Writer Puts Minecraft End Poem Into Public Domain

Julian Gough, the writer of the lengthy End Poem that plays when you "beat" Minecraft, has placed the entire work into the public domain.

Published: December 8, 2022 10:49 AM /


Banner artwork for Minecraft in which several blocky characters stand against a bucolic backdrop

If you've reached the end of Minecraft, you're probably familiar with the End Poem, a philosophical screed about your relationship with the game and what it means in the grand scheme of things. Well, Julian Gough, the writer of the End Poem, has just made the entire thing public domain, so you're now free to use it pretty much however you please under a Creative Commons Public Domain license.

Gough's tale of what happened to the End Poem after he wrote it around the time of Minecraft's launch is a lengthy one. In essence, Gough created the poem for Notch, who wanted something that encapsulated his life philosophy but couldn't write it himself. Gough came up with the End Poem, which Notch loved, summarily including it in the final Minecraft release.

Mojang tried to get Gough to sign a contract regarding the rights to the End Poem, a contract he didn't read until a few years later after he'd parted ways with Notch and Mojang. However, when Microsoft bought Mojang in 2014, the studio chased Gough up to sign the contract, upon which he said he read it for the first time and discovered it was "worse than [he'd] even imagined".

A Minecraft character looking up into the sky
The End Poem has made many Minecraft players philosophical, but it wasn't an easy journey.

As a result of his distaste for the contract, Gough decided not to sign it, which apparently made both Mojang and Notch himself angry. Gough postulated that chasing him up for the contract at this stage was Microsoft doing its due diligence on Mojang and making sure all the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed; a loose end like Gough still owning the End Poem might be a problem.

In the end, it didn't turn out to be an issue, and the Microsoft-Mojang deal was closed. Gough soldiered on for the next few years, occasionally "wak[ing] up in the middle of the night angry and frustrated" with Mojang and Minecraft. However, after a "transcendent experience" involving psychedelic mushrooms last year, Gough apparently realized that if he owned the rights to the End Poem, the right thing to do was to "liberate the End Poem".

As such, the End Poem is now available via public domain, which means you're free to use it however you like; you can put it on T-shirts, remix it, dramatize it on YouTube, or whatever else you choose to do. Gough says that if you do make money with your creations, you should "think differently about that money" and give it away to "some person or cause you love".

Of course, this is far from the first David-and-Goliath-style story involving an individual and a corporation. Earlier this year, Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon offered a lengthy rebuttal to Id Software and Bethesda over that game's controversial soundtrack release. That story is slightly different because Gordon seems angry rather than at cosmic peace with the universe, but it still feels like a story of a corporation trying to run roughshod over a person who contributed something creatively to a massive hit game.

Minecraft, naturally, continues to be a huge hit. The game is receiving some DLC based on the hit TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender, and an RTS-style spinoff by the name of Minecraft Legends is also currently in the works, so the franchise is still going from strength to strength. The End Poem may or may not be an integral part of Minecraft for you, but I'd recommend reading through Gough's exhaustive account of his experience with Mojang at any rate.

Update December 9th 8:11AM: We contacted Microsoft about this story, but the company declined to comment.

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