Wednesday, November 15, 2006

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COPYING A CONTROVERSY (Updated)

Protesters_confront_copybot_seller_2

If the earliest days of Second Life resemble the first century of American history (and they do) then the most recent years of the world seem to be replicating the last couple decades of the Internet in miniature form.  Throughout 2004, SL was an obscure medium for gamers, techies, and assorted early adopters— not unlike the Net’s Usenet groups of the 80s and early 90s— then somewhere in mid-2005, began attracting substantial interest from real world businesses and the mainstream media.  Which, much like Netscape’s initial public offering in 1995, led to the mini-dot com boom we’re awash in now, with massive brick-and-mortar corporations throwing money at the world with a kind of frantic urgency.  (And like the original boom, usually ending up with lightly-trafficked sites of ambivalent success.)

Right on schedule, the peer-to-peer, open source movement that consumed the Internet of the late 90s arrived to Second Life’s community in recent weeks, beginning with the idealism of talented hackers creating cool applications— which quickly careened into widespread protest, accusations of IP theft, and economic chaos.

Welcome to the Napster era of Second Life. This time, the part of Shawn Fanning is played in part by a tiny pink cat, while everyone else in the world gets to be Metallica. But if I recall right, Lars Ulrich never tried to crush Fanning with a giant boulder.

First, the cool hack from idealistic coders: it begins with libsecondlife, a group of Residents attempting (with Linden Lab’s explicit blessing) to reverse engineer an open source, modified BSD-licensed version of the Second Life client. The ultimate goal are limitless versions of the client, operating on thousands of independent servers insuring Second Life’s spread through the entire Net. While the group has been operating for months, in the last week or two they introduced an in-world demonstration of their client that very quickly became the buzz of the community. The libsecondlife team had figured out a way to log automated avatars into the world, using their scaled down version of the client.

Interviewing_eddy_stryker
With Eddy Stryker

“The client is a small command-line program written in C# that has all the code needed to ‘speak Second Life’, so to speak,” libsecondlife member Eddy Stryker explained, when he showed me the technology last week. “From the server's point of view it looks and acts exactly like a normal client logging in to the grid, going through all the same steps, it just sends less data… Basically they look and act just like a normal client with a lot of options turned off or turned down.”

The hack suggested a way of finally introducing AIs and non-player characters into the world, creating endless possibilities for game development, simulation, and more, but that wasn’t even the coolest part. Because not only had they figured out a way of introducing artificial avatars, they’d also hacked up a way of cloning existing avatars, clothes included. Not just one or two clones, but over a dozen, dropping out of the sky like godspawn.

Edited in double-time, this video demonstration features me, Talila Liu, and Gwyneth Llewelyn and our several dozen doppelgangers: 

Clone_demo

See the video here. Incidental music generously provided by my friend Mr. Nolan Cook, freelance composer and guitarist with DIMES and THE RESIDENTS.

“It logs in to SL, reads the appearances of the closest avatar, and sets its appearance exactly like that person had theirs set,” Stryker explained to me, while I stood amid a forest of Hamlets. “If someone else moves closer it clones that person instead. It's fairly simple code actually..."  And libsecondlife was able to do that with a single server, running multiple mini versions of their open source Second Life viewer.  It was the first public demonstration, but clones had already been released into the world, he added, “silently teleporting from sim to sim collecting data, or running tests on private islands.”

“So the one bad thing I see with this is designers of clothes and stuff bitching,” Talila Liu observed, after her run through the cloning process.

“Yeah,” Eddy Stryker acknowledged, “it could be a problem at some point, and that's a general issue for Second Life overall.  This specific bot, though, doesn't save any information, so when you turn it off all the temporary data is erased.” Eddy already had an application of his own in mind. “I am working on a project for a client right now that needs these mannequins,” he said, “which is going to have an early preview in the first week of December. But at the same time, the libsecondlife library is open for anyone to use, and we have a channel of developers that are all working on their own projects.”

He said that last week, and in retrospect, it was an ominous statement. Because while libsecondlife’s cloning bot didn’t save any information about the avatars it imitated, a similar libSL application, CopyBot, did. Intended by the group as an offline debugging tool, it existed in their site’s source code repository, and someone took advantage of the group’s open library to compile a version— and start selling it in-world. Several more people got into the CopyBot sales business.

And within a few days, as Talila Liu had predicted, CopyBot was savaging the community of Second Life content creators.  But they did more than bitch about it

Many of them expressed their fears to Linden Lab. An announcement from the official company blog addressed their concerns, but did not generally resolve those worries, for it began by saying, “Copying does not always mean theft. There can be legitimate uses for copying, just as there are on the web.” Which was, to be sure, a totally valid observation to make, but for some content creators, that seemed to suggest Linden Lab was taking a neutral stance on CopyBot, telling them instead to take it up with a DMCA suit, if they felt their IP rights were being violated.

And so concern became panic, or anger, or both. Many content creators took their grievances to the marketplace, closing down their shops and nightclubs and venues, in protest:

Copybot_protest

As of yesterday, over a hundred locations were shuttered, including some of the most popular sites in Second Life, like The Edge nightclub of Jenna Fairplay. While there were surely hundreds if not thousands of other storeowners and vendors who didn’t join the boycott, the impact of those who did was undeniable. It was quite possibly the largest and most substantial collective protest staged against a Linden Lab policy since the tax protest of 2003; and like that teacrate rebellion, it was an open display of no-confidence in the company’s commitment to a core tenet of the society. The tax revolt was fueled by a policy that seemed to penalize excessive content creation; fairly or unfairly, the CopyBot Boycott of 2006 was driven by fears that Linden Lab would not be an active defender of users’ IP rights.

But the protest didn’t stop at the boycott, and the several Residents who were selling the CopyBot soon found themselves swarmed by Residents waving signs and shouting slogans.

