin upon a good in trade)... Games can have Drengin Empires or Arceans in name alone.
Letting a developer keep copyright is not really a concession. If your product is being sold, trademark is what matters. In software, copyright is nearly worthless. I care about two things: Trademarks and patents. I've spent a great deal on these two things.
Copyrights are VERY important in software. Companies and individuals have been decimated in court cases due to copyright infringements. And copyright is primarily the way that developers and publishers prevent unauthorized distribution of of their material, since distribution rights is one of the rights explicitly protected by copyright. Developers and Publishers don't take pirates to court for trademark violations, they take them to court for copyright violations and use the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to get unauthorized distribution taken down.
Trademarks are important to indicate who is making the game and the market identification of the product.
Patents are weird things in software. Very weird and strange at times.
So, if Stardock wants to protect the names of the races in Galactic Civilizaitons, then... They probably need to be individually federally registered trademarks, and those trademarks would probably be granted fully due to active use in a current product series.