Why can’t we sell Sponge plugins on Sponge?

I understand that Sponge wants to comply with Mojang’s EULA and thus you can’t sell Minecraft mods/plugins here (i.e, software containing Mojang’s proprietary copyright code). However, most Sponge plugins have no need to utilize NMS, and thus don’t contain Mojang’s proprietary copyright code, and thus aren’t Minecraft mods/plugins by the EULA’s definition. They’re Sponge mods/plugins. The two are not the same. I know a lot of us are used to Bukkit’s copyleft licensing, but it’s important to remember that Mojang’s EULA nor Sponge’s MIT are copyleft and the license of one is only applicable when that software is itself conveyed.

I truly believe SpongePowered unnecessarily forbidding the sale of plugins is what’s holding it back from becoming as widely used as Spigot and Spigot’s forums. MC-Market has existed for about as long as Sponge, doesn’t have its own server software, and yet its forums and resource usage eclipse Sponge’s thirtyfold.

Bukkit’s viral GPL and the way it confuses the plugin market where buyers of plugins argue entitlement to the plugins’ complete source with no additional charge, and where they and leak sites can “legally” leak those paid plugins without violating the license or being at risk of repercussions, would be avoided by Sponge’s much less controlling MIT license, if only Sponge’s forum would allow it.

Plugin sellers want a place they create content, earn something to support them and their continued dedication of their time, and have that source of support protected, both legally and by the platforms they use. They lack the legal protection when developing for Bukkit due to the GPL; but from Sponge with the MIT they need, they lack platform support entirely.

If plugin developers felt the Sponge project was worth investing time into, Sponge’s API would likely receive more contributions as well. I really want to see this project succeed in its adoption. Sponge’s delayed updates are really holding it behind.

Please consider modifying the resource section and site’s rules to allow for the sale of Sponge plugins not containing Mojang’s proprietary copyright code.

Thank you for your consideration,
– Justis R | Proud Administrator of MC-Market

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Other’s have tried and tried to explain their views on this. Seems sponge dev’s will not budge on their stance on this issue. They can deny all they way, but it is a huge reason why plugin devs have either stayed on spigot, or moved here and then back to spigot. Hell, even a dev here is selling on spigot because it isnt allowed here. It is what it is. I want to see this project succeed as well, but to each their own.

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Not everything is about money.

I get a similar question a lot in regards to the fact that I could sell more things in my community donation store in order to make more money and thus grow larger. But for me, it’s about ethics. Sticking for what you stand for. I’d say around 99% of Minecraft servers are small, barely get the bills paid and can’t afford to spend $200 on plugins just to start up a server. I really love the fact that Sponge don’t allow this kind of gatekeeping and keeping it’s “for the community, by the community” mentality, it’s one of the reasons I am so very loyal to Sponge and will support it no matter what, providing it still shows the ethics we share.

I know that it can be very frustrating as a developer when you put in so much time and effort into plugins and get nothing back money wise, but we should be encourging people donate more, and finding ways to promote that instead. Personally I love donating to plugin developers when I can and buy thier services for custom plugins.

Just my two cents

Have a lovely day everyone

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Thankyou for your feedback, while this issue has come up several times I feel it would be best to fully outline our position on the matter so that you can appreciate our decision.

We won’t be supporting plugin sales on our site due to
a. Potential conflicts with Mojang’s EULA. We are aware that there are differing interpretations of the EULA, but as we are not lawyers we are taking the most conflict-free approach so that our organisation will not be caught up in unnecessary legal issues. As paying for software development is not excluded under the EULA, we have the Services Exchange where plugin devs and server owners can find each other.
b. It does not align with our operation as a FOSS organisation and we’d like to keep our focus on developing our software and platform as a whole. We strongly wish to encourage the spirit of openness and co-operation amongst our community and indeed are strongly invested in that ethos ourselves. Our developers and staff are all volunteers and work on this project with no expectation of monetary reward and have been doing so for over 5 years.
c. Administration of a marketplace would require additional manpower and we would be more likely to encounter legal issues which we’d rather not deal with. As you state, plugin sellers would like to have their source of support protected legally, however you simply refer to API licensing. Payments, administration, refunds and so on all raise legal issues and if we are handling that as a marketplace, those legal responsibilities would be transferred to us, which is something we are not comfortable in handling. Dealing with tax laws across multiple countries is an additional cause for concern when none of us have any experience in that area.