Copybot_seller

Which brings us back to the tiny pink cat, who yesterday was one of the Residents selling the CopyBot— in his case for L$1500, either as a money-making opportunity, or a way to grief worried Residents, or both.  (In a brief, somewhat incoherent interview, the cat claimed that he’d sold over a hundred copies of CopyBot, and that he was well in his rights to do so, since Linden Lab “said it was OK to use, as long as you weren't violating copyright.”) When I arrived, he was standing next to his vending machine, trying to keep it clear of obstructions.  Not satisfied with mere sign-waving, some protesters kept rezzing large wooden barriers that would block the cat’s vending machine, which he in turn kept deleting away. 

He was a football-sized miscreant, and in the face of several dozen Residents swearing and chanting at him, stood there silently, which seemed to enrage them even further.  One Resident created a massive boulder, instantiating it next to the vendor, and as it grew a hundred meters in diameter, flung cat, protesters, and embedded reporter skyward in every direction:

Disrupting_copybot_seller

And so it continued, there and throughout the grid, content creators and their allies versus those who would unleash CopyBot into the world.

Blocking_the_copybot_seller

Within hours of this, Linden Lab reasserted its authority, in tones both apologetic to the community at large and angry at the exploiters. Thenceforth, senior developer Cory Linden announced, use of the CopyBot or similar technology would be considered a violation of the world’s Terms of Service. Violators were now subject to permanent exile.

And with that, in the span of a few days, the Copybot controversy—at least in terms of an active protest— was resolved.

The fallout, of course, continues. And in its way of being a parallel, alternate world history of the Internet, Second Life has finally reached a place that’s more or less on a par with the Net as it is now, where arguments over digital rights management and file trading still rage. On the larger Internet, those debates generally pit larger corporations against their consumers, the RIAA and the MPAA versus, well, everyone else. But in a world where everyone by definition can, with a few clicks, become a content-creating entrepreneur, the debate has become egalitarian, pitting creator against creator, each with their own personal view of what constitutes theft and fair use, and the degree of faith they place in having their IP rights kept sacrosanct in Second Life.

You can see that in my blog’s Open Forum on the topic, where for example, Gwyneth Llewelyn observes, “I find it amusing but perhaps educational to see how freely people rip off MP3 or movies or applications or games, without thinking twice that they are effectively violating other people's copyrights... but in SL, they suddenly understand what ‘content piracy’ is all about!”

In coming months, Linden Lab promises to implement Creative Commons licensing, creation date watermarks, and other tools which enable Resident creators to make more plain which content they created, and when, and what compensation they expect in return, for its use. Perhaps those features will be enough to restore the confidence of those who felt most threatened by CopyBot; perhaps by then, for one reason or another, it won’t matter.

As for libsecondlife, a group widely admired for its hacking skills, they are now anathema with many who depend on the creation of SL fashion and other content for their livelihood. “Some are just plain scared,” LibSL member Baba Yamamoto tells me. “Some hate us… we've had people leave the group because of the reaction their friends had… we've been banned outright from what sounds like half of Second Life, if you believe the forums.”

But Baba still sees a positive outcome in all this.

“I tried my best to explain what CopyBot is, and why it's inevitable,” he says. They regret making the technology freely available, he insists, but do not regret “the exposure of the problem we face because of it. CopyBot does nothing that an open source client couldn’t do. It deals with only what the clients are sent.”  In other words, while CopyBot may have been obliterated from the world, the fact still remains that computer graphics which are visible over the Internet are, by their very nature, copyable.

“We learned from CopyBot," Baba says, "to be more careful with what we release publicly. The problem is that we are open source and our source code is public.”  As with Eddie Stryker, it strikes me that Baba Yamamoto doesn’t seem emotionally engaged by the controversy, evincing a programmers’ fixation with the reality that code makes law— but an emotional indifference to the furor it caused. I suggest as much to him.

“Personally I'm not upset by CopyBot,” he acknowledges. “I can’t speak for other [libsecondlife members]. “I wish we had done it a bit differently, but I feel this outcome was inevitable. We may come off a bit worse than if we had done it differently, but I don’t think we could prevent it.”

“This seems like another case of talented coders who create a very cool hack for the challenge,” I say, “and only realize the possible negative social consequences after the damage has been done. Sound fair?”

“That sounds true. Still we should have handled it better. [But] I still stand behind my decision to publicize the insecurity of the system. The way CopyBot was presented was not right, but this would still be the result…

“Until now people felt safe, sort of,” says Baba Yamamoto, “they figure the content is protected.”

And while few are inclined to be thankful, CopyBot has liberated them from that illusion.

Eric Rice has related thoughts; Tao Takashi also has a great write-up on the larger issues at play.

UPDATE, 11/16An announcement posted on the Libsecondlife website this morning begins with this statement:  "The libsecondlife team was disappointed this morning to learn that several days ago, Baba Yamamoto and Nimrod Yaffle were both aware of and flaunting the misuse potential of the CopyBot test-suite. Mindless of the consequences of their actions, they persisted in demonstrating and distributing the application. In light of this betrayal of our trust and reckless attitude toward intellectual property concerns, we will not permit them to stand alongside us. Nimrod Yaffle was not, and has never been, a part of libsecondlife. Baba Yamamoto has now been told formally that he is no longer a part of the team and all his access has been withdrawn.  We will now restrict developer access to those who are capable of demonstrating maturity and self restraint, and who are respectful of the trust placed in us by Linden Lab and the greater SL community."  Confusingly, the post's author is listed as Baba Yamamoto.  Investigating further.

Note:  This post has been updated several times since publication yesterday afternoon.  Scroll to end of story to read Updates. - HA, 11/16

2nd Note:  Here's a follow-up to this story. - HA, 11/26

2ND UPDATE, 11/16, 2:30pm:  According to Linden Lab Director of Community Services Daniel Linden, "the company has received slightly fewer than 100 complaints regarding the use of Copybot by close to fifty individuals."

