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ZX Spectrum keyboard maker pays overdue royalties, cancels contracts with devs

Elite Systems — the company behind the ZX Spectrum keyboard Kickstarter that drew legality doubts earlier this year — canceled contracts with developers whose games were used in its app and has paid them all outstanding royalties, Dynamite Dan developer Rod Bowkett told Polygon this morning.

Bowkett is one of the developers whose games were used in Elite's ZX Spectrum app, which reproduced classic video games from the 8-bit computer of the same name that was sold by Sinclair Research between 1982 and 1992. Bowkett, along with more than a dozen other developers, told Polygon in February that their games were used without permission by Elite or that they had signed contracts with the company for which royalties had not been received.

According to Bowkett, as of this morning lawyer Alex Tutty of media-focused legal firm Sheridans London has received all owed outstanding royalties from the company. The group of developers behind Tutty, in addition to Bowkett, include Jonathan Cauldwell (Egghead, Egghead to the Rescue), Steve Crow (Turbo Outrun, Overlord), Julian Gallop (Lords of Chaos, Laser Squad), Roger Hulley (Skool Daze), Mike Lewis (Red Hawk, Kwah!), Paul McKenna (Odin Computer Graphics), Costa Panayi (Vortex Software), Jon Ritman (Bear Bovver, Match Day), Ian Stewart (Helpa), Bob Smith (Horace, Gem Chaser), Simon Ullyatt (Cronosoft), Steve Wetherill (Nodes of Yesod) and Sandy White (Ant Attack).

"This has been a very long haul for us."

"It seems this affair has finally been resolved," Bowkett told Polygon. "In addition our contracts with Elite have been successfully terminated thus preventing the company from legally using any of our games in any of their current or future products.

"This has been a very long haul for us, but hopefully a line has been drawn which will discourage similar copyright abuses in the future," he added.

The full list of IPs affected by the case are being pulled from the Elite's ZX Spectrum app: Alien Highway, Android One, Android Two, Ant Attack, Auf Wiedersehen Monty, Avenger, Back To Skool, Chaos, Combat Zone, Confusion, Cyclone, Dead Or Alive, Deflektor, Dynamite Dan, Dynamite Dan 2, Egghead 4 (Egghead Entertains), Egghead 5 (Egghead Round The Med), Everyone's a Wally, Eliminator, Factory Breakout, Factory Daze, Farmer Jack: Tresture Trove, Farmer Jack: Harvest Havoc!, Firelord, Gamex, Gun Boat, HATE (Hostile All Terrain Encounter), Head Over Heels, Highway Encounter, Heartland, Hideous, International Match Day, Jack The Nipper, Jack The Nipper 2, Krakout, Kwah!, Laser Squad, Laser Snaker, Loco Bingo, Lords Of Chaos, Match Day, Match Day 2, Moley Christmas, Monty On The Run, Nodes Of Yesod, Northstar, Quantum Gardening, Robin Of The Wood, Revolution , Redhawk, Rebelstar, RebelStar 2, Revolver, Sea Surfer, Sidewize, Skate Crazy, Skool Daze, Slubberdegullion, Slug, Splattr, Starquake, Stranded 2.5, Super Scramble Simulator, Switchblade, The Arc of Yesod, The Plot, TLL (Tornado Low Level), Turbo Girl, WGB, Wanted! Monty Mole, and Wizard's Lair.

In January, Elite Systems wrapped up its Kickstarter campaign for the ZX Spectrum keyboard, which was emulate the forenamed personal computer and built for use with Elite's Spectrum games app. Numerous developers whose games appeared in the app expressed concern that their content was being used illegally, with many stating they had attempted to contact Elite about the issue to no response. Shortly after the campaign ended, Elite's Steve Wilcox posted a message asking unhappy developers to contact them directly, noting that the company "take[s] our contractual relationships most seriously."

A few days later, Elite withdrew its ZX Spectrum game emulator apps — including ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection, the ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection HD iOS app and all of Elite's 8-bit games — with Wilcox noting it was "inappropriate" to keep selling them while payments to contracted developers were outstanding. To date, these games have not been reposted to the app stores.

"This has been a personally chastening experience," Wilcox wrote at the time.

The most recent update to the campaign only mentions testing of a new physical prototype for the keyboard, and several comments note that backward rewards have begun shipping.

Polygon has reached out to Elite for comment and will share additional information.

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