Wednesday, March 26, 2008

dialogue as a diagram of a play for blood

Going back briefly to the last content theft entry, Miss Cerveau was having a sale--as were many people--coming off Easter weekend.

I found another poster.


This is Stroker Serpentine, of Strokerz Toyz fame. Wired ran a story on him last year, and it's absolutely true--if you were an erotic performer in any sense, at some point, you walked through Amsterdam. All of us, every single dancer, escort, stripper, a ton of new folk who started out camping all the time and worked their way up--all of us went through Amsterdam, and most of us ended up with SexGen equipment along the way.

I'm not saying this is, this was, a bad thing. There was a club--may still be, I don't know--called Babydollz in Amsterdam that was actually a great deal of fun to hang out in when I first started, before I was hired by a club in my own right. I have no objection to what Serpentine's done.

But he's the first one on one of these ads, I feel, has a genuine almost-right to claim what the posters claim. Because he's the one who actually filed a court case. (Though, I have to admit, there is a loss of respect here for Serpentine--and why? Because he bailed on the court case--when he had the ability to be foundational and establish, once and for all, case law for intellectual property online. So there's that to consider, as well.)

And Miss Ziggy Quirk actually did a stunning thing back in February I just tracked down now--the typist, or as she says, "the human behind Ziggy Quirk", came forward and made an eight-minute vid for YouTube laying out her perspective on content theft.

Now, let me say this. I still believe the bulk of the SL economy's problem--at large--is not content theft. I still believe it's the number of island owners who lost serious money when LL killed gambling, and ended up reselling their islands or just walking away, trying to dump the equipment and mostly just deleting it--or having LL delete it for them--and as a result, getting sick of the game and deleting their accounts, never to return--because that is the reason for a lot of the problem with recirculation of funds.

How'ver, the problem of content theft? Is not what I'm disputing. There is content theft, yes. Is it getting worse? Yes. Can it be stopped? I don't think so. (I think there are ways it can be slowed down, but stopped entirely? That's going to be rough, that's going to involve a lot of investigation, and to date? The Labs really don't seem to care.)

The homogeneity of product that Miss Quirk speaks of--yes, I believe it's possible that SL is headed that way. And it would be a massive tragedy, of truly epic proportions, and yes, players would flee at speed for other platforms. Because part of the joy of SL for many is content creation. And if the major content creators get sick of creating, and leave, that leaves even more of SL subsisting in a vacuum of ghost-town abandoned zones and low-use islands. Eventually LL would end up reabsorbing a ton of dead sims, as they've had to do over the past year, and make their best attempt at resale to recoup their own losses.

But is the answer to restrict new users from using the tools that established users enjoy? I don't think so. Is the answer to restrict folk who don't have payment information on their profiles from entering sims? I don't think that's it, either. I think part of it is in how LL is letting their new 'community orientation' zones help new players into the game--because it used to be, you had to learn at each station, before you could move to the next, and now? If a new player really wants to get on the grid, all they need do is walk past everything and port out--ten minutes tops, they're on the grid. And how does that aid new players in understanding what made, what makes, Second Life unique in the first place?

Answer: it doesn't. But again, it comes down to fixing a problem that Linden Labs doesn't care about.

Should the Labs be concerned about content theft? Yes, as much as they should be concerned on the whys behind Pontiac and other large corporations choosing to leave SL. Should they be concerned about it over such issues as Windlight and voice not performing optimally in game? Yes. Is this going to happen?

Hells, no--because it's not as cool and sexy as working on the next fun feature. And that's a bit of programmer elitism, there, same as fixing the old bugs in the code rather than try to patch over them so they pop up later when the code breaks.

So yes, I'm saying there's no easy answer, but I'm also saying--protesting that it's all about content theft won't fix the downturn in sales. Figuring out what works--and what profoundly doesn't, and why--in Second Life's economy might.

But even that's only a might.

Because sooner or later, someone else is going to come up with something that shares enough of what draws people to Second Life, in a platform that actually works, is more stable, and doesn't have the weekly Wednesday and Sunday epic failure rate that we've all sadly become accustomed to in SL--and that's where the gamers, the builders, the lovers, the dreamers will turn.

And then Second Life really will become the ghost town that the press has been claiming. And that would be the worst loss of all.


Alexandra Rucker said...

I thought Stroker had reached an out-of-court settlement rather than bailed? You'll have to link the "he bailed" article. :)

Amsterdam sim got sold a while back, Babydollz was still up last summer, but I don't know if it's still there now. The new owners killed camping. :)

And as far as orientation goes? It only works to keep them at the station if the station isn't fundamentally broken...

