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Recently a question has been closed for asking about some Obsidian client for Minecraft on SevenSidedDie's assertion that it was used to bypass Minecraft's DRM. The askers claims that it does no such thing, to which SevenSidedDie replies: Regardless, it's illegal to redistribute Minecraft binaries. That makes Obsidian a pirate copy of the game even if it's innocent of the rest.

Now, I've never used that client, so I can't tell where it does indeed circumvent DRM or not, but if it doesn't, should we be closing questions about using software that is legal to obtain just because whoever distributed the software broke the sacred EULA?

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    I don't know enough about the specific situation to write an answer, but this looks a lot like piracy to me. At the bare minimum, it seems analogous to things like MMO private servers, which we've historically taken a very dim view of as well. – LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 21 '13 at 1:45
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz Even worse, IMO - it's a hack so that folks can cheat on legit minecraft servers. Found this list of "features" on a site inauspiciously known as "Multiplayer Game Hacking" – Raven Dreamer Aug 21 '13 at 1:49
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz the point of private MMO servers is to avoid DRM and/or subscription fees. That doesn't seem at all related to multiplayer hacks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that we should allow questions about multiplayer hacking, but closing a question based on the fact that the software it talks about is only illegal to distribute sets a terrible precedent. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 2:23
  • @kotekzot "site policies prohibit questions of the following types: [...] Piracy, and support with pirated games" is pretty much a straight paraphrase of "software it talks about is ... illegal to distribute". The precedent is long since set in stone, and I'm not sure why it's even up for debate. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:55
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    @SevenSidedDie for the sake of clarity, because some people other than just me disagree with your interpretation of the "no piracy" policy. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 3:07
  • @kotekzot Okay then, think of it this way: We don't allow links to ROM sites either. – LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 21 '13 at 3:13
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz but neither do we assume that people using ROMs for emulation have acquired them illegally. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 3:17
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    @kotekzot It is not possible to acquire Obsidian Client legally. It is possible to acquire ROMs legally, since cart dumpers are legal. But it is not possible to download ROMs legally, for exactly the same reason it's not possible to download Obsidian Client legally. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 3:30
  • Note that it is, in theory, possible to personally download a legitimate copy of Minecraft and hand-mod it to behave identically to Obsidian Client, assuming you could obtain a detailed-enough description of every installed mod and custom patch, and that copy of just-like-Obsidian-Client would be perfectly legal. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 3:38
  • @SevenSidedDie That's what I did where do you want me to upload the files you have to add to the .jar? – Timtech Aug 21 '13 at 16:42
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    @Timtech You downloaded Rei's minimap and Build and everything on your own, added them to a legitimate copy of the 1.6.2.jar file that you got from minecraft.net? Did you also add "Coded by LordPancake" yourself? – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 17:24
  • From the Steam subscriber agreement (yes, I know there's a difference to an EULA there): "you may not, in whole or in part, copy, photocopy, reproduce, publish, distribute, translate, reverse engineer, derive source code from, modify, disassemble, decompile, create derivative works based on, or remove any proprietary notices or labels from the Software or any software accessed via Steam without the prior consent, in writing, of Valve." So the Steam Client is legal to download (from Valve), but illegal to distribute. Ban all Steam questions now! – Martin Sojka Aug 23 '13 at 11:34
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    Now to add something slightly more constructive: The example chosen doesn't match the question asked. The Obsidian client as a whole seems to be illegal to acquire (downloading or otherwise), since by doing so you're creating an unauthorised (= "Mojang didn't approve it") copy of, at least in big parts, a copyrighted work. – Martin Sojka Aug 23 '13 at 11:39
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    @MartinSojka: Way to go building a strawman there. There are many problems with your example, chiefly among them the fact that the only thing we come close to doing (by contributing to Arqade) is create derivative works, which is a huge stretch to begin with. Saying you use Obsidian if tantamount to admitting copyright infringement. I'm not saying that we shouldn't ban Obsidian client questions (quite the contrary), but please don't go giving fuel to the other side with faulty arguments. – MBraedley Aug 24 '13 at 0:50
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    @MartinSojka: I understood fine. My point is that it still doesn't excuse making a faulty argument. If you commit a logical fallacy in the course of making your argument, it's that much easier to dismiss your entire argument. – MBraedley Aug 24 '13 at 12:47
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Redistributing Minecraft binaries is not just a violation of Minecraft's Terms of Service. More relevant to us is that it's very much the definition of a pirated copy of a game: it's a copyright violation. Minecraft's ToS is simply redundant with copyright law: without a license, only Mojang AB is legally allowed to distribute Minecraft binaries, in original or modified form.

