When Copyright Gets In The Way, Morning Becomes Midnight

This name change brought to you by the letter "M."

This name change brought to you by the letter “M.”

We’ve been trumpeting the tale of a fantastic game in development from the all-star team at Industrial Toys for a while now. Titled Morning Star, it had some serious pedigree and promise.

A sci-fi themed first-person shooter from Alex Seropian, the dude that co-created Bungie (Marathon, Halo) is huge news in the first place. A game that includes author John Scalzi and artist Mike Choi among many other hugely talented folks that will launch exclusively on mobile? That’s ginormous news.

Color us fascinated when President Tim Harris penned a blog post on gaming site Gamasutra about why the team had to rename the game, and how they went about it. It’s a super interesting behind-the-scenes look at the very real business side of game development, and it’s worth a look.

Exclusive artwork, yo.

Exclusive artwork, yo.

When the folks at Industrial Toys found out that their beloved game name, Morning Star, was already taken and copyrighted, they could have panicked. Heck, they probably did, at first.

Then they put the whiskey away and got down to business. As Harris explains, the options were to either buy the copyright, try to stick with the name and try to avoid any conflict in brand, or come up with a new name.

Since they’re a start-up, money is tight, so option one was out. Option two didn’t quite fit with their dreams, either, leaving option three the only viable and artistically satisfying one. Sitting with their logo designer, they began to notice that the games logo, a giant stylized “M” designed by the team’s graphic designer, never really had the name of the game displayed along side it. What if they found another game name that started with the same letter? Genius!

After considering several possibilities (“Morticant Star, really?”), the team decided on something even cooler: a game name that could work within the science fiction that supports the whole thing. When the first signal is followed back to its source, lead character Charlie has the task of reporting on whether the aliens forces are friendly or hostile. Friendly aliens get the code, “morning star.” Hostile aliens get “midnight star.”

Charlie sends his signal back to earth, upon meeting the creatures that send the message in the first place.

“This is 2nd Lieutenant Charles Campbell of the MSRV-17 Joplin. Service number X101373. Morning Star is a myth. Midnight Star rises over Saturn. Morning has turned to midnight. I repeat– morning has turned to midnight!”

Boom! There you have it. What could have been just another normal work-a-day copyright conflict has become a whole new fictive element in the rich sci-fi universe created for this exciting new upcoming iPad game.

Midnight Star. It definitely has an ominous ring to it, don’t you think?

Oh, and the cool pre-game digital graphic novel? It’s now called “Midnight Rises.” Hawt.

  • Chuck Ivy

    Copyright has nothing to do with it. Names and titles can’t be copyrighted. (And good thing, too, because “Midnight Star” is, of course, the name of Weird Al’s song about shoddy journalism from his “In 3-D” album.)

    This was about trademark.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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