You probably know this already, but Stroker Serpentine and Munchflower Zaius have initiated a class action lawsuit against Linden Lab for failing to protect content creators against copyright theft.
I have a very bad feeling about this.
While they declare that their intention is “not to bring down Linden Lab” I am concerned that if they win the case* then this may well happen anyway. Even assuming that the fines and damages costs are affordable – which I’m sure they are – it seems likely to me that the courts will require Linden Lab to set systems in place to make content theft and selling of counterfiet goods totally impossible.
Now already there is rumbling in the Lab about a certified content-creator program, whereby only avatars with RL info and payment info registered with LL, and who are in good standing (ie never been banned or suspended – oh look that rules me out) would be able to sell content.
Personally I don’t see how this can work, at this level. First of all there are millions of avatars, some already involved in content theft, who have never been banned or suspended, because LL is so incompetent at acting on ARs. They are quick enough to ban the innocent while the guilty get away with everything.
Secondly, it still permits the content theft to happen, and relies on a system of reporting to root it out and remove it, after the fact. Often that’s too late – by the time they find the stolen content it’s already in full perm circulation.
Finally, how do they police “selling?” They might prevent an unlicensed creator from listing on X Street, or listing in Search, but it doesn’t stop them actually transferring the stolen goods and making money from it. Even if LL bans them from letting an object for sale, they can still use a vendor, or pass things on by direct inventory transfer and taking a direct L$ payment for it. Bottom line here, is nothign will change and the grid will still be overwhelmed with stolen content.
The extreme that I fear, is that LL will ban unlicensed creators from creating anything at all. That the “Build” button and the “Upload texture/file” facility will be greyed out and unavailable for anyone who is unlicensed. This will give Linden Lab absolute control, and they won’t have to follow ARs. Second Life will become like IMVU or Blue Mars, where only a limited few are able to create anything at all, and the rest of us are limited to purchasing only from licensed stores who are free to raise prices as high as they like.
Now, a world where creation is impossible for me, is of no interest to me, and becomes nothing more than a proprietary chatroom like IMVU. I am sure that a vast number of residents feel the same. This, I think would lead to a mass exodus of people like myself, who cannot be licensed, and yet who still want to make things, even if it’s only for fun. Whether or not Linden Lab’s profit margin can handle the loss of all the players like myself – I don’t know. But I doubt it.
So I have been trying to think of some alternative solutions, whereby the content theft is eradicated, and yet still allow content creation.
The first thing, which I regret but fear is necessary, is to forget the Open Source client project, and restrict LL access to official (or officially approved) viewers only. This is the only way to prevent copybot-clients from being able to connect to the grid. By all means allow people to make their own viewers, but those people should be “certified” too, and their code should be inspected by Linden Lab before the client is able to connect to the grid.
Secondly I think the solution to the sale of stolen content lies in an overhaul of the permission system. Suppose the default state of any prim, even for the creator, is no-transfer. And that only these “certified content creators” have the ability to toggle the Transfer permissions box and enable the item to be passed on. That way, everyone is still free to create content for their own use, but they can neither sell it nor give it away unless they are licensed to do so. It also means that if stolen content is found, there can be no doubt that the person who owns it is the person who made it, since it won’t ever have been transferrable.
A system like this would not depend on reporting of content because the stolen content could not be sold anyway, it defaults to “failsafe”, which is, I think, what a court would demand.
Yes, it would be a shame that I would not be able to share my creations with my friends, but if my friends are sad about that then the blame for it would lie squarely on the shoulders of the thieves and copybotters who made this all necessary in the first place.
*All of that said, I really don’t think this case will pass anyway, because the implications of a win are just so vast. It’s a bit like suing the inventor of the VCR because there are pirated movies being sold.
Another thing I haven’t seen pointed out yet, is that Stroker has set up a rival company “Eros 3D” which will be an adult virtual world. So he is effectively suing his main competitor. I don’t think the courts will look to favourably on that, and neither do I.
Then it will be an even bigger shame, that the case fails and nothing changes, except Sexgen and Nomine disappear from the grid, and the copybotters and thieves continue to profit.