3RD UPDATE, 11/16, 9:45pm:  In this SL blog and others, Residents have pointed to a libsecondlife IRC chat log that seems to imply that members of libsecondlife, including Baba Yamamoto, actually made CopyBot publicly available out of willful malice or gleeful nihilism, knowing full well the chaos it would cause.  In Comments below, Yamamoto has just posted an annotated explanation of the chat log, to argue that these claims were taken out of context.

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Szabo Horn

Good reporting but you missed a key point. Cory Linden says "the use of CopyBot or any other external application to make unauthorized duplicates within Second Life will be treated as a violation of Section 4.2 of the Second Life." This means authorized copying is OK. Otherwise they would ban the Bot alltogether. This is exactly why content creators are up in arms and the issue is not over. Because the bot is free to be sold in SL for legitimate copying no one for a minute believes it will be used in this way. Perhaps the genie is out of the bottle but it sure as hell would help if LL took a stronger stand to protect the users who have built their world.

Cocoanut Koala

"Cory Linden announced, use of the CopyBot or similar technology would be considered a violation of the world’s Terms of Service. Violators were now subject to permanent exile.

"And with that, in the span of a few days, the Copybot controversy—at least in terms of an active protest— was resolved."

------

This is absolutely incorrect, Hamlet.

Here are the facts:

Cory said that using the copybot to make unauthorized copies of items would be considered against the TOS, at least until Q12007. and that anyone doing MAY lose their account.

The copybot itself - as well as using it to make your own copies of things - is still perfectly legal.

Using the copybot and having the copybotis fully condoned by the Lindens.

Which is unacceptable. If your item has been copied by someone, you can file an AR against that person, but that person will likely be an alt.

The Lindens may - or may not - decide to discipline that alt (at least until Q12007, who like as not will be long-gone by that time. You can also file a DMCA notice, or take other legal action against that person will like as not be completely untracable.

Meanwhile the damage is done and your goods are now out as freebies, with the alt's name on them as creator.

As for this -

"And with that, in the span of a few days, the Copybot controversy—at least in terms of an active protest— was resolved."

- wishful thinking.

Your declaring it so does not make it so.

coco

kay

I totaly agree coco. Saying so dosnt make done. I think linden labs handled this very poorly. The first responce was horible and did not help verry much. I only liked the 2nd because it should have been the first. There is much more to be done and they need to do it. I know things are copyable if somone tries hard enough but to even let it get that far, to sell that long, without doing somthing is insane to me. Sometimes i feel like linden labs is disconected from the comunity intirely? why is that? Since i joined it seems customer service (wide and narow )has gone from a 9 to a 1.
Kay

Siggy

I pose the question I posed to Baba and Co at the copybot awareness meeting today - and never got an (sufficient) answer to:

If the motives of libsl are the admirable and lofty goals of creating new clients - why are the only things from libsl to be seen in world are things that circumvent the current ways that SL works?

(all of which have been commercially distributed at some point)

God Mode - circumventing things such as depth of sight and other things.

Big Prims - circumventing the limitations of 10m.

Copybot - circumventing of permissions.


Another question I pose: If as has been stated that the permissions checked are handled on the client side... do we WANT an open source client - as any checks would be made on something you can get the source code to - and taking out permissions checks would be a trivial matter - certainly no harder than cracking Deluxe Paint IV in the 90s.

Perhaps LL should revamp its permissions to server side before even thinking about open source clients.. 'too hard - take too long?' well get the fuck up off your arse and stop making ripply water and do something 'not fun' for a goddamn change.

siggy


Heres some more interesting 'facts' - and why you should be wary of who holds the keys to the kingdom:


http://www.sluniverse.com/forums/Topic12867-1-1.aspx

karlK

Great article,
The Lindens have said all along that SL is a platform. To ban 3rd party clients would be like banning all browsers besides Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Web. Sure it would be a lot easier to prevent people from breaking copyright laws, but thankfully it is not the case. I think we can all see that the web is a richer place because of it.

And to demand that LL "not allow" copybot to be sold (however that would work) because it has an illegal use is just foolish, that's like banning a VCR because it could be used to make illegal copies, or banning photocopy machines, or cameras, etc.

I am continually shocked at how shortsighted and downright fascist so many SLers get when faced with anything that threatens their comfortable little income streams.

I am glad LL has the forsight to see the bigger picture here despite all the "protests". My only worry is that they don't stand their ground this time. They have a real history of backing down in the face of controversy.
Great job LibSL guys, I believe that great things will come out of your work and one day we will all be using a much better SL client because of the work you are doing today. I for one am very interested in the AI applications of your client and look forward to experimenting with that in the future, assuming of course some of the above commeators don't get their way and make experimenting with new technologies illegal/against TOS.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Thanks for the article, Hamlet. I was worried that Eddy Stryker's cool concept of using meshed avatars for AIs, bots, and mannequins for clothes shops would never see the deserved light on NWN because of the controversy.

I'm not sure the hysteria is "over" yet. For one, I was a bit surprised of the witch-hunting that is going on at this very moment: residents compiling lists and lists of names with people vaguely associated with the project, its uses, or its support. When I say "vaguely" I'm even including people like Moopf Mooray, who just sold a vendor, ages ago, to someone that used it so sell the CopyBot. Now he's a prime suspect. But the escalade of witch-hunting can continue: next will come people who rented/sold land to members of the libSL project or to the "hundreds" of residents who bought the device. Or any device.

Witch-hunting becomes dangerous when Linden Lab starts to look at those resident-compiled lists and takes action against the people there — on a preventive basis, ie. ban first, ask questions later. Thus at this stage, with the crowd running with their torches and pitchforks, everybody is now unsafe and can become a target. Don't like your neighbour? Claim under an alt that she is a user of CopyBot, send a few fake pictures to Linden Lab, they'll promptly issue a suspension (and then delete your own alt, of course). This is witch-hunting turned into McCarthyism: people getting banned because they might once have shown support to either libSL or any people involved in the project.

