Thursday, October 30, 2008

Copybot as Revolutionary Part 1: How DRM holds our digital assets hostage on Linden Lab servers

Moving from Second Life to an OpenSim world means leaving behind the vast majority of our virtual possessions. That's because Second Inventory, the one program that allows you to move items from Second Life to your hard drive only works on items with full permissions. For many of us this means abandoning L$1000's or L$10,000's worth of items such as homes, clothing and SLex toys. And of course, skin.

There is a solution, although it violates Second Life TOS and is a very emotionally-charged issue for some content creators: Copybot programs such as SLBot and SL Copybot allow you to create new full-permission copies of most virtual items. You can then use Second Inventory to transfer them to your hard drive and upload to an OpenSim server (as long as your user name is the same.) It seems to me that using copybot technology is this manner is ethical.

Hundreds of Second Life residents have started registering on OpenSim-based worlds over the last few days in response to the latest Linden Lab debacle. So I'm hoping that the time is ripe to reopen a wider discussion on digital rights and the possibility of ethical copybotting, as well as other options to faciliate the transfer of our virtual assets from place to place.

I'll let this simmer for a while and then take this up in greater detail in Part 2.

13 comments:

Val Kendal said...

I have two problems with your proposal (and full disclosure - I am a content creator). First, even if you plan to take your objects out of SL and never return, you are damaging my opportunities for sales in that new world by creating full perm copies of my content that now exist there (these things *always* get out), and you are also decreasing the market for enterprising content creators who move to that new world to create things for you to enjoy there. Second, you are still financially rewarding the people who created Copybot and other programs like it.

And besides, isn't the point of moving to a brave New World to start over? You can't get by without your Rac skin?

mistyisforeverlost said...

oops...sorry, hit the wrong copy link thingy above so copy and pasted here, please delete the above when you get a chance...thanks!

I strongly discourage (also a content creator) the use of taking someone elses work into a new world. For the very reasons Val mentioned not to mention

I would be terribly upset if people came into the SL grid bought my landscaping items to then turn around and take them to into another world. For me, it would be like stealing because my perms are set up as no transfer and no modify. Especially if they handed out items that I charge for or sold them as their own.

I would then enter said new world, set up my little shop and with my luck...have to prove that really I am the rightful creator of the items and not Joe Schmoe.

Ouch!

Whatcha Eaton said...

I'm curious as to what the copy bots do with the creator field. Let's say you have even a full-perm object in SL and you move it to another GRID-based world. How can it maintain credit for the maker of an object when that avatar may not even exist (yet or ever) in the new world?

That aside, copying a no-copy object seems unethical if you or some automatic mechanism cannot assure that the object only exists in one place at a time. That is, after all, what the maker of a no-copy object intended.

As for no-transfer objects... is Botgirl in Openlife the same person as Botgirl in Second Life? Can one move or copy an object to the other without "transferring" it? Again, is this what the maker intended?

Sure, possession is 0.9 of the law and people can do all sorts of things to get around DRM. But that's not generally the kind of law most people think of as ethical.

(Not a content creator).
- Whatcha

Botgirl Questi said...

Just for discussion sake, what about items someone DOES have the right to copy, but not transfer? So I could copy my house and place it on two sims in Second Life. What is unethical about placing a copy on my OpenSim property?

mistyisforeverlost said...

It would be unethical, because they are completely seperate accounts and in order to 'copy' it and get it to the new world....you have to transfer it from one account to another.

Misty in SL has tons of copy clothes. But in order for me to get them to Misty in the new world, I would then have to not only copy it, but "transfer" it to a new account.

Whatcha Eaton said...

If the house is no-trans/copy/mod then I guess you'd have to figure out if moving it to another world is transferring or if, since the atomic (RL) you paid for it, you're just copying something you already own to another "shelf." The tone of your headline suggests that you think of these objects as belonging to the atomic Botgirl. Maybe they do... or not. It is a question.

Before there were asset-compatible alternatives to SL, your no-trans objects were already being held "hostage," as you put it. You couldn't share them or even sell them to another resident. That was your understanding and it was the understanding of the content creator. Few imagined that one day there would be another disconnected market for these objects. Now that the day has arrived, we have a quandary.

I have a preference: I think the no-trans object should remain in SL and not be moved to another world unless or until some kind of exchange or reciprocal agreement can be set up to enforce m/c/t in other grids. But that's me.

I don't have any products in SL to rip but I'd be pretty upset if I bought something in an OpenSim only to find out later it was created by someone other than the seller. I'd prefer that the actual creative person receive payment for their work. That just seems fair (and ethical) to me.

-Whatcha

Botgirl Questi said...

misty: thanks for answering my query! How 'bout if I transferred an item to OpenSim and deleted it from my Second Life inventory; would that be unethical?

Cristopher Lefavre said...