For the curious, here's what Mojang says about redistribution:

The One Major Rule

Do not distribute anything we've made. This includes, but not limited to, the client or the server software for the game. This also includes modified versions of anything we've made.

[...]

What You Can Do

If you've bought the game, you may play around with it and modify it. We'd appreciate it if you didn't use this for griefing, though, and remember not to distribute the changed versions of our software. Basically, mods (or plugins, or tools) are cool (you can distribute those), hacked versions of the Minecraft client or server are not (you can't distribute those).

Now that's pretty clear: original or modified versions of the game are specifically called out as not being distributable. Because copyright law also forbids that, it's even more solidly obvious that Obsidian Client is illegal. The only way it would be legal is if Mojang used their copyright rights to give permission for redistribution, and they're explicitly saying they are not giving that permission.

(Fun fact: Minecraft's ToS actually adds no new restrictions that aren't in copyright law already. The ToS actually gives us more rights than normal copyright would by default, because Mojang went out of their way in the ToS to give us the right to mod the game and distribute mods, which are normally not permitted by copyright law. The ToS doesn't need to be enforced by us, since copyright law is already more restrictive. Our policy of rejecting questions about games that are copyright violations ["pirate copies"] is already enough.)

I appear to have interpreted its feature list wrong about circumventing Mojang's server authentication. (The descriptions around the hacks sites are not very good, and I wasn't about to download it to test it.) That doesn't impact the fact that it's a copyright violation to distribute or obtain Obsidian Client. Since it's simple piracy, such questions need to be closed.


For science I downloaded Obsidian Client and opened it up to see what it includes. This is what I found:

A file listing of the contents of Obsidian.jar showing original Mojang art assets and .class files.

Yep, Obsidian.jar contains a complete copy of Minecraft's original art assets and compiled Java code, in addition to the mods' compiled Java code. It's a pirate copy of Minecraft that happens to have some mods installed.

For further science, I copied the Obsidian/ folder containing Obsidian.jar and Obsidian.json directly into my versions/ folder without touching any official Minecraft jars – just a drag-and-drop into the versions folder. I created a new profile, and it let me choose "Obsidian" as the version. It ran. For extra fun, the menu is missing the usual "Coyright Mojang AB. Do not distribute!" text.

So Obsidian Client is exactly what we mean by a "pirate copy" of a game that we don't accept questions about. There's no way to obtain and install Obsidian Client without also downloading Mojang's proprietary code and game assets. It also happens to contain modifications, but it would be a pirate copy even without any modifications, and that it does contain modifications actually makes it "less" legal, since then it both violates copyright law by being an unauthorised copy, but it also violates copyright a second time by being a derivative work. Both those things fall under our colloquial use of "piracy".

If it also happened to circumvent account authentication (which I wasn't about to test using my account!), it would also violate the DMCA, for a third way it breaks the law. Whether it does or not though, it is a pirate copy in two ways already. Maybe a third, but two is twice too many already.