It can become even more drastic. I might have items bought from Eddy Stryker, Baba Yamamoto, or Adam Zaius in my inventory. One day I might rez one of them in-world and someone might look at the creator tag and yell: "ooooh you copybot supporter! You have bought an item from the Evil Copybotters!" and promptly AR me to LL. What should LL do? I *have* publicly supported libSL (it's easy to dig through Google for that). Even more — I have *customers* that are asking for some features using libSL, which I might need to hire programmers for dealing with those (an example would be a better IM system, or ways to get more parcel data). Suddenly, I'm scared, since I know it's next to impossible to appeal to LL's decisions once they were set!

As a resident of Second Life, I cannot live in "fear" that anyone can condemn my actions without a fair trial. I lived under a right-wing dictatorship in RL. It meant security (ie. anyone who talked against the regime were put in the jail) without the right to free expression. It did not mean that commerce stopped — rather the contrary, it flourished under the benevolent protection of the corporativistic state — but it was stifled because of the lack of incentive to adopt new technologies and new methods of production and management. Put into a word — it was not a terror-inspiring regime, but it was not a free one, either.

So the issues are, for me, not "copyright" any more. These have perhaps been dealt with (as you, Hamlet, pointed out). The issue now is McCarthyism and witch-hunting — and a willing Linden Lab that might enforce these thinsg without due, fair process, just to appease their residents.

This is for me the most dangerous issue. As someone setting up a company to work in SL, as well as promoting a few communities in SL (Neufreistadt, the Thinkers' group) and projects (the SL Chamber of Commerce), I'm now worried. At any moment I can get an email from LL telling me that I have been banned, without reason, but also without a way to appeal that decision. What should I do? Sue Linden Lab for that decision, if that happens? I have no money for that (yet). Or should I simply get a plethora of alts, all with different registration data, using different computers, just that I might be able to continue my work under a different identity?

These are my worrying thoughts. For the Town Hall meeting later, I won't concern myself with the copyrights any more — I've studied the legal cases surrounding Napster and others, courtesy to the ACM's Communications magazine which always publishes a lot of legal information about copyright violations on the Internet — but with the witch-hunting and a fear of LL going the McCarthy way.

The crowd is not wise. It's hysterical and insane. And the order needs to be enforced.

Luth Brodie

Typical spin for you Hamlet. Only here will you read that libSL are "talented hackers creating cool applications" and content creators have the crazy mob mentality. There is nothing crazy about expecting LL to honour the IP rights they have been promising on the website and in the press for as long as I can remember. Oh wait we are talking about LL.

This isn't good reporting, its biased spin like everything else you write. Did you speak to any of the protesters? You have quoted the creators, supporters and resellers of copybot but oddly not a single protester.

For Cory to state the obvious that circumventing the permissions system is against the TOS is not resolving the situation. We have been asking for quite a long time now for stricter policies on theft. If they can have a zero tolerance policy on grid attacks, why can't that be extended to IP theft? While promises to work on better ways to identify the creator are a good step, the long list of broken promises makes it difficult to believe.

As for the analogy between buying stolen in world content and ripped mp3s, films, and software is lacking. The difference being is that you know 100% that you are stealing. They specifically went to the site to obtain that item for free, or purchased a film that is still in the theaters from a vendor in a pub. Where as a person buying a stolen item in SL will probably not know that the vendor did not create it. If I buy an item out of the boot of a car I should assume that it's stolen, but if I walk into shop I also should expect it to NOT be stolen. In one case you make a decision to support theft, in the other you don't.

Bassing support of copybot on the assumption that all content creators have downloaded such things and "they suddenly understand what ‘content piracy’ is all about," is a bit off. Not all of us download pirated music, film or software.

Gwyneth: Calling for order to be enforced is doing the same thing you seem to be against. McCarthyism is ok if its against people you disagree with? We are angry at LL, we are angry at the way this has unfolded, we are angry at the lack of options. We have every right to be against it as you have a right to be for it.

Grouping everyone with the hysterical title is more then uncalled for. You are doing the exact same thing to us as you are accusing us of doing. Not everyone is witch-hunting and from what I've read its only a few. The idea that you will be banned based your support of copybot to me is far more hysterical then a content creator wanting a semblance of protection from out of control theft.

Food for thought

"This is for me the most dangerous issue. As someone setting up a company to work in SL, as well as promoting a few communities in SL (Neufreistadt, the Thinkers' group) and projects (the SL Chamber of Commerce), I'm now worried. At any moment I can get an email from LL telling me that I have been banned, without reason, but also without a way to appeal that decision. "

Which of course trumps others who HAVE set up companies in Second Life to work.... who now have their livelyhoods at stake.

And talking of groups that whould be worried?

Honda Nissan Dell etc....

Carsten Agger

Copying is copying, and will never be difficult; thus, it shouldn't be banned.

This means that online economies like SL shouldn't go basing themselves on the notion that items they created are uncopyable - someone will always be able to circumvent such systems.

So I suspect it's coping with the basing technology behind SL and learn to deal with it. The Lindens should react by making the CopyBot freely available to everybody (so it can't be sold) and people should try to figure out other ways to build themselves a life in SL. I don't really understand the outrage - I mean, it's not like the original that is copied gets stolen.

poppa

Histrionic and whiny premise: libsl and baba as Shawn Fanning? Are you kidding? You start with how you feel about a story and work it out from there, rather than gathering as many interviews and facts as possible and writing a well-informed piece. That's not reporting, that is editorializing.Calm down, buddy. I am sure someone will end up putting that story together, just probably not here.

Ben Mostel

This is Linden Lab's fault for making "shopping" the primary endeavor of their entire little world.

