Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy

Today's post comes from Ciaran Laval, a chronicler of Second Life events over at Your2ndPlace. Ciaran's thought-provoking website has served as both a current events canvas and a library of interesting perspectives on Linden Lab's business practices. Today she takes on Second Life's new third-party viewer policy.

The excitement, disappointment, yelling, cheering
and general buzz about Linden Lab releasing viewer 2.0 to the general public for
beta testing (and seriously, the camera controls for panning around need to go
back to the old version) has camouflaged another issue, the third party viewer
policy, which was blogged about here,  is
turning into a huge tale of woe.

The policy, which has been setup to protect
content creators and the grid in general from nefarious activities has indeed
annoyed a large number of people as they study the detail, of course that's
where the devil always lies.

The problems are with the wording of the policy. The release has some people are claiming that no viewer, even the official one,
complies with the Linden Lab policy.

Looking at the Fine Print

Problem 1: Your Third-Party Viewer name
must not be confusingly similar to or use any part of a Linden Lab trademark,
including “Second,” “Life,” “SL,” or
“Linden.” For example: You must not have a Third-Party Viewer name that is
“________ Life” where “________” is a term or series of
terms.

Ah the good old trademark issue. This caused
discussion on the mailing list and Soft Linden himself asked legal about this,
and was told there's no compromise to be had here, Linden Lab must protect their
trademark. I'm not a trademark lawyer so I don't know if they need to be
draconian in their enforcement but much to my surprise I find that a third party
viewer that I have heard of (but never used), the Restrained Life viewer is
actually going to be known as the Restrained Love Viewer.

Originally the plan
was to rename the viewer "Restrained Living Viewer" but Linden Lab didn't seem
to like that name, as you can read here.

Problem 2: "You must not use or provide
any functionality that Linden Lab’s viewers do not have for exporting content
from Second Life unless the functionality verifies that the content to be
exported was created by the Second Life user who is using the Third-Party
Viewer. Specifically, before allowing the user to export the content, the
Third-Party Viewer must verify that the Second Life creator name for each and
every content component to be exported, including each and every primitive or
other content type, is the same as the Second Life name of the Third-Party
Viewer user. This must be done for all content in Second Life, including content
that may be set to “full permissions.”"
 
Now this is a biggie, Emerald does allow you to
export content you create, but how about the textures? How about the sculpt
maps? The full perms supplies you purchase? There are cases where you are not
supposed to export full perms items for use in other worlds, I have purchased
textures with such restrictions, but I am allowed to save full perms textures to
my hard drive and if the licence permits, alter them and import them back into
Second Life. The Second Life viewer does not verify that I created these
textures, which is where some people are claiming Linden Lab are in violation of
their own rules.
 
The intent of this clause is of course well meaning
and I do have much sympathy with Linden Lab over this, they've formulated a
policy aimed at preventing content theft via the viewer, yet they are setting
alarm bells ringing too. I doubt the intent is to prevent people using textures
in the fashion I described, they want to be firm in their intent but the wording
seems to overstep the mark.
 
Problem 3: "You must provide true and
correct information in the
Viewer Directory Application
Form
, and you agree
that the information you provide in the fields that are marked by a cross (†)
may be published in the publicly available
Viewer
Directory
"
 
I'm told that the author of the Impudence viewer
isn't happy about this clause, they don't want their name published for all and
sundry to view. Again I have sympathy for Linden Lab's position on this, but
can't they simply hold the name on file in case of difficulty? Do they really
need to publish those details?
 
Problem 4: Are Linden Lab complying with the terms
of GPL?
 
A few people have raised this question in relation
to the new policy, Slashdot covered it here
and Massively mention it here.
This is concerning to say the least and one has to wonder whether Linden Lab
have approached this policy in a holistic way. I don't believe for one minute
that there is any ill intent whatsoever in this policy, there's nothing
deliberately evil but it seems to have been addressed from a point of view of
disparate departments covering their section without someone looking at the
whole to see if it all fits together nicely. According to the Massively article,
Linden Lab are going to revise the policies, which is good news.
 
As I said earlier, I have great sympathy with
Linden Lab over this, they are trying to do the right thing but the first
attempt at doing the right thing appears to have opened a can of worms. Linden
Lab's intentions are undoubtedly good, but with different people giving
different advice, it doesn't all fit together in a neat and tidy fashion, let's
hope that this can all be ironed out to give the policy both teeth and
clarity.

2 thoughts on “Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy”

  1. Problem #2 (Content export) is EXTREMELY problematic from the standpoint of creating archives of content from within SL … in the case of cultural heritage institutions, they basically are unable to ensure the long term preservation of their inworld content and are totally dependent upon SL to do this.

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