A group of King’s Quest enthusiasts who have been working on their own content for the 1990s-era adventure game have been forced to abandon their project due to action from Activision.
A variety of King’s Quest games were released under the Sierra label in the 1990s. Volunteers began work on their project, dubbed The Silver Lining, back in 2002 under the name of Phoenix Online Studios, reports Kotaku. While initially they ran into problems with Sierra’s parent company Vivendi Universal—receiving a cease-and-desist order in 2005—a public backlash over the cancellation of the game more or less forced Vivendi to grant a non-commercial “fan license” to the project.
Everything remained status quo until recently, when Activision, which merged with Vivendi in 2008, issued a cease-and-desist to Phoenix Online, indicating “that they are not interested in granting a non-commercial license to The Silver Lining.”
GP’s own legal guru Dan Rosenthal offered his take on the revocation of the non-commercial fan license:
It's always unfortunate when you have a lot of hard work on a fan project go to waste. Unfortunately the real problem here for Phoenix Online was the bad luck of Sierra changing hands from Cendant to Vivendi Universal to Activision Blizzard. Changes of ownership often bring with them changing priorities, and who knows what sort of future Activision sees for the IP. Like many independent studios, Phoenix Online simply wouldn't be able to afford the cost of ignoring the cease-and-desist letter and risking a potential copyright infringement lawsuit.
The real damage here, however, comes from the chilling effect that this sort of action places on fan studios operating under non-commercial licenses (or even worse, no license but a "wink and a nudge" from the IP holder). Now, every fan project going forward is going to be reminded of the Sword of Damocles over their heads from pouring their efforts into someone else's IP.