If there were no copying controls in the beginning, maybe they wouldn't have reached their current popularity. But I was turned off by the obsession with capitalist utopia, and I trust other people were too. I think it would have been more popular, and there would have been more creation.

Call me crazy.

d0ct0r pr0ct0r

Carsten's post is intriguing- it suggests we adjust our mindsets about life in a virtual world. Many people try to create a world on SL that they claim is new and different, but they instead tend to recreate RL in all its capitalistic, selfish, elitist glory. The only thing that is "different" is that an average-looking Jane or Joe becomes a supermodel or a poor student in RL lives in a SL mansion. All we do is bring RL values into SL (not an unexpected development, of course, just unfortunate, in my opinion). That saying, "wherever you go, there you are" is quite appropriate.

So "what if" people WERE able to let go of their RL minds and truly live in a SL-type world where being rich and/or famous didn't matter? Where using our creativity to create our appearances and objects wasn't to make ourselves "better" or more "valued" than anyone else but to celebrate our collective artistry and imagination? To create fun and intriguing spaces to explore? To meet other people? I know, it's a pipe dream, but it saddens me that desires for money and recognition trump all other human values in both the real AND virtual worlds.

Wherever we go, there we are.

Ben Mostel

Siggy says:

Perhaps LL should revamp its permissions to server side before even thinking about open source clients.. 'too hard - take too long?'
Consider that for a moment. If the textures and models are sent to the client for display, then the client can just as easily keep them for other purposes, for example re-uploading. The only remotely feasible way to prevent this while allowing OSS clients is DRM. Which is hard. Thank God.

Memory Harker

Oh my.

Is this why savvy CEOs hang out in Second Life?

Or is this why they will, those CEOs, no longer hang out in Second Life?

And how ever will the Grid be properly monetized now?

And what of Timmy Avatar, trapped on the side of that cliff? Will Lassie Linden be able to get help in time? Or will our young hero plummet to his doom?

What, oh what shall become of Second Life's nascent metaverse?

Who among us can even hope to escape this ... uh ... moosey fate?!

o.O

Michael

This controversy really confirms to me the need for an open source world project that isn't owned by a company that creates artificial scarcity of land. The best alternative to second life would be based on our current model for webpages, where you could set up your own server that hosts your own land and it could be linked to anyone elses land. The way Second Life tries to straddle the fence between an open system that is ultimately controlled by one business drastically limits the appeal.

Icon Serpentine

A post I made about security and SL: http://thisvirtuallife.blogspot.com/2006/09/trusting-second-life.html

Essentially, the only way to use a computer to protect your intellectual property is to encrypt it and never share the key.

The fundamental problem with intellectual property is that it is not technically "property" in any real sense. You don't "own" ideas unless you keep them to yourself. So when you write that nifty new program or write that amazing story -- as soon as you share it, it's out there and no longer your property. It joins with society and culture and gets reinterpreted, innovated, expressed, recycled... the whole nine-yards.

However, we have a way to capitalize on our ideas that we call copyright. Read up on it.

The problem I see here is not that someone was genious enough to reverse-engineer the SL client protocols and develop their own client that could copy entire objects. I think that is amazing and I doubt any of the nay-sayers could ever develop something so neat and potentially useful.

The problem I see here is that the content-creators are at a disadvantage when the value of their intellectual properties are not significant enough to enforce their copyrights over.

It amounts essentially to very petty theft.

However, that doesn't mean that the copybot should be banned. Hardly -- it's an innovation that surpasses anything in SL, IMO. These alternate clients have the potential to make SL something LL cannot. What we need now however, is for the platform to catch up with the rate of innovation the users are bringing. It seems like the LL devs are playing catch up with their part-time users.

Anyway -- despite the disadvantage, content-producers have to stop whining and live up to reality: your business models are faced with threats. Just as they are in the real world: your articles may get plagiarized; your t-shirt designs ripped off; your scripts copied -- whatever it is, someone else has the tools to do it just the same as you. However, the majority of people aren't thieves.

I suggest you don't believe the hype and start thinking of SL residents as criminals-in-waiting. It's a very unhealthy attitude to adopt.

Baba

Mostly if you follow IRC you can see through the jesting comments.. It
was mostly a discussion between myself and Cw. I've added notes to the
comments throughout the chat log showing how it plays out..
If you're not familiar with IRC it's a horrible place full of evil
people who talk about doing horrible things and never seeming to be
serious about anything.. (lol internets) it seems rather desensitized,
but I think it's because it's not a real place. IRC's even more out
there than Second Life.

Make of this what you will.. I tried to highlight the thoughts that go
into the things that were said...

Nov 10 18:50:05 BabaYama Cw, they did the interview like months ago <--old second cast
interview never posted(til now)

Nov 10 18:50:10 BabaYama when shit was boring <-- libsecondlife wasn't
fun enough for a podcast

Nov 10 18:50:16 BabaYama now we're gonna steal your shit<-- talking about
john hurliman's clone bot. it's interesting enough for a podcast now that
there is a controversy brewing

after that it turns into a joke about a guy from 4chan we met who was a
giant internet meme.

It continues...
Nov 10 18:51:30 Cw admittedly, yes, the highlight at that point was
injecting packets to give people god mode <-- boring

Nov 10 18:51:39 BabaYama haha
Nov 10 18:51:55 BabaYama now the highlight is "OH SHIT" <-- yeah it's
more interesting now rite?