Emilly Orr said...

Well, I was informed (by what I held as a reliable source) that he had; this article (written in 2007) seemed to confirm that Serpentine/Eros is still seeking damage after rejection of an offered settlement; but this article written in 2008 pretty much confirmed that yes, both parties have settled, in a binding but effectively ridiculous way, that does not prevent anyone from doing the same damned thing, and involved no financial recompense for the loss whatsoever.

I'm sticking to 'bailed'.

Edward Pearse, Earl of Primbroke said...

It's been pointed out by far better technically qualified people than me why you'll never stop content theft completely, mainly as you have to download the content onto your computer to view it. If someone is techie enough to work out how to reconstruct it they can copy anything they see.

But I suppose the point of all activist campaigns is to be over the top so that some sort of middle ground may be reached.

Emilly Orr said...

Maybe. If the main point is to startle people, so that the concept at least crosses their minds, then they might have achieved their goal.

I'm an excruciatingly minor creator of resellable content. I have other friends, you among them, who are much more invested in content creation. And I know, yes, it's a worry. I agree that it's a bad thing. I just don't necessarily agree that nicking someone else's intellectual property is the way to do it; that's been my main emphasis all along.

Seraph Nephilim said...

Unfortunately(?), lawsuits are expensive. From one of articles you linked to:

"Kevin is moving on," said Alderman's attorney, Francis Taney, who said Leatherwood didn't have much in the way of assets for Alderman to pursue. "Ability to collect on any judgment is a factor. It's certainly a factor here. .. The most important thing is to get the conduct stopped so it doesn't create an ongoing problem. We have here an injunction against a real-life person. I'm pleased that we were able to get that relief."

Judges prefer things are settled out of court. People do, too, generally. Because it's cheaper and it means the parties are able to come to an agreement without too much coercion. (Though finances seem to be the biggest issue, so it's frequently the small guy that is hurt in these.)

The conduct stopped. That really is the key thing. And there really was nothing to collect from this guy. This case established a number of things, particularly that while you might be anonymous signing up, that doesn't mean you are untraceable.

Seraph Nephilim said...

I really should add that ultimately I think it is Linden Lab that is letting the world down. By allowing all sorts of antisocial behavior to occur in the world they are creating a negative environment. And while the comparison to the Wild West is frequently made, it's not a good one. While we do have the bad guys, if we form a posse to try and stop it, we get in trouble.

I don't know that OpenSim is the solution given that if you are unable to trust the server then you always have to fear your content being stolen. Seems like we may just have to move to a patronage or donation system somehow and just expect that anything created will effectively be in the public domain. Unfortunately, given how many shareware authors get ripped off, as well as the entitlement ethos on the Internet nowadays, I don't have high hopes for this either.

Emilly Orr said...

Right, and here's the other problem with the Wild West mentality--they get all excited over the wrong things. "OMG, people are indulging in ageplay--we have to stop people from finding Lolita dresses!" Uh, *what*?? "OMG, Federal legislators don't want us to allow gambling in world--we have to outlaw SPLODERS!" You gotta be kidding me.

Their priorities are skewed. Don't fix the code, introduce voice. Don't address interruptions in service, write another couple paragraphs in the ToS saying it's not their problem.

And all of *that* is above and beyond the problems with the SL economy, which in large part also reflects the huge downturn in at least the American economy.

Which is eventually going to become a fourth rant on this topic if I keep it up, so I'll stop here. :p

Edward Pearse, Earl of Primbroke said...

And yes it would have been nice to see an anti-IP-theft campaign coming up with an idea of it's own, rather than ripping off some-one else's idea to do it. Calling it "parody" usually involves humour, or else a parody of something is when something is imitated poorly (like a parody of acting). Yes Chez got a point, but I don't agree with the way it's been done.

I also agree with Seraph that Judges prefer to see things settled out of court, though I personally believe this is to relieve themselves of the burden of having to make a legal precedent.

Oh well

Emilly Orr said...

You make good points.

Let me explain 'parody', in the sense it's being parrotted in this instance.

"Fair use" is a broad concept behind copyright law that many don't understand. "Parody" is more specific, but is generally understood as mocking the original work. *However*, in this instance, saying one is "parodying" the original work is actually a handy legal *dodge*--Chez saying he is *parodying* the original ads, such legal use of the term--in this country--nets him "fair use" protections.

It's annoying that in essence, he's using "fair use" protections to get around IP theft, when the campaign is *about* IP theft...but there it is.