Ad Block: Minecraft Forbids “Building Promotions”

Just typical. We’ve spent the past six years pouring all of Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s profits into the creation of an endless Horace statue stretching far beyond the Far Lands in Minecraft and now we’ll need to blow it all up. That’s because Mojang have updated their commercial guidelines to say that it’s no longer acceptable for companies to “build or commission others to build, a Minecraft mod, map or server that promotes or markets unrelated products or services in playable form.”

This is good news, on the whole. It means Coca Cola can’t pay you to operate a Minecraft server where people scurry in the shadows of totemic Coke bottles. It means that the producers of Transformers: The Last Knight can’t pay to advertise their movie by operating a server in which people scurry in the shadows of totemic busts of Mark Wahlberg’s head. It means some other things described in the full rules, but mainly those two.

The new rules are designed to still allow normal users to build whatever they want, however. If you’re a fan of Marky Mark, then go ahead and create your Transformers-inspired hell dimension for one and all to enjoy (server name: New Kids Made Of Blocks). It’s only a problem if the focus is “to promote or sell that stuff,” and it only affects companies and organisations that would fund that sort of work.

I’ve chosen two particularly crass examples above, but there are potentially more worthy promotions that it sounds as if this will stop. For example, the rules also forbid non-profits from promoting themselves through the game, which forbids museums from building parts of their exhibits within Minecraft. Cutting that out seems a good thing in the case of the Tate’s awful work, but perhaps less so in other instances. The new rules will also prevent charities doing lots of different work within Minecraft, such as this amazing build promoting the issue of bee depopulation. I’m all for Minecraft being preserved (as much as possible) as a space kids can enjoy free of advertising, but it’s a shame to lose these other kinds of projects at the same time.

At least it won’t affect things like the Eurovision stage recreated in Minecraft, which was i) not created by Eurovision themselves and ii) created by popular builders FyreUK in partnership with Mojang.

In short: we now officially can’t pay you to build an endless Horace statue in Minecraft, but you’re free to do so should you find it necessary.

Disclosure: I used to work with and am friends with two of Mojang’s writery folk, Owen Hill and Marsh Davies. Owen gave me some useful advice recently about Overwatch heroes. Thanks Owen!

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33 Comments

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Their terms seem quite straight forward, but I have a feeling the list of “but what about”s will get quite long soon.

  2. Spacewalk says:

    I take it that this doesn’t exclude Microsoft from advertising Microsoft products through Minecraft.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Actually it does, but since Msoft own Mojang and therefore Minecraft it turns out they’re breaking their own rule everytime there’s an advert for minecraft.

      Subsequently Microsoft have shut down minecraft and imploded in an internal logic loop.

    • Jayblanc says:

      It doesn’t prevent Microsoft or their designated partners from using Minecraft for promotional purposes. And therein lies the rub. There’s only one real business case to be made for preventing your software tool from being used to create advertising, and that’s if you want to corner that market for yourself.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Jekadu says:

    Another weird disclosure? You are aware that it’s only collusion if you reenact the scene from Lady and the Tramp> but with a 20-foot sub instead of spaghetti and then kiss at the end, right?

    Anything less isn’t worth mentioning.

  4. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Pay to host your own server, pay for the software, and MS still thinks they should be able to dictate what you can and can’t do with it on your own server? Gross.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ericusson says:

      It’s a long time now Microsoft is not the evil genius it used to be.
      That or many other evil geniuses rose to power and shadowed their practices by even more evil ones.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        They still do the evil part its just the genius part that’s long since gone.

    • GameCat says:

      Not really. How it’s different from Huge Company buying CD of popular artist and using a song from that CD in their advert, without paying proper royalties to to rightholders of said song?
      That’s the really gross thing. Making money on someone’s else creation without paying them for it.

      • Jay Load says:

        [Companies may not] ““build or commission others to build, a Minecraft mod, map or server that promotes or markets unrelated products or services in playable form.”

        I’m struggling to see what your analogy has to do with the above. This isn’t about stopping users from creating copyrighted things, this is about stopping companies from paying people to create Minecraft creations based on their products. To adapt your analogy, it’s to stop Justin Bieber paying someone to reference his songs in Minecraft level form.

        • GameCat says:

          That Bieber song reference would be treated as advertisement for his new album or something and advertisements are things you pay for.

          Let’s make another analogy – there’s a message board about phones and then Apple makes an account there and create topics about their new iPhone filled with commercials without paying for it. Some sites allow such a thing (like there’s a dedicated subforum at RPS where game devs can make a topics about their creations) but it’s nothing wrong if they would want some money for ad space.

          • LexW1 says:

            That is also a completely terrible analogy. Try again maybe?

          • GameCat says:

            Why it’s terrible?

          • Hyena Grin says:

            Hm.

            While I don’t necessarily think Microsoft is doing anything untoward here, a better analogy would be a guitar manufacturer declaring that you can buy their guitar, but you are not allowed to create and sell music with those guitars.

            In both cases you own the tool (guitar/minecraft), and the creative work beyond that point (song/advertisement) is your own. Both works rely heavily on the tool for their existence, but the tool cannot account entirely for the product either.

            In my opinion – and this is not law, but my own personal ethics – the rights of the creator of a product should generally supersede the rights of the creator of a tool used in the product’s creation. A tool creator cannot claim ownership of a product created with that tool, because the product is an idea, and ideas are – without getting too deep into the ownership of ideas – the property of those who have them.

