Virtually Speaking

Second Life along with the First.

As the Smoke Clears

The Copybot furor yesterday seems to be subsiding for the moment.  The Lindens have announced that anyone caught using Copybot “or any other external application to make unauthorized duplicates within Second Life” is subject to having their account banned.  (That, of course, has been such a terrific deterrent to texture theft and griefer attacks in the past… /sarcasm).

Last night, I received notice that about 15 Sellers Guild merchants had closed shop in protest, with 3 or 4 more following suit so far this morning.  A search for “copybot” in world pulled up almost 100 stores which closed their doors in protest.  My hat is off to them for their protest.   Having participated in past protest demonstrations (notably at the Second Life birthday party when anonymous registration was first thrown open), I’m of the opinion that protests make the protestor feel good but in reality do little to change the minds of a determined, uncaring corporate wannabe.

But in the big picture, what yesterday demonstrated to me was that the residents of Second Life care very passionately about this world.  We are emotionally invested in our businesses and our products — they are, as they should be, a source of great pride for us. In fact, I observed to a friend last night that this was about more than just money or dishonesty.  This was about pride and identity.  Owning and operating a business in Second Life can be a fulfilling experience and it should surprise no one that we’re this emotionally invested in something that defines our virtual identities.

That emotional investment is essential to creating a community that works but I’m reluctant to give the Lindens too much credit for its existence.  They offered the platform and created the rules.  But for the last 3 years, the majority of the hard work of creation has been done by the residents.  It truly is a world that WE built.  The same passion that motivated the creation of so many incredible forests, cities, beaches, clubs, events and beautiful clothes is also fiercely protective of the world.  The Lindens are charged with a trust to be the guardians of this world and when we perceive that they have failed us, the outrage is predictable and understandable.

Over on Second Citizen forums, Cory Edo has posted her experiences with Copybot.  Her observations are well worth reading and put this thing into a calmer perspective.  It’s not the magical Destroyer of Worlds that some of us were led to believe, but it is nonetheless a troubling peek at what can be done by determined reverse engineers (is a reverse engineer a “reenigne”?)

First – took me a while to find the compiled version of this, since I couldn’t find it on SLX and libSL has removed it all from their website. Found a link on a third party forum that’s apparently hosting it seperate from libSL.The file I got was an .exe, no instructions. Took me some time messing with it before I figured out how to run it.Essentially, you need two accounts – the control av, and the alt to act as the copybot.When the alt is the copybot, you cannot have the regular SL client open. You log into SL via a command line client (that black box). You can’t access the alt’s inventory, camera angles, anything like that while its running as a copybot. You run it via IMing it commands from your control av, which are basically limited to about 4 commands. Keep that in mind for later.OK, first the important stuff, what you can and can’t copy:– if you copy an avatar, you copy that avatar’s appearance and movements exactly. THE AVATAR HAS TO BE IN NATURAL VIEWING RANGE OF THE COPYBOT. Essentially, it has to be right in front of you. No camming up to a skybox, you can’t control the camera on the copybot av when the copybot client is running. I tried copying an av tonight and because it was standing behind my copybot av, it couldn’t mirror it.– when you relog the normal way onto the copybot av, using the SL client, the shape is reset to default. The copied clothing remains, however if you pass it along to someone else, the clothing will revert to what it was BEFORE it was copied. Copybot does not make new *clothing items* from the avatar it copies, it only mirrors the appearance of the avatar it copied. From what I understand this has to do with the way clothing and skin is baked onto the av mesh. Therefore, no clothing resale from this.– The attachments on the copybot that were created DO REMAIN, however:
– no scripts are copied
– no contents in the attachment are copied (no animations, no scripts, no nothin)
– the attachments are in the copybot av’s inventory named “Object” with full perms
– you do not get a separate copy of the textures used in your Texture folder
– the attachments that were copied retain the texture on the prims themselves
Example: it copied my AO’s shell – a plain box – but nothing was inside it.
Example 2: it copied my shoes, but the shape to fit the shoe was not copied (since the shape reverts to default upon normal login)
Example 3: it did copy my prim hair, and since there were no scripts involved along with no particular shape, that could be considered a clean copy.
After some trial and error, I did get the copy by UUID to work. This seems to be tricky, again, because the object you’re copying seems to have to be viewed directly by the copybot av. Since you can’t make it turn around or zoom in on an object while the copybot mode is on, you’ve got to have 1. the object right in front of it and 2. have a way to get the UUID.
– Copies via UUID do NOT contain scripts, animations, or any other contents. Its a shell.
– Copies via UUID do NOT give you a separate copy of any textures used.
The other commands are copy by local ID, which I have no idea what that is, and copy tree, for what good that’s worth.

Essentially, to use this successfully, you have to have two accounts, the ability or good luck to have the copybot look at what you want to copy from reasonably close up, the ability to get a UUID if what you’re copying isn’t an attachment on an avatar, and the most you’re going to get is a copy of something primmed without contents inside it. Also, depending on the lag of the sim and the prims in the attachments being copied, it can take quite a while to create a copy of, say, a prim skirt. Finally, I’m running under the assumption that if copybot is trying to copy via UUID and you have your land set to no build, the copybot cannot make the copy since the copy is built in the air above the copybot’s head.

This is for the version I managed to find to download, which is a compiled copy (not source code, so it can’t be modded from what I’ve been told). I can’t speak for rumors of any other versions of this that may do more – it seems that I have the official libSL version, since what this does meshes with what they say it does. Those with the source code could do something like change the die command (!quit) which people are currently using as protection. If anyone IMs a copybot with the die command, it will log it off. 

Now that libsecondlife has removed the Copybot from their downloads section and the Lindens have banned its use, don’t expect this issue to go away anytime soon.  Copybot’s still out there.  It’s still downloadable elsewhere.  There are still unscrupulous people in Second Life.  If the Lindens are true to their word and can come up with other ways of trademark-stamping our original content (even if not until 2007), that’s a step in the right direction.  But it will not get rid of the lazy asshats who prey on other people’s work.  Nothing will.  It remains to the Second Life community and to each of us as individual consumers to keep our ears to the ground and not to remain silent when we see rip-off content being resold at yard sales or someone’s expensive skins cloned and sold cheap somewhere.  We – you and I – are the main line of defense if we want this place to remain alive and viable.  The Lindens can only do so much.  Groups like Sellers Guild will help, but in the final analysis it’s down to you and me.  We are, after all, the citizens.  It’s our world because we’re the ones who built it and we can’t expect the Lindens to match our passion.   Nor do we need to fear that the griefers and thieves can ever match that passion — it is both the engine that fires our creativity and the glue that keeps the world going.  It belongs to us and us alone. 

– Cin

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November 15, 2006 - Posted by | Second Life

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