In addition, we cannot prevent other individuals/entities from establishing a marketplace or publishing their own plugins on an existing marketplace if they are unconcerned with the EULA, but we will not be supporting it. As you stated our MIT license is not copyleft (and was chosen at the time with that intention) so that our community would be able to do what they please with our software.

Essentially, it’s a question of where responsibilities lie. Our licensing means that we place few restrictions on how our software is used. In the same way that people can develop their own third-party implementations of our API, entities are free to establish their own third-party plugin repositories, but in both cases, we cannot be expected to provide support for those third party operations.

Operation of our platform (website, services, etc) is a different story, as we must comply with regulations such as COPPA, the GDPR and so-on. In a similar vein, we will be complying with our interpretation of Mojang’s EULA to minimise risk.

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It is my opinion that we should not support paid plugins due to the following section of the Minecraft EULA:

OWNERSHIP OF OUR GAME AND OTHER THINGS

Any tools you write for the Game from scratch belong to you. Modifications to the Game (“Mods”) (including pre-run Mods and in-memory Mods) and plugins for the Game also belong to you and you can do whatever you want with them, as long as you don‘t sell them for money / try to make money from them. We have the final say on what constitutes a tool/mod/plugin and what doesn’t.

As I do not condone violating the EULA, I believe we therefore should not permit the sale of paid/“premium” plugins. Furthermore, having exclusive assets available is contrary to my ethos that all assets should to be available to and used by the community as a whole, not merely for the privileged few.

@Owen | Marketplace for Sponge plugins

I absolutely 100% agree with the desire to comply with Mojang’s EULA. When I saw that portion of Sponge’s rules, it earned huge respect points from me and made this community one that I wanted to be a part of. However, there is not a doubt in my mind that the EULA is being tragically misinterpreted here.

By “Mods,” we mean something original that you or someone else created that doesn’t contain a substantial part of our copyrightable code or content. When you combine your Mod with the Minecraft software, we will call that combination a “Modded Version” of the Game. We have the final say on what constitutes a Mod and what doesn’t. You may not distribute any Modded Versions of our Game or software, and we’d appreciate it if you didn’t use Mods for griefing. Basically, Mods are okay to distribute; hacked versions or Modded Versions of the Game client or server software are not okay to distribute.

Minecraft EULA

Mojang saying “We have the final say on what constitutes a tool/mod/plugin and what doesn’t” is not as scary as it sounds. The EULA makes allowances for mods, but limits what can be considered a mod to software that doesn’t contain a substantial amount of their code. Since the line between too much of their code and an acceptable amount is fuzzy, the inclusion of the line allowing Mojang to determine where that line falls on a case by case basis is very logical on their end. That line does not mean you’re at risk of being in violation of their EULA by selling a Sponge plugin though. Not because Mojang is nice about their final say. They can say whatever they’d like. It’s just that as previously pointed out, their EULA isn’t copy-left. It only limits how you can convey their code. Unless they make their license copy-left, their license has no say over what you do with your work; only theirs.

I could not be more confident in this, but I highly advise that Sponge seek official legal counsel to validate this. I have no expectations that you’ll simply take my word for it.

Absolutely. Time can be a great substitute for money when the people with the time available are willing to donate it, such as how the Sponge team donates their time to this project. However, unless you can do it yourself, money is needed to bring in others who require compensation in order to justify their time allocation. Looking at Sponge’s situation, after over five years of running, they’re still so lacking in income that they can’t even afford to hire a skilled and knowledgable attorney to let them know in what ways they could ever possibly be in legal trouble. As a result, the entire community is limited.

If we could at least pool the money together for proper legal guidance, we could progress the discussion from one of conjecture, to being one of ethos.

I know a lot of the people here have come from Bukkit, and thus share the love of FOSS that our dearly appreciated Bukkit contributors did. However, if this platform continues to force the FOSS policy on its community, I fear and expect that Sponge will remain as dry of a community and resources as it is now, as Bukkit is now.