Nov 10 18:52:09 Cw the mutha fuckin' spotlight <-- yeah it's really gonna be big news

Nov 10 18:52:31 BabaYama MUTHA FUCKIN' HALOGEN <-- huge

Nov 10 18:52:41 bushing so is the object stealer in SVN yet or not? <--nobody else but
the original developer had worked on it, we were itching
to get the code so we could finish object stuffs

Nov 10 18:52:50 bushing Cw, did ou see this?
Nov 10 18:53:00 BabaYama oh yeah our object stealer
Nov 10 18:53:05 Cw i just don't know where on the spectrum of LL
ridiculousness their "open source client" in "dec" will fall
Nov 10 18:53:08 Cw no

Nov 10 18:53:17 BabaYama and there is supposedly an exploit still
functional to steal scripts <-- speaking of theft we need to get some
more exploit testing done and get the holes patched, this is the kind of
Linden supported stuff we do (continues in pms with bushing)


Continues on suggesting that we release our findings about copybot..
It's not something to hide because as we've seen Linden Lab won't be
able to fix it, and people cannot put their faith in the permissions
system any longer... This is in IRC style of conversation with a sort of
"hacker" role play...

Nov 10 18:58:57 BabaYama we should send a press release to all the SL
news agencies with humorous h4x0r talk about all the shiz we can do with
libSL to steal and cheat
Nov 10 18:59:12 Cw this just in: pwnd
Nov 10 18:59:55 BabaYama hehe
Nov 10 18:59:57 BabaYama wait
Nov 10 18:59:59 Cw dear adam reuters: pwnd! sincerely, #libsl


Nov 10 19:00:14 BabaYama first we need to get a bot that can duplicate
all the attachments on a furry and wear them <--This would have even
larger visual effect and demonstrate what CopyBot can do..

Nov 10 19:00:46 Cw shouldn't some furry have to code that?

Nov 10 19:00:53 BabaYama ;0 <--- not sure how to respond to that
without disparaging furries

Nov 10 19:01:03 BabaYama no we will just pretend it's for stealing silly
hats <-- avoid, say something about hats

Nov 10 19:01:08 BabaYama but it works for furries too

Nov 10 19:01:19 BabaYama oh and prim hair <-- prim hair is always
a good target for a joke

Nov 10 19:01:23 BabaYama right off your head
Nov 10 19:01:26 Cw is it running right now?
Nov 10 19:01:29 BabaYama ;0
Nov 10 19:01:30 BabaYama soon

Nov 10 19:06:33 Belaya Y'know, as amusing as I find the clone bot --
rubbing that in everyone's face is seriously negative publicity, Baba.
It's not wise. <--- doubt

Nov 10 19:06:48 jhurliman so someone is able to steal a furry outfit and
learn how the creator built it. OH NOES LEARNING!
Nov 10 19:06:50 BabaYama Belaya, yes
Nov 10 19:06:50 Lancej I wonder how long it would take to have it travel
to every sim and copy every object.

Nov 10 19:06:52 BabaYama yes it's very wise <--- i believe people
should know about it.. We cannot hide this kind of thing.

Nov 10 19:06:59 Belaya Heh, your funeral.

Nov 10 19:07:10 BabaYama It's not supposed to be good publicity <---
not for making people happy about libsecondlife.. it's about the right
thing to do

Nov 10 19:07:17 Cw it's got to be done <--- agree

Nov 10 19:07:27 BabaYama damn straight Cw <--- acknowledge

Andrew Burton, aka Jarod Godel

I'm losing count. Is this the second or third method for bypassing Linden Lab's permission system?

Caranda Schreiner

Oh I see, so when BabaYama and Co were gleefully discussing how much damage they could do to SL by distributing Copybot that wasn't the juvenile foulmouthed loser type conversation it appears to be, it was in fact talented and idealistic coders indulging in a bit of "hacker role play"?

Right.

darkfoxx

"Taken out of context"
*laughs*
Hmmmyeah right as if... How stupid do yuo think us to be?
"We were just kidding around, we didn't mean it, honestly!"
Even iif you really really didn't mean for this to happen, we have you guys to thank for a lot of content creators to leave SL. Thanks guys!


Really, LibSL might be good for opensourcing, but I don't want that if it means anyone else can easily make a copy of my AV and my expensive bought outfits that I worked hard for. And don't give me that crap about '100 L$ is worth only two US$' not everyone can buy their money, and have to work hard for it.

"LL only recieved little more then 100 complaints" Yeah that's easy, if the comments you make on their blog, complaining how you saw two AV's copied in a club, (expensive AV's might I add) twice within ten minutes... That comment was 'edited out'. So yeah, they had 100 complaints they found positive enough not to ignore completely, unlike the rest that never made it to the comments section at all.

LL and the makers of LibSL are screwing us, the content creators, over. And hard.

Seven Shikami

Re: "LL only recieved little more then 100 complaints" Yeah that's easy, if the comments you make on their blog, complaining how you saw two AV's copied in a club, (expensive AV's might I add) twice within ten minutes... That comment was 'edited out'. So yeah, they had 100 complaints they found positive enough not to ignore completely, unlike the rest that never made it to the comments section at all."

They're talking about officially filed complaints through the abuse reporting system, not offhand screaming blog posts.

If you want action go through the channels they've set up FOR action. And the cynical "Bah, nobody ever responds to ARs" doesn't mean the blog is somehow a better official tool for reporting copybot abuses.

Ingrid Ingersoll

To those of you who are poo-pooing the outrage felt by content makers, do you think musical artists didn't have a right to be a tad upset over napster?

Yeah we get it. We'll have to eat it or leave SL.

Meanwhile, there should be a disclaimer somewhere on the SL splash page: "Your world, everyone's content regardless of who made it"

Carsten Agger

Ingrid and others, the problem is that because of the underlying technology, copying of artifacts will never be difficult in virtual world, so the economy shouldn't rely on it.

Several artists and writers exploit the ease with which copying is made by making their creations available under Creative Commons licenses. If you create cool stuff and get known for it, people will come to you for help if they want new cool stuff for themselves. So who cares if artifacts are copied?

The problem is, SL is not RL and the same natural laws don't apply. In RL, copying a Cadillac to create a new Cadillac takes real ressources and is going to be very difficult if I don't get an actual car factory or some CNC machines to do it.

In SL and other virtual worlds, every object can be copied for very close to zero ressources, namely the RAM or database space it takes to represent it. So you can make rules and simulated natural laws, but ways may be found around them.