  • Illegal to distribute and illegal to obtain, as far as I know, are two different things. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 2:18
  • @kotekzot True. But obtaining copyright material without a license is a violation of copyright in most Bern convention countries, now that DMCA-like laws have been ratified in most of them. They're separate, yes, but both illegal in most places, US and Canada included. (Europe may be different on that, since I haven't been keeping up with them lately.) – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:25
  • But if the software in question does not circumvent DRM, then it stands to reason that whoever downloads it already has a license for that material. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 2:29
  • @kotekzot So if I own a copy of Skyrim, I can download a pirate copy as a zip file, with a 3rd-party patch pre-installed, and my license from Bethesda permits that? No, it doesn't. I don't necessarily agree with how copyright law works, but for that exact reason I'm fairly well versed in how it does. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:37
  • You are comparing apples to oranges, a pirated copy circumvents DRM, which is the reason it is illegal to obtain. This question is specifically about software that does not circumvent DRM. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 2:40
  • @kotekzot You're confusing two different law types. There is anti-circumvention law, and there is copyright law. You don't have to violate both to be doing something illegal. It is indeed entirely possible to pirate a game that does not have any DRM: you merely have to distribute or obtain it unofficially without obtaining a license for that copy from the copyright holder. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:48
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    @kotekzot Bypassing DRM is not a criteria for breaking copyright law. If you are distributing an unauthorized copy, you are breaking copyright law. – user9983 Aug 21 '13 at 3:11
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    @OrigamiRobot and distribution has what to do with questions about using, not distributing, that software? – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 3:14
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    @kotekzot Copyright law has been around for centuries longer than software DRM. Telling your computer to download (i.e., make a copy of) software when you do not hold the copyright or a license to is making a copy without the right to do so. Hence, illegal. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 3:27
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    @kotekzot - I think it's more that the patch/mod/elephant-in-the-room is distributed with the underlying software. I recently asked a similar question about Pokemon Ash Grey (which is a mod of Pokemon Fire Red). The thing is, Ash Grey is a patch, distributed SEPARATELY to Fire Red, meaning it by itself is not illegal. If someone was to patch a ROM with it, and host the full, playable game somewhere else - THAT would be illegal. This is the case Seven is making. – Robotnik Aug 21 '13 at 8:14
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    @Timtech No, it's not. It's exactly the same as if someone took a CD of Civilization III, copied the ISO with a cloner, patched the ISO to add new features, and then put it on a site for download as "Barbarian Edition". It's not legal to copy a game (in full or part, but in this case it's in full) and give it away. It has nothing to do with authentication. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:05
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    @Timtech Read the install directions again. Does it go inside your 1.6.2.jar? No, it replaces the jar. It is a complete copy of Minecraft, plus modifications. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:39
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    @Timtech No, it does matter. Redistributing the jar is illegal per copyright law. – user98085 Aug 21 '13 at 16:05
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    @Timtech You do realise that what you just linked to is a zip file of compiled Java code… which is what a "jar" file is? – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 17:13
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    @Timtech I'm confused about why you're still drawing attention to this issue by posting comments here. – SevenSidedDie Aug 23 '13 at 17:42
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I think we should treat this type of questions as usual.

If the Question and Answer is the same, no matter the source it came from, (legit or non-legit,) treat them as if it came from a legit source. (and make edits to the question where needed.)

If the Question is clearly impossible to disconnect from piracy, it is not welcome on the site.

See also: https://gaming.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7548


Regarding this specific question: Obsidian is a minecraft client for the sole purpose of (multiplayer) hacking.

We can compare this question to a questions for a tutorial on how to use a external cheat program/trainer or a no-CD crack, which is also not welcome on this site.

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    It's not possible to disconnect from piracy, unfortunately. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:05
  • exactly my point. – alexanderpas Aug 21 '13 at 2:06
  • It's similar to a "trainer", but it's more analogous to a full game ISO with an internal trainer pre-patched. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 2:07
  • I'm not sure I understand your position. Are you saying we should or should not be closing questions about software that is legal to obtain, but illegal to distribute? The last two paragraphs make it sound like you'd be fine with that sort of question if it wasn't about multiplayer cheating; but your reply to SSD implies that you consider it piracy. – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 2:22
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    @kotekzot If the question and answer are the same for the legit version of the game, it is welcome. Piracy specific questions are not. We are not going to tell you how to pirate a game. – alexanderpas Aug 21 '13 at 3:05
  • That doesn't make it any clearer. Are you saying that questions about software that is merely illegal to distribute are unwelcome, even though the question is not actually at all related to distribution? – kotekzot Aug 21 '13 at 3:09
  • There wasn't even a link to the client. – Timtech Aug 21 '13 at 10:58
  • This isn't piracy @alexanderpass – Timtech Aug 21 '13 at 10:59
  • Excuse my humble self but to use this Obsidian Client requires a Mojang account, $27 or £20. Also, the Minecraft license allows for redistribution of the game and modifications. Lastly, clients like Obsidian and Nodus are greatly encouraged on Creative servers for the use of the "Build" commands. It's up to the server owners to decide whether they want to let certain players use clients and nods. Obsidian is not an all-out hack. It has Optifine, Rei's Minimap, and Build. This is a modification of a game. It is not possible to use it without buying Minecraft first. Hence it's not illegal. – Timtech Aug 21 '13 at 11:07
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    "the Minecraft license allows for redistribution of the game", NO, NO , NO and NO. – alexanderpas Aug 21 '13 at 14:47
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    @Timtech The "of the game" is still in there, modifications or not. – Niro Aug 21 '13 at 16:44
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    @Timtech Dear Timothy, I renamed your file to a .zip, and guess what I found. – alexanderpas Aug 21 '13 at 17:16
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Excuse my humble self but to use this Obsidian Client requires a Mojang account, $27 or £20. Also, the Minecraft license allows for redistribution of modifications. Lastly, clients like Obsidian and Nodus are greatly encouraged on Creative servers for the use of the "Build" commands. It's up to the server owners to decide whether they want to let certain players use clients and nods. Obsidian is not an all-out hack. It has Optifine, Rei's Minimap, and Build.

