Virtually Speaking

Second Life along with the First.

Day of the Copybot

There’s been a new firestorm around Second Life these last few days, as news of the libsecondlife project’s Copy bot has spread across blogs and forums in the community. The Sellers’ Guild (an ad hoc group of SL merchants who formed an alliance after the first wave of texture thefts threatened their livelihoods) held a meeting with Robin Linden yesterday. As a member of Sellers’ Guild I have a transcript of that chat but I will hold off on posting excerpts until I get agreement from Stroker Serpentine, President of the guild, to quote his very insightful comments here.

Lo and behold, today we have the Official Linden Blog talking about copyright infringement and DMCA actions. It’s well worth a read, but I urge you to read between the lines. While copyright protection is theoretically important to SL and to the Lindens, technically there’s only so much they can do about it. It’s like griefing – no matter what methods you come up with, someone will find a way around them eventually. Robin Linden suggests that content creators who feel they’ve been ripped off should start a DMCA action. That’s not encouraging news for small hair designers or clothing creators. Most of us barely make enough to cover the tier for our stores. Pursuing legal action for us is more of a problem than it would be for Nike or Nissan simply because our pockets are not deep and we don’t have a large legal firm on retainer.

The plot continues to thicken today. Someone using the name “Prim Revolution” is offering the libsecondlife copybot on SL Exchange for $3000L, despite the fact that the code and instructions are freely available on libsecondlife’s web page. According to another source, the copybot being sold on SL Exchange is actually a trojan and will infect your computer with all kinds of nastiness (or is that a disinformation campaign intended to scare people out of buying it?  I get so confused) . Caveat Emptor – or in this case, For Shamus on You-us.

Ironically, the front page of libsecondlife’s site starts with these words:

CopyBot is not a product that we sell or distribute. It’s a debugging tool and silly demo with a [now] obviously bad choice of name. Hopefully you won’t be seeing copy bot on SLex any time soon..

But, this is the 21st century and this is the internet. Things like this tend to take on a life of their own – like nature, pitiless and inevitable. The libsecondlife team, which includes a number of Lindens as well as some of the foremost SL script coders, no doubt has had only the best of intentions. Their vision of Second Life saw that the only way it could ever become scalable and thus survive the future would be to move toward open source. There’s much merit in their view even though it has no sympathy for the way Second Life used to be, when we had a nice cozy little family. The future of Second Life is big, it’s technologically open, and it’s infinitely scalable.

The copybot is scaring a lot of SL merchants. Rightfully so. It represents change, and change is uncomfortable – even painful. What it portends for you as a resident of Second Life is for you to decide. For me, it means that whatever plans I’ve ever had to try to develop a larger scale business in the world are already obsolete. I don’t have lawyers on retainer, I don’t see much point in filing DMCA actions for my clothing. I also don’t see much point in pursuing my plans for more complex creations and all those half-built prims in my shop are probably going to be deleted.

This is not going to end well for the little guy.

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November 14, 2006 - Posted by | Second Life

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