Clearly, the handful of people who’ve stuck around Sponge have done so because they have the money to support themselves while still having time left over to be here. So it’s not surprising that after years of their own personal sacrifices for little in return, they would share the feeling of wanting everyone else to publish only free software as well. But so many more people are not financially capable of doing what Sponge’s current maintainers are capable of doing. They don’t have the time to work a real job and also contribute to the Sponge project/community. That’s why after over five years, this site still doesn’t even have 500 resources available for its community’s usage.

I also want to encourage openness and cooperation, and I want this community to grow and thrive off one another. But I strongly believe you’ll find a lot more success in bringing in more free software, if you bring in more people who can afford to spend their time making it. Help developers financially support themselves off of their plugin work, and they’ll be able to afford to give back to the community that helped them get there. Free content makes a great portfolio and brings attention to their paid projects as well, so there is already an inherent encouragement.

More paid content means more developers, means more free content for everyone in this community.

Knowing how much it costs to live in this world, I expect every member of the Spigot team has a separate job. But what if working for Sponge, working to grow and give to this community was their job? What if they could afford to spend all of their time giving to this community because they could support themselves off of that service?

The main issue I’m seeing here is that Sponge simply isn’t bringing in any money. As a result, Sponge can’t afford to hire the legal counsel necessary to interpret Mojang’s EULA, and help management make decisions on how they could proceed to expand the platform, bring in a larger staff team, provide more moderation services for the community, and host products being sold here.

Sponge as a platform is thus left waiting for third party websites to take up the responsibility of growing the popularity of their software, to take on the legal responsibility of allowing the sale of their software, and make developing against the Sponge API something that more people can afford to take up. Personally, I’d love to get more of MC-Market selling plugins for Sponge, thus encouraging contributions towards keeping the API updated. But I can’t help but feel that doing so would severely divide the community. It should really be Sponge that brings all of its derivative content creators together.

I’ve commit to a $10 monthly payment to Sponge’s Patreon, which will hopefully assist at least a little in this community doing something more with itself, but I fear it’ll be in vain if Sponge doesn’t look for better ways to monetize the platform.

My ethos:

Provide for free, to as many people as possible, as much as you can afford to. Provide for a fee, everything that you would have otherwise been unable to provide at all.

When you are financially supported, what you are capable of providing for free becomes limitless.
Take on responsibility. Enable people.

To elaborate on this. As I assume you’re talking about GriefDefender
The plugin is entirely free on both Spigot and Sponge, the support; however, is behind a “pay-wall” as it were.

The wiki, and community support are both very open options

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Just to clarify our position. We are a volunteer-run organization providing a free service and product to the community purely out of goodwill. The point where we start having to hire legal counsel to advise us not just whether the sale of plugins is compatible with the EULA, but also on the obligations we would have as a trading entity is the point where this becomes more like a business than a community organization. Dealing with the implementation of the GDPR was enough of a hassle (though a worthwhile exercise) that we’d rather not have to subject ourselves to dealing with further legal issues.
For instance in my country we have the Australian Consumer Law, which applies to foreign as well as domestic businesses:

Full Federal Court confirms that Valve misled gamers
Now take that and apply it to the numerous jurisdictions where such laws exist and we would need to receive legal counsel for those also (Not to mention PCI compliance). Quickly the exercise would become both quite the chore and rather expensive.

Quite a few of us were around back during Bukkit’s heyday pre-DMCA and as I recall plugin monetisation was never a significant issue for the community. Looking over at our sister ecosystem in Forge monetisation rarely crops up. FOSS ecosystems can and do thrive without monetary incentive.

To use Debian as a parallel, the platform itself is free and maintained freely. Users can install FOSS software, they can pay a developer to make/support software (and keep it private or release it) and they can install paid software from third parties (Such as Crossover). Now we, like Debian provide the platform for others to use as they please, but in the same vein we do not sell software on our site even if it works with our ecosystem. Numerous other examples show that the model we follow is completely viable.