So I think, that SL's inhabitants should rather change their economic perceptions to face the fact that copying is not hard ... and that if you created something beautiful, if it gets copied, people will see it all over the place, and people will know you can make new stuff like that (and you can charge them for doing so if you want); because people using CopyBot will only be able to copy your artifacts, not your ability to create new ones.

And as for the thing about stealing - it's not as if the original gets deleted, is it? So nobody's actually losing anything.

Memory Harker

JOHN (singing): Imagine no possessions, it's easy if you try ...

PAUL: Oy, Lennon, STFU!


Hey, Carsten ~ You make so much sense. ^_^

But you know as well as I do that it's not as much about "I have this thing and I like it" as it is about "I have this thing and you DON'T."

Which, as you say, probably won't ever work in virtual worlds.

Okay, everybody, all together now: paradigm shift, paradigm shift!

Cabridges Fanwood

"And as for the thing about stealing - it's not as if the original gets deleted, is it? So nobody's actually losing anything."

It's not the loss of the product that's a problem, and never was. It's the loss of the *value* of the product, which will be lessened when the product is available from anyone with a copybot instead of just the original creator.

I don't think this will ruin SL's economy or future, but it will be changed and I'm not sure we'll see the kinds of labor-intensive products we've seen so far. As of now, they are no longer cost-effective. And personally I think that means we're all losing something.

Vintnerd

My my, isn't this an amusing bit of hypocracy.

All this talk about copyright, restricting people's ability to make copies of items, enforcement, open source, tools being used for good or evil, developers releasing tools that /might/ be used to break laws.

Do you know how easy it would be to take this story and just flip a few words around? Start slipping in "mp3" and "file sharing" and "RIAA" and so on and suddenly have all the angry "how dare they block me from my legal right to..." posts? Or the "They need to get with the proverbial system and quit fighting it - they need to change their business models or die!" posts?

For example, suppose I buy an item from a vendor that can't be duplicated. Shouldn't it be my RIGHT to create a personal duplicate FOR MY OWN ARCHAIVAL PURPOSES using CopyBot? Well? That's what people say about music all the time.

Cabridges Fanwood

Vintnerd - so your position is that everyone complaining about copybot is hypocritical because they also complain about the RIAA? You know this for a fact?

There are a lot of people who have placed their confidence, wisely or not, in the faith that SL could protect their intellectual property. Even though they were warned that anything could be stolen, it was always too vague or far off a concept to really worry about. They invested a great deal of time in their products, hoping to be able to charge enough to make the effort worthwhile. Now that world has changed because what was possible before through some tricky manuevers is now ridiculously easy, and their entire business model has to be changed immediately.

It's a shock to the system. Accusing all of them of hypocrisy doesn't make it easier, especially when if even one of them has never stolen a song (and many haven't) your post just looks ill-informed and scornful. Better to work towards a way for creators to continue to work in the new system, rather than insulting them during the transition.

Ingrid Ingersoll

On a related note, this statement of Gwyn's annoyed me:

Gwyneth Llewelyn observes, “I find it amusing but perhaps educational to see how freely people rip off MP3 or movies or applications or games, without thinking twice that they are effectively violating other people's copyrights... but in SL, they suddenly understand what ‘content piracy’ is all about!”

Yeah. Many of us knew what it was about before this and knew that it was wrong. But she's amused that we're now being "educated". Pompous and obnoxious thing to say.

Icon Serpentine

Have you ever wondered how photographers had to cope with the Internet? Think about how they felt when they realized that by the very nature of the technology used to view their webpages, people were creating their own copies of their images. At any point their hard-work could be downloaded, copied, and distributed. Imagine that...

and then realize that they still make money on the Internet.

Now think of the big and small record labels. I'm a musician IRL and I own my own small label. All the junk the RIAA is accusing the world of is a load of BS. Their sales figures have only increased in the past two years and their bottom line was never affected. What they are doing is bullying people in to buying more of their product and lobbying to ruin copyright for consumers -- extensions on copyright terms, abolishment of fair use, etc. All these things will ensure that the Beatles will never become public-domain and that you can only listen to that $2 song you downloaded once, in the dark, and completely alone.

In the short-term, yes it sucks. I sympathize with the content creators who have to put up with this. However, I have seen this thing happen a bazillion times to every business invested in digital properties. It's not a new concept. Content creators in SL are going to have to think of new ways to capitalize on their efforts that don't involve scarcity and distribution control -- the benefits that libSL open up are simply too great to ban and ignore.

virtualidiot

It's fucking VR people, and it's electronic, you can't possibly think of protecting your digital creation as not being copyable. Deal and get on with your RL and not 2L.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Oh yes, BTW, I'm proud of being 'pompous' and 'obnoxious' — sometimes, that's what it takes to deal with ethical and legal issues.

And yes, I'm still 'amused' by the strength of the arguments for enforcing any possibility of illegally copying digital content. As so many people have found out on the Internet — and only now on Second Life, apparently — if you ban a certain technology, only criminals will have access to it.

The issue that is, indeed, worth discussing, is the question of *value*. If someone makes a SL living out of their content — say, L$1,000-10,000 a month — and have solid evidence that their content was illegally duplicated, how will they ever manage to pay to go through the whole DMCA process? It's simply not worth the cost. Thus, it's pretty obvious that the small-scale content providers in SL will have no safeguards — ever — unless LL changes the way they deal with claims of ilegitimately duplicated content. Which they very likely will not do — ever — since they're not a (copyright) law enforcement agency, but just a "data carrier".

Obviously enough, someone making several thousands of US$ from their SL content will be able to afford lawyers and full legal action against anyone using copybot or any content duplication system. But how many people can afford it? A "few thousands", if you look at LL's economy statistics page. So it's quite clear that the remaining hundreds of thousands of users will not be wealthy enough to be able to pay for legal action. These are the ones that will get hurt more.