Just to clarify: This is not about illegal redistribution of copyrighted works. That’s illegal and unethical. Period.
However, copying SL items into another virtual world for personal use is a tricky question, both ethically and legally (Disclaimer: IANAL). There is however a similar question in the recording industry, and it might be helpful to look at how things work there.
Music recordings are copyrighted works. Yet people copy them to different media for personal use. Part of my LP collection has been copied to CD, MP3 and FLAC formats. I think the general feeling amongst consumers is that this is fair use, and as such it is also covered by copyright laws in lots of countries.
At least yet in my country this also applies to digital content with DRM. In the US it will perhaps be a violation of the DMCA to bypass DRM for personal use copying. Second Life inventory rights are just a DRM, with limited technical powers. It can be circumvented in part. But in any case it does not form a binding agreement between the creator and the buyer. So Fair Use under the copyright laws takes precedence. (There may be further bindings in the SL TOS however; have not had time to investigate that yet).
Val, you may feel that someone buying your work in SL and using it in other worlds is a use beyond what you intended when you sold it. You may want to sell me the same item in all the worlds I visit, just as Michal Jackson would love to sell me Thriller on CD, Minidisc, SACD AND on iTunes. But please understand that to me as a consumer, this makes you sound like Jack Linden announcing a price hike on virtual services, because their use was larger than they expected.
But yes, ethically, I guess it will be a threshold to cross to use copybot or such tools to move my content to another world. But as for music, most of us have crossed that threshold because it is a right protected by law. Most of us wish the music industry would rather provide us with a DRM-free copy when we buy content. And when a diversity of virtual worlds emerges, your customers will want DRM-free copies of their purchases also. As content providers you will face a strategy choice between holding on to a protective DRM supported business model, or to move to a more open distribution.
I can’t say what will work for you. But the music industry is losing their DMR battle. When it comes to digital content, they are the ones plowing a new landscape. I think we who are making digital content for virtual worlds may want to learn from their mistakes, find our own way, and not just follow their footsteps through all the wars we now know they lost.

dandellion said...

It is not immoral to use copybot (or whatever other tool) to transfer your assets to the other grid. It's the same as using CD ripping software to make MP3's that you're going to put in your portable and car player or using copying software to make a backup copy for yourself.
Though, first case is illegal in some countries (Germany comes to mind). Other is legal everywhere.

Cristopher Lefavre said...

LOL; I won't spam your blog with yet another lengthy comment, but after reading the TOS I have had to reconsider things a bit.

It now seems clear to me that it is both illegal and immoral to transfer content from SL to another public grid.

Illegal because there is no license or laws covering this, and I don't think Fair Use copying will cover it. Immoral because content providers under the TOS have a right to expect that items are kept in this grid.

One could of course wish for a different setting, but that's a different story.

mistyisforeverlost said...

in my mind yes, because it's still two different accounts no matter what grid it's on. I haven't read your follow up post yet, but if I wanted things transferable between accounts either for this grid or into another one, I would make them transferable.

I know what your speaking of isn't necessarily selling the items or even giving them away for free. That's just another aspect of "should I copy and transfer over to Opensim" Just wanted to clarify that part.

Cristof, another question would be: Does my name carry over as creator into the new grid. With music, the creators name is still there. so they still receive the credit.

slbot said...

First, great blog Botgirl.

Second, to those of you who don't know (everyone, I assume) I am SLBot, aka the person who runs the website at http://slcopybot.weebly.com/.

Now, I've read some compelling arguments here that I'd like to comment on.

I know that people out there will be quick to dismiss what I have to say, as it does not fall in line with their views, and that's fine, we call that cognitive dissonance, it's perfectly normal.

To the rest of you, let say this:

I am a content creator as well, and I feel the biggest draw to Copybot isn't the drive to do evil (and be evil) but the broken permission system.

If someone purchased an item from me, it's either COPY/MOD or TRANS, it's never all three (duh).

Imagine that same person who spent 500 L$ (~ 1.78 USD) getting it as COPY/MOD, but then for whatever reason wanting to change names.

Is it FAIR to them that they can't take something they bought with them? I argue it's NOT fair.

The line between FAIR and LEGAL is often blurry and crossed.

It's FAIR to copy and item and take it with you, but it's illegal.

Why isn't it fair? They spend 500L$ buying this thing, they could have exchanged that for 1.78$ USD, that's LEGAL TENDER and can be used anywhere, to buy things, return things, exchange things, etc etc.

So this whole argument that it's not moral to copy items you BOUGHT, that's a bunch of bull IMO.

Next, the arguement that content creators have the right for their items to stay on the grid... uh, you're kidding right?

They have the right to get paid for their work, and I have the right to take it with me wherever I want to go. If I have to use copybot to copy it and take it with me, that's fair. It becomes unfair (to the creator) if I decide to begin giving it out for free.