Edit #1:

This is a modification of a game. It is not possible to use it without buying Minecraft first. Hence it's not illegal.

Edit #2:

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    The first half dozen results when googling for "minecraft obsidian client" all bring up, "Minecraft - 1.6.2 Hacked Client - Obsidian" or some variation thereof. I think you're going to need to provide a bit more proof than just your word itself if you want us to believe you. – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 12:37
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    Yeah. The overwhelming evidence shows that it's a hacked client. Is that legal? I don't know, but when I see those words, it automatically engenders thoughts of piracy and illegalities. What can you point to, to prove it is? – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 13:21
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    Copyright laws don't care if you can use it or not. They care that you are copying it. If I download a non-cracked version of Diablo 3 from some torrent site, I still have to be able to authenticate, but it's still illegal. – user9983 Aug 21 '13 at 13:24
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    @kotekzot DRM is irrelevant. This is a simple copyright violation. You don't have to crack software to make it illegal to redistribute. You can get pristine, unmodified copies of all kinds of games on BitTorrent, and those are illegal. This is illegal, regardless of modifications. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:09
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    @Timtech Your answer is incorrect. You should actually read Minecraft's Terms of Use, which not only don't grant permission to redistribute, they actually specifically forbid it. Not only does Mojang forbid it (as is their prerogative as the copyright holder), but they so emphatically forbid it that they call this ban on redistribution "The One Major Rule". In fact, this ban on redistribution being honoured by the community is the very reason Mojang permits modding, which is normally banned by copyright law. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:20
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    @Timtech No it's not, it's a replacement jar. Re-read the install instructions. You add it to the launcher, but Minecraft doesn't need the launcher to run and be a complete game. You don't add it to the 1.6.2.jar file, like most mods. The Obsidian Client jar file contains Mojang code. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:41
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    @Timtech I don't think you understand how Minecraft modding works. No, you don't "add it to Minecraft", it is a complete copy of Minecraft. Just like the 1.5.1.jar is a complete copy of Minecraft. You have several copies of Minecraft installed on your computer at any time. The launcher is not Minecraft, it's just the launcher for the real game. Each version is a complete copy of Minecraft. Obsidian is installed as a new version without editing an existing version, therefore it is a complete copy of Minecraft. Which is illegal. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 15:53
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    @Timtech No. I'm trying to help you, here. Does Obsidian HAVE an official site? If not, what sites can you download the mod files from? – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 16:41
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    @Timtech Dude, we told you to point us at a site that had it available for download. Not something you uploaded yourself. Is there a site, not your own, that you can point us at that allows you to download Obsidian and require you to follow standard mod installation procedures to activate? Where did you get it from? Did you get it as a hacked client? – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 17:05
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    @Timtech Please give up. You seem to have made an honest mistake, and that's not something anyone will hold against you. Persisting when it's now so obviously a pirate copy of Minecraft doesn't do you any favours though. – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 18:25
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    @Timtech You're not understanding what I'm asking from you. We can't find any version of Obsidian that is legal. If you want us to allow questions about it, the onus is on you to provide us with what we're looking for. Because right now, it really does look like Obsidian is very, very illegal. – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 18:26
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    @Timtech Oh dear. You host a cracked launcher download, the readme of which specifically says it circumvents account authentication. And I recall you saying in a now-deleted comment that you write "clients", which I now understand to mean that you yourself author and distribute unauthorised copies of modded Minecraft on purpose. I'm with fbueckert on this. (May miracles never cease!) – SevenSidedDie Aug 21 '13 at 18:57
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    @Timtech No, we are reacting exactly as we should. We do not condone piracy. – user9983 Aug 21 '13 at 21:14
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    I don't buy it, dude. Your entire website is dedicated to cracked clients and routing around anti-piracy measures, and you specifically say it's legal to download a cracked client. You won't be able to convince me you really didn't understand it wasn't piracy. – Frank Aug 21 '13 at 21:34
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    @Timtech I don't really care what's on your site. The only thing that's relevant here is whether Obsidian Client is legal. Since it isn't, we don't host questions about it on this site. What you do on your own site at your own risk is not material to how Arqade is run. All we're saying is that your site thoroughly undermines anything you have to say about the topic of piracy, so you opinion will probably be ignored on that topic. – SevenSidedDie Aug 23 '13 at 0:44

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