Writer Julian Gough has shared an unusual story about Minecraft, and an even stranger situation when he tried to get more publicity for the story with a high profile gaming media outlet.
Julian wrote the End Poem, which combined with the credits comprises the thirty nine minute text ending to Minecraft. The End Poem plays after you enter the end dimension and kill the ender dragon, right before you use the exit portal. In its original form, players had to sit through the entire poem and credits, with no way of skipping it to get to the ending sooner. Today, you can actually trigger the ending poem and credits anytime you want, using commands or Creative mode to build an end portal.
Julian wrote the poem originally as a favor to Markus “Notch” Persson. It was added on November 11, 2011, in Beta 1.9 Prerelease 6 of the Java version of Minecraft. However, Julian could not enter into a proper agreement with Mojang CEO Carl Manneh to transfer the rights of the poem over to the company.
In August 2014, Manneh tried to convince Julian again to sign over the rights to the poem, but Julian rejected the offer because he wasn’t willing to give up all rights to it. Microsoft would proceed to buy Mojang and Minecraft for $ 25 billion. Julian never received monetary compensation for his work.
Last December 7, 2022, Julian decided to release the End Poem under the Creative Commons 1.0 Universal license. In other words, the poem is now in the public domain.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons license, anyone can now use Minecraft’s ending to make their own derivative works. This includes not only individuals making fan works, but also owners of Minecraft like properties like Roblox, and Microsoft’s competitors, such as Apple, Sony, Google, and Nintendo.
Now, for the even stranger story surrounding this. Julian Gough approached an unnamed high profile gaming news outlet to share his story, and along the way letting the public know they can use the public domain Minecraft End Poem. However, he believes that Microsoft has quietly intimidated the news outlet from sharing his story.
Julian’s explanation is that Microsoft did not want to take any legal action or make any press release to draw attention to the situation, and along the way incur the Streisand effect. Instead, he believes that by not taking any action, he has made the news outlet afraid of what legal action Microsoft could possibly take, and so intimidated them from publishing the story.
As all of this is coming from Julian, it’s hard to substantiate his claims. We don’t know if Microsoft took an interest or is even aware of the situation with the End Poem, nor if Mojang is the same, nor if the gaming news outlet chose not to publish the story for other reasons.
If anything, Microsoft could opt to just keep the ending as it is, or make themselves a new ending to sidestep any potential legal issues that the Minecraft end poem has or could cause. This isn’t to dismiss Julian’s story completely, but to point out we don’t know the full story without hearing from their side.
It’s likely most Minecraft players, and most players who got to the ending, didn’t even know that Mojang and Microsoft didn’t own it. If this story becomes more well known, it will be interesting to see how both companies, and the bigger Minecraft community, will react.