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$600K Minecraft movie Kickstarter cancelled

A third-party film based in the world of Minecraft has been cancelled for failing to make a licensing deal with IP holder Mojang.

A third-party film based in the world of Minecraft has been cancelled for failing to make a licensing deal with IP holder Mojang.

(Credit: Brandon Laatsch)

Let this be a strong lesson in performing due diligence when launching a new project on Kickstarter. Popular YouTuber Brandon Laatsch has had to cancel his Kickstarter project for a feature film — for launching without seeking the blessing of the IP rights holder.

Birth of Man: A Minecraft Feature Film was seeking US$600,000 for a fantasy epic set in the world of voxel-based sandbox game Minecraft, created by Markus "Notch" Persson and published by Mojang.

The film intended to mix CG Minecraft graphics and VFX with live action — much in the style seen in Laatsch's YouTube work on RocketJump, BrandonJLa and Node — as a sort of love letter to the game. The project made US$63,980 in pledges in the single day it was live prior to its cancellation.

"As one of the most outstanding and inspiring independent game developers of all time, Mojang has encouraged the Minecraft community to take certain creative license with the overall world of Minecraft," Laatsch said on Kickstarter. "Taking from their cues, we saw a unique opportunity to step up to the plate and create something that we hope will be a distinctive and incredible epic film."

However, while Mojang does allow user-generated content based on its IP in its terms of use, it's with a very specific caveat: those users who make YouTube videos, maps and mods are not allowed to make money from the content directly. Instead, any revenue generated is from advertising. By posting a Kickstarter campaign, Laatsch could be seen to be profiting directly from the Minecraft IP.

Because of the way IP law works in the US, if an IP holder allows a third party to profit from its IP without making a license, its hold on that IP is weaker. If a major film studio were to then make an unlicensed Minecraft film, or a major games publisher a Minecraft clone, they could use the previous unlicensed content as a legal precedent.

Persson himself had little to say about the Kickstarter, noting only on Twitter:

Mojang and Laatsch have been otherwise silent on the situation, although Persson's Tweet seems to indicate that there's at least the possibility of an agreement being reached in the future. Still, a lot of trouble could have been saved if Laatsch had done that in the first place.