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Note: This question is just for my curiosity

So from what I know, it is 100% legal to write your own Minecraft server software that is interoperable with the Minecraft client. This can be done by reverse-engineering the protocol, without looking at Minecraft's server code.

So in this case, must you still abide to the EULA (end-user license agreement) of Minecraft server's? The Vanilla server software require's you to accept this by typing "true" in a text file, but this doesn't apply with custom server software.

  • Most big/popular servers use modified software and they are still not allowed to e.g. sell in-game items for real money. I'm sure that many would do it, if it was just a matter of changing the server code. But that's already my only reasoning. And there will probably be a grey area no matter how this is defined, because you could write a custom Minecraft server or client from scratch (I occasionally use a minimal Minecraft client written from scratch myself) or mod an existing one heavily. You could even write your own server that regular clients can connect to and also your own client. – Fabian Röling Apr 25 at 17:46
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Legally, no. However Microsoft has means other than legal ones to enforce their rules.

They can, for instance, blacklist servers that do not adhere to their EULA. That means unmodified clients (ie: your players) will not be able to connect to your server. It doesn't matter if you're legally bound to the EULA or not.

The result is effectively a death sentence for any server, and that's why many servers using 3rd party code still abide by the Minecraft EULA.

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