            I don’t personally think it’s right or fair for the creator of a tool to tell an artist/producer what he can or can’t create with that tool (particularly if the artist/producer has paid for that tool), nor do I personally think it’s right or fair for a creator of a tool to claim any sort of ownership of the results of using that tool.

            Unfortunately, even though this is actually how property rights work in the realm of real objects, software rights is a nest of vipers and lawmakers have basically allowed software to exist almost entirely in the realm of ‘licensing.’ And as a result, we seem to have basically no rights to anything software-related unless those rights are specifically granted in the licensing agreement.

            I am not a lawyer, and there are likely inaccuracies etc in the above, but given what I know, I do think this whole arrangement is bullshit.

      • Frank says:

        You’re kidding, right? You find the lack of price discrimination gross? As Jayblanc suggested, they clearly just want to charge more / make “partners”, which will exclude the vast majority of commercial uses (since MS won’t bother courting them and/or won’t lower its commercial-server price enough), like that Brutalist architecture Pip liked.

        Your analogy is not sound. Minecraft is a platform more than a work of art. It’s like if Facebook said “Okay, we’re gonna hide news from all pages you follow, like for bands. If they want to be easily followed, they’ll have to use a different platform or contact our advertising department.” Of course, in FB’s case, they can make this change silently instead of having to change ToS and invite public discussion. Lucky them.

        • GameCat says:

          Sorry, they are already doing it.

          Actually bands need to pay a fee if they want all their posts appearing on their fans FB walls. If they don’t pay only a certain percentage of their posts will show up at your wall (you can of course check all posts at band’s FB page).
          And there’s of course also an option for buying advertisement space on facebook to reach more people.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      You’re not allowed to use a lot of software for commercial purposes, or there will be a more expensive version for companies to buy and a ‘home’ version for regular consumers.
      There’s usually a loophole to allow schools and universities to buy cheaper versions (all the better to get young workers using your software).

  5. AskForBarry says:

    I got awestruck by the bee hive-project!
    But then again, I’m an entomologist who is working in a bumble bee NGO and who is also very much a gamer, so I might be in kind of the right target group.

  6. kalleguld says:

    How is this good news? Why shouldn’t Coca-cola be able to operate a Minecraft server where people scurry in the shadows of totemic Coke bottles. They are not forcing anyone to log in to the server. It doesn’t detract from the game that someone, somewhere, is running a Coca-cola Minecraft server.

    • GameCat says:

      See my song analogy in post above.
      MS is doing the right thing.

      • Dinger says:

        A nugatory reply doesn’t make the initial statement stronger. And analogies can be made to all sides. So, how about if you’re Sony, and you license Blu-Ray™ technology, and, five years after establishing a monopoly, you decree it is no longer enough to purchase Genuine Sony™ Blu-Ray™ disks and burners, you must also be a Sony™-authorized partner to burn content to a Blu-Ray™ disc?

        Sure, you can poke holes into my analogy too, but at least it’s closer to the situation.

        You wouldn’t steal an argumentative fallacy, would you?

        • GameCat says:

          No, it’s not closer.
          Minecraft is a game, not a piece of software like Photoshop or RPG Maker or piece of hardware like blu-ray disc or hard drive.

          Photoshop software and blu-ray discs are sold with for commercial usage from start, games like Minecraft aren’t.

          • aepervius says:

            It remains to be proved that this remain true. As others pointed out nothing stops microsoft allow selected partner against money to use minecraft as advertising. And knowing microsoft embrace/extend/extinguish policy going on to this day, I would not put it past them to sell brand deal at more $ with the added assurance to the brander that nobody will get the same on cheap.

          • aepervius says:

            Heck , a better comparison is lego : you can use lego picture in advertising as long as the lego trademark is not used or visible. And those pictures & construct are then your own copyrighted derivative work (assuming you are not using design copyrighted by other companies).

          • GameCat says:

            LEGO comparison is great. It’s nice they allow that, but they could just outright say no to such thing if they wanted to.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          Sony could ban every other movie studio from being able to release films on BluRay if they wanted and would be entirely within their rights.
          They haven’t because they make more money from it being a relatively open format.
          Part of that is because they charge a license fee to use the trademark, and they probably charge a premium for the equipment and software required to produce the discs.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      It’s unlikely that Coca Cola would launch their own Minecraft server. It’s more likely that Coca Cola would pay the owners of already popular servers to build giant Coca Cola bottles in key locations, thus forcing children to navigate the world of advertising without the tools to do so that adults have (hopefully) learned.

      Or: children are vulnerable to manipulation, advertising is industrial-scale manipulation, brands and products that use advertising are often bad for you, children lack the tools to discern between what’s good and bad for them.

  7. Henke says:

    That headline is very clever. Good job, Graham. Y’know what, take the rest of the day off, you’ve earned it!

  8. Faxmachinen says:

    This is an awful idea, and none of the arguments Graham has put forth to the contrary are in any way convincing.

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      Agreed. Here’s this list of worthy, admirable, and now technically illegal unless microsoft is getting a cut projects. But at least no one is building coke cans? Unless microsoft is getting a cut?

  9. Heliocentric says:

    So, since this wasn’t in the game I bought how do I opt out of the new rule?

    • Diatribe says:

      Silly human, you don’t “own” games, you merely lease the rights to run them until your corporate overlords revoke the privileges.

  10. racccoon says:

    yes I agree, it is about time, so it is a good idea.