Mistyisforeverlost said, "I strongly discourage (also a content creator) the use of taking someone elses work into a new world."

Well, I strongly discourage anyone taking that comment seriously. You bought it, you can take it anywhere you want.

Again, content creators will mostly tell you that its not "fair" and that you shouldn't take it with you, but lets look at what you PAID with. You paid with currency which can be translated into REAL CURRENCY. If I bought a new car, can I only drive it in THAT city? No, I can take it with me wherever I want to go.

So meanwhile, you're using Lindens to buy "Vendor X's" newest line of prim clothing. Vendor X turns around and cashes out that linden into real money. Then Vendor X fights and aruges that it's IMMORAL AND WRONG for you to take his shit into another world.

Why? Let's examine the reason why these content creators would fight so bitterly.

The root of all evil is money. Interesting phrase, and perhaps the culprit here.

Content Creators do not want you to take their shit with you, so that when they get to the new world they can sell you the SAME SHIT, AGAIN!

Interesting position. I see why they're fighting so hard.

Whatcha Eaton said, "How can it maintain credit for the maker of an object when that avatar may not even exist (yet or ever) in the new world?"

My reply to that is that it doesn't MATTER, not really. Credit is nice, it's like a nice pat on the back. Is the issue here really giving credit where credit is due, or is the issue here the fact that people MIGHT think you made it and it won't make the creator's ego that much more inflated? So long as people aren't giving out stuff I make for free, I don't care who's name is under the "created by" slot.

Misty said, "I would be terribly upset if people came into the SL grid bought my landscaping items to then turn around and take them to into another world."

Really... so it's ok for you to take that 5$ I just paid you and for you to take that money out of Second Life and go and eat a Fat-burger and a milk shake, but it's not ok for me to take the item I PAID MONEY FOR out of Second Life. Hypocrisy runs high among content creators.

Botgirl, you said, "Just for discussion sake, what about items someone DOES have the right to copy, but not transfer? So I could copy my house and place it on two sims in Second Life. What is unethical about placing a copy on my OpenSim property?"

The right to copy means that you can keep it for yourself, you cannot give it out. That's fundamentally what it means. So taking the item to OpenSim/etc and keeping it ONLY FOR YOURSELF, THAT is fundamentally ETHICALLY CORRECT. The problems arise when you copy things you never paid for or you begin giving them out.

Bot you also asked, "How 'bout if I transferred an item to OpenSim and deleted it from my Second Life inventory; would that be unethical?"

Personally I don't think you have to do that. As I said, you paid for it, you have the right to have it, regardless of what "name" you're under.

Do I buy clothes IRL that only my "night self" can use but not my "hung over" self? No, that's silly, and it's AS silly as arguing that you can't use whatever you bought on ANY NAME you own, regardless of grid. You bought it with something that can be turned into LEGAL TENDER, you have the right to KEEP IT.

Christopher said, "This is not about illegal redistribution of copyrighted works. That’s illegal and unethical." I fully agree, REDISTRIBUTION is what is unethical, but you don't REDISTRIBUTE to yourself, you REDISTRIBUTE to others.

@ dandellion - I fully agree, it's the same idea at play. Well said.

Christopher said, "
It now seems clear to me that it is both illegal and immoral to transfer content from SL to another public grid. Immoral because content providers under the TOS have a right to expect that items are kept in this grid."

The TOS doesn't know it's ass from a whole in the ground. At first LL openly supported Copybot, now they flip out over it. It's perfectly fine to copy items you own and use them elsewhere, and immoral? First off it's quite ballsy of anyone here to preach MORALS to anyone. That's a personal choice we all can make. I think it's perfectly moral and perfectly fair to copy everything I bought and paid for and take it with me, regardless if you get credit for it in the new world or not. So long as I dont give it away, that's fair and moral.

I paid lindens for that nice hat, it's immoral for me to take it out of SL, but is it not immoral for the content creator to cash out my linden and go and buy McDonalds?

If content creators want the freedom to use our lindens as legal tender then they have to get used to the idea that we'll treat lindens as legal tender, and expect the same rights be given to things we purchase, including the right to return items, or take these items anywhere we want.

If you have any questions, you can e-mail me via the site listed above.

If you want to get Copybot, visit the site listed above.

Thanks to Botgirl for opening people's eyes.

teddlesruss dat who! said...

Yay for a bit of discussion! I for one paid good money for an avatar I quite like, and which I'd like to take with me. To me the current situation feels like LL are helping the builder of my avvie hold me hostage on SL. If I got an artificial leg here IRL, the surgeon wouldn't prevent me moving to Japan with the leg. Yet a body I paid real money for, is not allowed to leave a virtual prison...

I say copybot the shit out of whatever you want, provided you own it fair and square.