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Minecraft's bizarre end poem never owned by Mojang or Microsoft, writer claims

Author releasing work into public domain after "truly heroic" psychedelic trip.

Have you ever reached Minecraft's end credits? Doing so requires visiting its hard-to-reach The End dimension and defeating the Elder Dragon boss who dwells there.

If you have got past this point, you'll likely remember the bizarre eight-minute scrolling text story which comes next, before the end credits begin proper.

It's a truly odd read - structured as a conversation between two higher beings apparently observing you - the player. Perhaps even odder, it was never officially licensed to Minecraft developer Mojang, and subsequently is not owned by Microsoft.

Cover image for YouTube videoMinecraft Live 2022: Minecraft 1.20 Update
The ever-popular Minecraft continues to grow under Microsoft's supervision.

This week, Julian Gough, the author of said poem, published a 10,000-word account of how his work came to be in the game - and how he held out on handing over the rights to his writing (thanks, Nintendo Life).

"I wrote the End Poem for Minecraft, the most popular video game of all time," Gough wrote. "I never signed a contract giving Mojang the rights to the End Poem, and so Microsoft (who bought Minecraft from Mojang) also don't own it. I do."

Gough got the gig by responding to a public call for a writer via Twitter from Markus "Notch" Persson - Minecraft's controversial original creator.

"Rather than sue the company or fight with my old friend, who founded the company and has since gone off in the deep end, I am dedicating the poem to the public domain," Gough continued. "You'll find it at the bottom of this post, along with a Creative Commons Public Domain dedication. Anyone can now play with it. Have fun."

Cover image for YouTube videoMinecraft End Poem and Credits (True HD)
Minecraft's mysterious End Poem.

Gough's long blog post is an interesting read, and goes into some detail on his refusal to sign a contract as Mojang was preparing for its infamous $2.5bn Microsoft buyout. Squabbling over the need to sign a contract resulted in angry emails between Gough and Mojang's then-CEO Carl Manneh, though it was eventually decided that the rights to the text could simply be left as-is.

"Carl and Markus had paid me for my time, and my years of writing experience, not for permanent, transferrable, ownership of my story," Gough wrote. "They had repeatedly sent me a contract signing away ownership; and I had repeatedly refused to sign it. So Markus couldn't transfer ownership of the ending to Microsoft, because he didn't own it; he just had it on loan. Microsoft would've needed to work out a separate deal with me (or, realistically, with my lovely agent Charlie); and they didn't."

Now, years later, Gough says he has decided to release the text into the public domain and give up any potential monetary claim after taking a "pretty heroic dose of raw psilocybin mushroom truffles".

"I just told the universe, OK, forget about what I want; just give me whatever you think I need," Gough recounted. "And it gave me, to my intense surprise, advice about Minecraft, and Microsoft... and you."

Gough subsequently decided to "formally liberate the End Poem" from "the corporate economy, where it's been illegally detained since 2014".

"From today on, you can play with it, whether privately or in public, and nobody can stop you. Well, technically and legally I could, because I hold the copyright, but I renounce my right to do so. The universe wrote that ending, and the universe owns it. Which is to say both that nobody owns it, and we all own it. Which is to say, it lives outside of that way of looking at art."

Gough concludes his blog post with options to subscribe to his writing Substack, which also has a paid tier, or donate to his Paypal.