1. Back in 2001, StarFrontiers.com began hosting PDFs of the rules, modules, sheets etc. The site owner claimed that he had gotten permission (in the form of a letter) from WotC to distribute the material, as long as he kept it free. The SF site includes the following legal notice on every page:
Note the "used with permission" -- a reference to the permission letter.
In late 2017, around the same time that Alpha Dawn went up for sale on DTRPG, the SF site owner changed the Alpha Dawn link to point to DTRPG. Ditto for Knight Hawks and the Ref Screen. So the SF site owner seems to be cooperating with WotC. However, there's still a PDF copy of an expanded edition of Alpha Dawn on the SF site, as well as other game materials, still free on the SF site.
2. Re-read the legal disclaimer and take note of the "... trademarks belonging to Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc." In fact, if you search the TESS database, you will find that TSR registered the trademark in 1982 and let it lapse in 2004. Then in early 2017, before WotC began selling the SF rulebook PDFs on DTRPG, Evil Hat Productions registered the trademark to "Star Frontiers" RPG.
Now, WotC still owns the copyrights to Star Frontiers, including the setting, the alien races, etc. So Evil Hat simply can't republish the same game. But they could publish a new FATE-based sci-fi RPG with a new setting and new aliens and legally call it "Star Frontiers." No word on what their plans are.
WotC could challenge Evil Hat in court. But that would take years and lots of money and it might not go their way, since they let the property lapse for 13 years. They could also buy the trademark back from Evil Hat. But the fact that they began to resell the PDFs on DTRPG shortly after Evil Hat grabbed the trademark tells me there's a potential trademark battle brewing. While I like the game, I can't imagine it would be a big enough money-maker for WotC to justify a prolonged court battle.
Last Edit: Feb 9, 2018 17:19:18 GMT -6 by krusader74
Nothing reveals humanity so well as the games it plays. --- David Hartley, 18th c. English Philosopher