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Position on EULA Clarifications
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August 17, 2014
3:58 pm
frelling
Senior Tech
Forum Posts: 3264
Member Since:
August 18, 2011
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Note: None of these materials, communications, and representations herein and in other VeteranCraft public and/or private venues is offered, nor should be construed as legal advice. Please seek counsel of an attorney for additional clarifications and explanations thereof, if needed.

Many of you have probably wondered how Mojang’s recent EULA clarifications will affect VeteranCraft. We’ve intentionally not entertained member discussions or questions on this matter given the legal nature and the potential for misinterpretation or misrepresentation of our intent by laypersons until we have had time to review the applicability of these clarifications and their effect on VeteranCraft. This post serves to explain our current position and thoughts on this matter. It’s not set in stone; but it is not open for public discussion either. We will continue to refine our position as new information and advice is received.

First and foremost, we agree and support the general intent of Mojang’s recent EULA clarifications, which is to put an end to servers fleecing unsuspecting and innocent youths  by encouraging them to pay fees – some very exorbitant - for a chance to win – commonly referred to as “Pay to Win” (P2W) servers. Such operations harm the reputation of Mojang and other Minecraft servers alike, including VeteranCraft.

While there is no legal definition of the term Pay to Win, a prudent person can infer it as means through which players can gain an unfair advantage over others in direct competition by paying additional fees. In its vanilla form Minecraft is a non-competitive game. Its primary intent is not to pit player against player; instead, it is simply a means for multiple players to come together and build in the same world and encourages collaboration. The only real direct competition available between players is PvP combat, which past activity has shown to be less than 0.5% of total activity on our server. There are other publically available mods and custom mods written by server operators that offer a wider variety of opportunities for players to pit themselves against each other or offer competitions as a whole. VeteranCraft does not use such mods.

VeteranCraft is not, nor has it ever been its intent, to be a Pay to Win service. VeteranCraft's primary purpose is to provide a cooperative server within which members come together to collaborate rather than compete. PvP is disabled by default except in designated areas and worlds. When PvP is enabled, VeteranCraft tries to ensure that all players are on equal footing so as not to have an advantage over others. For example, special abilities are fully disabled in The End and for the most part in The Nether. Likewise, PvP in our resource worlds – Outer Reaches and Seraphs Realm – are by consent only, which doesn’t force anyone to participate in direct competitions. For those rare competitive events where it is impossible to fully ensure that players are on equal footing, actions are closely monitored by staff. Anyone found using features not available to all is warned. They will be disqualified and/or temporarily banned should they willfully continue to do so. All-in-all we go through extra measures to ensure a common experience during such activities. It’s not 100% in all situations, and we are working on means to rectify that. For example, we are considering a separate event world/server in which we would hold all competitions, games, etc. and provide us with better control over features and abilities to guarantee a level playing field in such competitions between all players regardless of sponsorship. However, that requires an investment in time and money to accomplish and therefore will not be an immediate change.

VeteranCraft is a legit server. That is to say that players and staff do not spawn items to build structures or sell them. Items available via player shops all have been created through in-game mechanics. Likewise, items available via our government shop are either residuals from building projects, donated or sold by members, or have been confiscated from banned players. VeteranCraft does not and never will spawn items as rewards or in-kind for soft- or hard-currency. This is one of the reasons why we don’t offer items rewards for voting.

Our sponsors currently receive a monthly stipend based on their level of support. Mojang’s EULA clarifications prohibit conversion of hard currency into soft currency. We do not feel that that these stipends give sponsors an unfair advantage as there is no direct competition. Matter of fact, it empowers non-sponsors to build wealth since there is a regular inflow of soft currency. Resourceful players can operate shops to sell wares and thereby benefit from a trickle-down economy as a result of such influx. There is no official recognition, competition, or benefit for being the wealthiest player on VeteranCraft. Furthermore, such stipends enable sponsors and resourceful entrepreneurs to hire players to assist in builds compensating them for time and effort, which is another means for wealth distribution. Matter of fact, resourceful and dedicated non-sponsor players have become millionaires through simple business savvy. However, given that exchanging hard currencies for soft currencies potentially falls under more important legal ramifications than Mojang’s EULA, we will take an extremely close look at legal implications and make adjustments accordingly, if needed.

