Loose Ends

A lot has been going on in and about Second Life, and I’ve been posting photos while trying to wrap my brain around things… things which develop and change faster than I can get a grip on them. It’s like the motif of the “Wizard’s Duel” from mythology, folk tunes, and the battle between Merlin and Mim in Disney’s treacly version of The Sword in the Stone.

But it also seems that, by not jumping in with all four paws, I’ve inadvertently allowed a couple of issues to settle down and become easier to grasp. So here’s some (hopefully) brief comments.

The Big Ripoff?

Twice, I’ve started posts about the content rip-and-redistribute issue. One of them rambled its way onto these pages as the “Goon Squad” post. The other — never finished because it was too damn long — tried to relate the creation of virtual-world 3D content to the authorship of literature on the 2D Web, and how the technology that makes creation possible includes within it the capability to copy and redistribute without permission. Meanwhile, the tsuris continues in the blogs and forums; most recently to new heights of hysteria in this New World Notes entry.  So, here’s my attempt to summarize:

  • Plagiarism, counterfeiting, whatever you want to call it, is wrong, prima facie.
  • The ability to copy, with or without permission, is by necessity inherent in the code. Open-source or closed, 3rd-party or LL’s default — makes no difference.
  • Trying to defeat the technical ability to rip unauthorized copies either (a) causes an “arms race” of exploits vs. hole-plugging, or (b) breaks the code altogether.
  • The only class of content creators who appear to be up in arms about this issue are the “fashionistas” — the people in the skin/clothing/shoes/accessories business.  Have the pre-fab housing makers been hit?  Are sculptures and other one-of-a-kind works of art being copybotted?
  • The actual economic effect of rip-and-redistribute on the vendors who have been victims of it is not quantified.  Why?  The vendors are shoestring operations — “mom-and-pop” stores, if you will — who have neither the time nor the staff to investigate… and how do you count a “lost” sale you never learn of?
  • There may be an irreducible fraction of the population who have no compunction against taking what is not theirs, but most people are not thieves.

Of the wide range of comments appended to that NWN post, the one from Astrid Panache made the most sense to me.  My advice to the fashionistas (as if they’d listen to a common consumer of their goods…):  Bite the bullet, accept the loss you can’t measure anyway as a cost of doing business, and market your wares to the vast majority of honest people on the Grid.
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The Nebraska Archipelago

“Second Life Enterprise: The next frontier… to seek out new markets and boldly go where no avatar really wants to go: to work.”

So now we know: All of the preliminary hints and hype, and the rumors — and, in some notable cases, paranoia — about avatar names, dress codes, “look codes” (whatever t.f. that’s supposed to mean), and the speculation about interaction between corporate gulags and the wild wide-open Grid is all for naught.  Thanks especially to Dusan Writer and Massively, we’ve learned that “Nebraska” is not on the Grid at all.

It’s a clone. It’s mounted on its purchaser’s server rack, not on Linden Lab’s. It contains pre-packaged sims that can be brought online or taken down as needed, and a pre-selected variety of available avatars (sorry, no furries) complete with flexi hair and “appropriate” clothing with an identity protocol that is entirely the decision of the end-user’s management. It has no connection to the Main Grid whatsoever.

There’s one immediate effect of this total separation: XStreetSL will not recognize avatar names from an Enterprise installation as valid accounts. Not only will an Enterprise user not be able to open an XStreet account in that name, they won’t even be able to “buy as gift”, with an alt created on the Main Grid, for delivery to their counterpart on the desert island.

So, what if a company with a “SL in a Box” installation wants to expand their choices — and those of their employees’ avatars — beyond the inventory that comes in the box? That’s where the SL Work Marketplace comes in. Ian Lamont of The Industry Standard, in his article about the Enterprise release, quotes an email from Justin Bovington, CEO of Rivers Run Red about the Marketplace:

“It has be less Xstreet, more Wall Street. It has to reflect relevance, rather than drowning us all in deluge of content: clothing, furniture and avatars,” [Bovington] wrote, adding “if [Linden Lab] attracts the right people to develop these apps, this could be the tipping point.”

According to the Linden Lab press release linked above, “the right people” (for now) are “Gold Solution Providers and Recommended Application Providers”.

What’s wrong with this picture?


Which brings me — “Finally!” I hear you saying in exasperation — to Loose End #3.
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I’ve already mentioned above (and illustrated, if you follow the link) one particularly prolific commenter’s knee-jerk reaction to something that was initially misread, and then misquoted, and finally turned out not to pertain to the Main Grid at all. (The “Goon Squad” post began with a similarly alarmist note about “NeilLife”, too)

Predictably, the “usual suspect” has posted a venomous hysterical screed (probably one of many to come) about the forthcoming Marketplace, who’s in, and who isn’t. OMG, elitism!!!