But how much will they be hurt? Icon Serpentine's comment does ring so very true: "not much" is the answer that is more close to the truth than anything else. It's not as if a content creator in SL has no way to prove they were the first in producing that content — just submit it to the Creative Commons database, and you'll get a chance to tell the whole world that you were, indeed, the first to create a certain type of content.

You won't be able to use that registration for legal action — unless you can afford it — or even to get Linden Lab to remove duplicated content (although one might try), but... you'll still be able to "play the drama game". A few headlines on the SL media saying "Random Hacker Stole My Content And I Can Prove It!" (with links to the relevant entries on the CC database) will work wonders for your business. Probably even emotionally appeal to the wider audience that will buy more from a talented content creator that managed to convince a large audience on how much they were "hurt".

Like Icon, I've seen this happening all over the Internet — and it's still happening. People are still bragging about the amount of illegitimately copied music and videos they download by the hundreds of gigabytes every day. This hasn't stopped the artists and directors to produce more and better, or to make "music" and "video" valueless because it's so easy to duplicate. (One could argue that both have expanded their fandom beyond their wildest dreams... although I won't explore that argument further).

In the music business, these days, musicians often get their earnings by doing concerts and tours, or by selling merchandising, or getting contracts for advertising products... and not only from selling CDs on the shops. George Lucas made more money from licensing his "Star Wars" brand for merchandise than from the movies themselves. I fully understand that these are extreme exceptions and that one cannot hope that the whole content industry in SL changes from one day to the other.

But... one can look at the hard facts. How much was lost, in L$, because content was duplicated? How many people saw their business trickling to a halt because now everybody could get *their* content for free, at the click of a button? How can we estimate these losses? All we have are the economy statistics. There was a short "bump" for a few days on the LindeX (as the hysterics made people sell everything and leave SL), but the amount of money transacted there pretty much remains the same after the shock. The LindeX hasn't collapsed. We're still exchanging money in-world, at a rate over half a million dollars per month. The land prices are even raising slowly (in antecipation of the expected tier changes) and not plummeting down as people allegedly sell their plots and run away. LL has announced on their blog that they have an increase of 30% on orders for private islands.

So, if people were so scared and so hysteric, leaving SL forever in panic — if content is suddenly "worthless" due to easy duplication — why doesn't the statistical data support those claims? Are the statistics lying?

In my mind, I think that the statistics are pretty accurate, and that all this hysteria wasn't worth it, except as an educational endeavour — to inform people the hard facts about digital content. A wide audience finally understood the concept of the "analogue whole" — if you can see it on your screen, you can copy it. And like so many things that happened before in SL, the sky didn't fall. But one thing definitely changed — the trust in LL has gone down a few notches again, as people started to understand the *truth* about the technology behind Second Life — technology cannot fix social issues. It can certainly help (or we wouldn't live in a technological society!), but there are limits to the miracles we can expect from technology. In essence, the analogue hole cannot be plugged easily — not for MP3s, not for videos, and certainly not for digital content in SL.

Duplicating other people's copyrights without their explicit permission is still illegal and immoral — no matter if it can't be technically enforced, and it's too expensive to enforce it legally. It can still be very efficiently enforced *socially*. The problem is that this is a double-edged sword... and one that is far from being easy to accomplish fairly and justly.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

... and that should have read "more than half a million US$ per day", of course.

Interfect Sonic

How about this:
LL revamps SL to send completed, 3d models instead of prims to the client. However, people still use prims to build. CopyBot (or any future program) cannot see what prims something is made of, and thus cannot copy it by simply creating the same prims. However, we wouldn't need a bunch of DRM stuff.

Interfect Sonic

This hilights a problem with (at least American) law: Justice only seems to come out at the one end when you put a lot of money into the other.

williamross1908 Ambrose

Copybot, wow...we should have all seen this one coming... Sl being held hostage by its own brainchild. My attitude is that the ridiculous pricing for some of the items around Sl is what has bred this outrageously scripted monster. We are not all equally well versed at the talents of scripting, building, etcetera and even though we can all learn. Who is to teach some of the fantastic ways not to stay broke in second life. It's a jungle in there. I've built two clubs, the first was Club Reactor. This club was taken over my griefers first, then Suave business types promising my staff better wages, add on a few random scripted thefts taking cash from my pay per minute dance poles as nobody was there, and finally my management, fed up, just quit. The land for that club sold in 1 minute and 40 seconds. I wonder was it about the real estate or did I just make somebody mad. My guess is the latter, but it's ok, The new club is nicer ans doesn't sit on a server boundary. Yay! Nobody falls through my floor now.

Philip Cooper (RL) Philip Gloucester (SL)

Our IP law firm Crossguard has opened a branch in SL and we are working with various interested parties to debate how to achieve a better mechanism for IP protection in SL. My own view is that something akin to the ICANN UDRP policy & rules on cybersquatting would be a way forward, but it needs Linden Labs to put any mechanism into SL's TOS to have a workable system. Email or IM me with your thoughts/comments - A community of interests is needed to push this forward.

Machinator

Hmm. If I made art assets in 3d max and import them into my mod, and they get reused without permission, you can be damn sure I would sue. Same goes for any digital development.

Trying to argue that somehow these original works are not original works merely because they were created in a virtual space is disingenuous.

You can't have your cake (land scarcity) and eat it too. Maybe open up the world and give everyone a free 10000 square meters. Then you would be practicing what you preach.

My girlfriend just bought into this whole thing (for only a month, thank god) and she wanted me to look at the tools for design since I am a 3d artist. When I heard about this I said 'Eh? Why bother?'. If I create content outside of SL, I own it, no questions asked.

Also, the interface is clunky as hell and the every minor transaction has a fee. The entire system is festooned with rules and regulations, but you won't regulate the ownership permissions that SL itself introduced? The gall.

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