We provide ALL players with the same features that a standard configured “shrink-wrapped” Vanilla Minecraft server offers and some that aren’t. We do not nerf, disable, or otherwise intentionally hinder such features in order to encourage sponsorship. We present a Minecraft experience to everyone as Mojang does and thus DO NOT lessen or harm its public image, representation, or reputation.

Mojang mentions gameplay and gameplay privileges quite frequently. Gameplay is the tactical process such as the mechanism and manner in which a game is played. The operative word is process, which is not covered under the right of reproduction, distribution, derivative works, rental, etc. as provided by U.S. Code: Title 17 – COPYRIGHTS. It would be a completely different situation if Minecraft were patented.

Unlike other copyrighted works, software is exempt to the first-sale doctrine, which allows for the sale or rental of such material. Mojang’s EULA interpretation is mostly based on their right to rental and right to derivative works. We thank Mojang for granting server operators a right to rent Minecraft server software. However, we do not provide rental services. Mojang’s copyright specifically prevents us from distributing their server and client software – an integral part of a rental process; thus, there is no rental action underway. We provide tiered sponsorship opportunities allowing our members to help offset the cost of time and material in maintaining a limited purpose computer (i.e. configured specifically to run game servers), maintenance, and administration of software configurations and general community management and support services thereof (e.g. forums, advice, help, discussions, etc.). These incur REAL COSTS. If we extrapolated their line of thinking, ISPs would have to provide free or set-fee internet access to players and Dell would have to give away free or set-fee computers to allow players to play.

The short and sweet of it is that players incur costs in order to play on a Minecraft server (computer, internet connection, power, etc.) as we do in providing a platform and ancillary services upon which to run a server for Minecraft and other games (server, internet connection, data center costs, DoS mitigation, power, etc.). We do not force players to pay for access to our hardware and do not limit the general capabilities and features (short of OPS) that an individual would experience had they installed a private Minecraft server on their computer. We will continue to provide tiered sponsorship levels and free access to allow players to decide how much they want to contribute rather than being forced to economically discriminate by decree.

Our sponsors do receive additional non-cosmetic perks. We will most likely change some of our perks to streamline them with Mojang wishes; although, many of our perks are a matter of convenience. We already take extensive precautions to put everyone on a level playing field during direct competitions between players.

The number of homes a player can set does not affect game play as long as everyone has a reasonable amount. While the use of /spa makes it easier to mine blocks, we do not regard mining and building as competitive; furthermore, players can essentially achieve the same result with enchantments and/or mcMMO abilities – it is a matter of convenience. In the event that we have a mining competition (e.g. gather X of this and Y of that in Z amount of time), we will ensure that the playing field is level.

Most likely, we will make XP Vault available to non-sponsors but differentiate between the total amount of XP that can be saved – at least enough to allow them to overcome Minecraft’s ineffective use of XP at high levels, which is its intended purpose. We are looking into mechanisms for offering perks to non-sponsors; although we have no clear solution yet. All this takes time. We’d wish that VeteranCraft was as successful as bigger named services. We’d all love this to be our day job, but reality says otherwise.

Why haven’t we made changes yet? We are currently running CraftBukkit 1.7.9, which has been out since April this year, well before there was any official clarification from Mojang. Members should understand that there are no EULA changes. It is still the same one posted on 12/11/13 around the time that Minecraft 1.7.x branch was released. This whole hoopla in the Minecraft community is about Mojang’s clarification and applicability of their EULA. As mentioned before, we agree and support the general intent of Mojang’s clarifications, which is to put an end to servers fleecing unsuspecting and innocent youths  as such operations harm the reputation of Mojang and other Minecraft servers alike, including VeteranCraft.

We continue to operate as we have for the past 3 years using the 1.7.x branch, lest we claim equitable estoppel. We are moving forward to make necessary changes as we see best to address Mojang’s wishes within their rights conveyed by copyright law and direction given by our attorney(s). We expect this matter to be moot on or before we officially upgrade to 1.8.

Note: None of these materials, communications, and representations herein and in other VeteranCraft public and/or private venues is offered, nor should be construed as legal advice. Please seek counsel of an attorney for additional clarifications and explanations thereof, if needed.

 

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
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