Minecraft is unquestionably one of the most iconic and recognizable videogames of recent times.
The game was originally created by Markus “Notch” Persson, the founder of Mojang Studios, which continues to develop the software today.
In the years following its initial release in 2011, Minecraft captured a truly massive audience. With hundreds of millions of copies sold, it’s also the best-selling video game in history, a reign that looks set to continue.
Success has transformed Mojang into a multi-billion dollar company that, through Xbox Game Studios, is now ultimately owned by Microsoft. Interestingly, another Microsoft-owned company has been at the center of several copyright disputes recently.
A few weeks ago we reported that Mojang had asked Github to remove several Eaglercraft repositories. The software in question is a Minecraft clone that allows people to play the game in the browser, without paying for it.
In the weeks that followed, Mojang kept up the pressure. The company targeted a Discord server and a Gitlab account operated by one of the main developers. Both were shut down.
Eaglercraft developer “lax1dude” voluntarily removed the code from his own website after Mojang came knocking. Initially, he continued to offer the “EaglercraftX 1.8” repository, providing tools and instructions on how to decompile Minecraft 1.8. He eventually took that offline as well.
Lax1dude has put up a message for Mojang on his GitHub account, explaining that he’s not looking for trouble. The developer’s goal is simply to preserve the project after all the countless hours that were put into it.
“We are not interested in fighting your DMCA complaints, neither are we affiliated with any sites still providing the infringing files,” Lax1dude explains.
“The goal of eaglercraft was never to pirate the game, it was just to port it to the browser, and the years of time and effort put into the port should not be killed off so violently. We ask that you contact us at the email above to talk things out and figure out a future for eagler.”
New DMCA Wave
Whether Mojang ever reached out to the developer directly is unknown, but we do know that the game company isn’t slowing down enforcement actions. A few days ago, Mojang sent another series of takedown requests to GitHub, targeting hundreds of Eaglercraft-related repos.
The notices in question target Eaglercraft server code, the Eaglercraft web client, and various other Eaglercraft releases. According to Mojang, these are all copyright infringing, even though they may not all use copyrighted content directly.
“EaglerCraft allows the connection to servers and does not align to the authentication schema of the authentic Minecraft game. Exact source code or pixel perfect images do not need to be in the repo to constitute copyright infringement,” Mojang writes.
“The development and distribution of this product infringes Mojang’s intellectual property rights and violates the Minecraft EULA. EaglerCraft also infringes Mojang’s Minecraft copyrights by using Minecraft character designs and artwork to advertise these services.”
Stubborn Eaglercraft Servers
The takedown notices were successful; GitHub responded by removing all the targeted repositories. However, that doesn’t completely stop the problem. Several Eaglercraft instances remain up and running, and these aren’t folding quite so easily.
The Russian operator of Eaglercraft.ru, for example, has kept his service online despite being repeatedly targeted.
In recent weeks, Mojang asked Cloudflare to take the site down, without result, and the company also sent several DMCA notices to Google. In response to the latter, the Eaglercraft.ru homepage was removed from the search engine, but the site remains online.
“My main motivation for hosting the site is for kids to have fun because not everybody can afford it where I’m from,” the Eaglercraft.ru operator tells us. “So long as I don’t get any knock on the door from FSB, I will try my best to keep the site online.”
The Eaglercraft.ru website doesn’t charge people for access, but it does run ads. These generate between $1000 and $2000 per month and cover server costs and other expenses.
This unauthorized Minecraft economy is a thorn in the side of Mojang, which will continue to use all tools at its disposal to shut down the remaining Eaglercraft projects. While it enjoyed some success with its takedown strategy, completely eliminating it is easier said than done.