Now, we understand that some people would like to make money from developing Sponge Plugins which is why we opened the Services Exchange to act as a jobs board. Now as our rules clearly state that prices and conditions are not to be discussed on our site and are to be done directly between the developer and their prospective employer, we stay as hands-off as possible. Individuals are free to publish their works however they wish, nothing is preventing anyone from even establishing their own instance of Ore. We just don’t wish to deal with the added hassle of moderating paid content on our site.

In summary, we don’t see ourselves as the arbiters of the entire Sponge ecosystem. Our purpose as a volunteer organization is to simply develop our software and run our platform (while hopefully having a good time and gaining experience as we do it). We don’t wish to become a business or a job with obligations. If other people see an opportunity and want to do so then all power to them and if they wish to support our organization like all our gracious sponsors and donors do, then we thank them for it.
But just as we don’t plan on moving into the server hosting space, we don’t plan on establishing a marketplace. We all got into this to make software and support our community, making a profit is the purpose of a business and not a community organization.

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I’d like to add that, given the complex legal situation re the use of API’s in third party software releases, I don’t think the legality (or not) of Minecraft mods is at all clear-cut, regardless of the amount of legal advice you have. Sponge staff simply don’t want to get involved in that boondoggle. As Owen points out, we’d need a significant increase in staff to moderate a commercial forum, and that was never in the plan.
Third parties could give it a try and see what happens.

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I think we can both agree that Bukkit’s pre-Wolverness days aren’t coming back. I also maintain that had they allowed their users to monetize their work, that success and the amount of community available content would have developed exponentially prior to the takedowns. Perhaps even enough to survive it as a platform.

The software aside, because it’s already (and I believe should stay) open source:

And I want to see that software creation and support continue to reach as many people as possible. Monetizing your services, seeking legal counsel, expanding the team and widening your audience are not an indicator of a business seeking greater profits. You can be an extremely successful non-profit organization and funnel 100% of all of your monetization’s earnings right back into greater servicing the community you cater to. In fact, that is my preferred model. The one I see bringing the most benefits to everyone. The people willing and capable of paying for special services fund the platform which turns that money into free services for the entirety of its community.

A non-profit organization generating money for serving its cause is no less run by passionate volunteers.
For every person who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle, I know that someone exists who is completely willing to take up that hassle, and even enjoy it. There’s nothing wrong with taking on more volunteers to assist in moderation. We’re already a community of people helping each other out after all. When it comes to things requiring specialized knowledge like you needed in order to comply with the GDPR and COPPA, if volunteers do not exist, the organization’s funding is used to bring in someone who knows how to do what nobody currently there is comfortable doing themselves.

I mentioned non-profits, and I do think if Sponge wanted to incorporate at some point, that would be a way to go that is worth considering. Especially since it seems that Sponge already has a sort of committee or board of directors. With the personal protection from liability associated with an incorporated non-profit, the volunteers would be able to rest easy at night knowing that Sponge is legally treated as its own entity, with any debts it may accrue belonging to itself.

If nobody currently leading the Sponge project is willing to file the paperwork, then maybe some day, as the projects sees new faces. However:

I have a feeling that this is exactly what’s going to happen. Maybe someone forks Sponge (although that really isn’t even necessary), creates a platform that allows Sponge monetization, and succeeds in being the hub for Sponge’s community in the same way Spigot took over Bukkit’s community. Hell, maybe it’s even possible for MC-Market to assume that position. I really do think it would be a shame to split everyone across platforms like that though. Especially considering people’s tendencies to pick just one preferable option over two rough equivalents and dedicate their time there. The more attention focused away from the Sponge platform, the less contributions the project will receive. I want to see the development community come together, on Sponge, and wherever possible, contribute to the server software, platform and resources that drive the Sponge project forward.

For now, @Owen @Inscrutable do you think it would be possible in Sponge’s near future to simply allow the advertisement/listing of paid plugins with the condition that the price is not listed on Sponge; and the transaction of both the file and the money be carried out off-site? Similar to the conditions of advertising in the service exchange area? It should be no more difficult than moderating the service exchange section, and if doing so brings in more people and makes moderation more difficult for the current team, you’ll have a larger list of people to pull volunteers from to compensate for it.