Since when do we have economic rules in free enterprise liberal democratic *America* that can creates closed Soviet-like stores where only the elite can sell to other elites, and also make public calls to stop “flooding” the market?

Since when? Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Since the establishment of sainted laissez faire free-market capitalism itself, which allows corporate management to make their own internal rules and their own purchasing decisions. The suits who make those decisions — such as the one to purchase and install an instance of SL Enterprise on their server racks — have the right to not merely expect but demand quality in what they buy, and trust that it will work the way they need it to. The schlockmeisters who are the bulk of content purveyors on the Main Grid and XStreet not only won’t get in, they shouldn’t.

Please, people… get over yourselves. And while you’re at it, get over Ayn Rand, too.

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8 responses to “Loose Ends

  1. I'd like to add one thing to this, which is that copyright infringement is not theft, and I do wish people would stop using that word for it. Theft has a specific legal meaning, and it involves depriving the other person of use of the stolen item.

    Breach of copyright is a civil offense (in most cases), and theft is a criminal offense.

    This doesn't make it right or the losses suffered less of a problem, but calling it theft is inaccurate.

  2. realcdaae: There's an exhaustive discussion of the semantics here in SLUniverse.
    – – – – – – – – – – –

    I've been deservedly taken to task by @SkateFoss (via Twitter) for omitting the landscape creators from my discussion — specifically Naiman Broome, whose wave creations are breathtaking. I apologize for my ignorance, and ask to be pointed to Naiman's comments… and, perhaps, for someone to point him here.

  3. Bravo Lalo!

    I would add, in your first section, that the second major concern with content theft is it will be sold to newbs who are unaware they are buying stolen goods. Yes, most people are not thieves, but they can still buy stolen content without meaning to.

    I read that Astride piece and my first reaction was “grow the eff up and get over yourself.” Ugh. Complaining that content theft hurts your feelings is pathetic.

    @realcdaae: I would still describe what is happening as theft because by ripping a creator's content, the content ripper is depriving them of the *income* from that content that is rightfully theirs.

    Lalo, I might steal your last line. Priceless!

  4. katiem: Thank you :)

    Your point about noobs is well-taken; in fact, I daresay there have been plenty of more experienced Residents unknowingly guilty of “receiving stolen property”. I was one myself (Note to Uchi Desmoulins: There is a full-perm copy of the Kani av making the rounds — I deleted the one given to me as soon as I realized what it was).

    I think the solution is consumer education. Two years ago, once I'd provided my payment info and was ready to buy stuff, I noticed a lot of shops with a prominent poster at the entrance warning about content theft. We need more of those, and we need to tell the fresh arrivals as soon as they rez in the Welcome Areas.

  5. Er, no, dumbass. Having corporations “make their own rules” isn't the same as having *them* or the state make a system of closed stores like the Soviet Union.

    Grow the fuck up yourself and learn how communism works before you are consumed by it.

  6. Copyright theft *is* theft. You are stealing a person's potential livlihood from the sale. That you ethics-challenged freaks can't grasp that always boggles the mind. You're giving an IRC channel copy-pasta mindless meme about this that doesn't hold up in court.

  7. Seven months after the fact, but For the Record:

    Prokofy, no one — certainly not in Second Life, and possibly not on the face of the planet — is as “consumed by communism” as you are… to the detriment of any positive reputation you might have gained through those rare moments when you are not hysterically raving about imagined dangers, and “persecutions” engendered by your very acts of raving, which make you an easy target for well-deserved derision.

    Pull your head out of your ass and look at a calendar. The current year is 2010, not 1954, and you are not the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy. The Berlin Wall came down 21 years ago. Stalinist/Maoist communism proved itself to the eyes of the world (except for a rabid few, you included) to be a failure, with only Cuba and North Korea still mired in it by way of the brute force of totalitarian personality cults.

    Neither are you the doppelgänger of Ayn Rand, much as you aspire to be so. There was good reason for her books appearing on the science-fiction racks in the 1960's, alongside other such utopias grounded in selfish individualism: early libertarian manifestos like Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold and the editorials of John W. Campbell in Astounding and Analog. The difference is: Heinlein and Campbell were vastly more entertaining. And while it is true that Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World also appeared on those same racks, do not for a moment think that the works of Rand are in the same league with those cautionary tales merely by accident of placement. Fifty and more years later, the mere mention of Winston Smith is still enough to invoke the dangers of trading liberty for security. “Who is John Galt?” — nobody cares.

    Finally — I am not unaware of remarks you made in your blog about “young Lalo Telling” after you shat upon the Comments here. Once again, for the record: the person through whom Lalo Telling speaks is, as of this date, 58 years old. I have lived through almost all of the same history as you have. I, however, paid attention to the world around me as it evolved, rather than sinking into myopic obsession, and I evolved with it. In short, I “grew the fuck up”. You, like those invisible commies under your bed, have proven yourself incapable of doing the same.

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