Thursday, July 29, 2010

disconnecting, no one calls, the phone don't even ring

Sometimes, playing Echo Bazaar ends up a uniquely trippy experience:
A dream about a corridor lined with brass mirrors

In the dream, the mirrors on the left-hand side reflect you walking through a desert of ash, spiked here and there with the blackened stumps of trees. When you turn to your right, you fall out of bed. You open your eyes. Moonish light filters into the room: for a moment the floor beneath you seems to ripple, reflecting it like a pool of mercury. No, hang on, you're awake. This definitely just happened.
I've had nights like this.

At the turn of the century, a Danish painter named Vilhelm Hammershøi predated the Second Life effect of viewing the world over your avatar's shoulder. Notwithstanding the fact that he's apparently the go-to artist for 'serious literature' book covers, I find myself very comfortable with the view of the back of his wife's head. It seems natural to me, at this point.

And, following up on the current bans from yesterday and on Monday, this is by report the exact letter Hybrid Ansar got from Linden Labs as to why she was banned.

I guess that answers that.

[15:28] Tomoyuki Batra: The update is that they have changed Azriel's password so he can't get into the site or xstreet. He is getting ready to call them.
[15:28] Sakura Rajal: O>O what?

For those who don't remember yesterday's mention, Azriel Demain has been banned from Second Life. The thinking was this would only be for seven days. An additional email made it clear that the ban could be for seven days, or "indefinitely".

"Indefinitely" is a bad, bad word at this point.

[15:29] Tomoyuki Batra: They suspended Azriel for a week starting yesterday
[15:29] ZombieToy Fretwerk: wtf
[15:29] Tomoyuki Batra: because he had the words 'inspired by dracula' on one of his xstreet listings

Here's how we think it goes--Azriel has the listing up. Doesn't think to change it, because it's been that description for at least two years. Someone happens across it--who knows who? For all we know, it could have been a wandering Linden. This soul then reports it as a violation.

And Linden Labs freaks out completely and bans Az from the grid.

[15:30] Vylna Daviau: when Second life ADVERTISES - come on second life and be a vampire?

I should point your attention towards the current ad in the sidebar--it's been replaced with text-only, but the ad I had before for SL, if anyone remembers, was the one Vylna's referring to. Apparently it's okay as long as they don't say "Twilight" or "Dracula"...

(Though to that end, just as a side note...why haven't KayKay Stine, Xtasy Veil, Acekala Porthos, AngelinaJolie Laville, Azriel Watanabe, Caroline Tairov, Madonna Ohare, Sherry Moleno, MK Magic, TrishaNicole GossipGirl, TheCureAndTheCause Ghost, snoe Halostar, or Tristan Careless, just to mention a few who are quite blatantly ripping off the "Twilight" film series, been banned, then? There's no equality in the ban process? Or maybe it's that "Twilight" and "Avatar" are so much bigger than SL, and nobody will mind or notice, but Universal might sue Second Life for the "inspired by" line? Help me understand the thinking, here.)

[15:31] Tomoyuki Batra: yesterday he was able to access xstreet and
[15:31] Tomoyuki Batra: now he can't.
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means no transferring of moneys from xstreet into second life for tier, sim, anything else
[15:32] Rayven Zelmanov: How can they do that to him???

Well, pretty much because they're Linden Labs, at this point. But what Azriel is most worried about is that tier, which is due on 2 August. And he doesn't get in at the earliest until 8 August. What happens on the second when tier isn't paid?

[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means he can't pay his vendor spaces
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means no creating, no new releases, nothing
[15:32] Rayven Zelmanov: totally unfair
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: this basically screws him completely because this is his rl livelihood.

I've been saying for most of eighteen months now, that the end goal of Linden Labs' new management is to finish user-created content, once and for all. Because they seem to want a safe world, a sanitized world, a world that's flirty enough for adults and bland enough for the tweenybops and hot and cold running events for everyone else. Where money comes in and doesn't go out and everyone on the planet has a Second Life account.

This isn't a bad dream...well, actually, yeah, it's kind of an absurd and ridiculous dream that's completely delusional, but compared to, say, placing a private ad for a young man to slaughter and consume, well, it's a small fluffy happy dream. More power to them.

But the Lindens--old or new--still don't live in their world. They keep failing to understand the basic premise--if people are banned from creating; if people are turned solely and wholly into consumers of existing content; who's making that content? And if it's turning into that kind of game, where everyone has a choice between the jeans and the green t-shirt or the magenta disco dress, then we might as well be playing the Sims.

[15:33] Tomoyuki Batra: this could mean the end of falln if they keep going.

If Azriel Demain is permanently banned for something that was easily correctable, and it turns out to be entirely Linden-contrived, no one else noticing at all--that means this entire thing could have been avoided with a phone call, a personal note, hells--a notecard or IM sent in world.

This may well be the worst PR disaster the Labs have ever suffered, because--and especially so soon after the mass lay-offs--it will mean pretty much anyone is fair game. That no one is sacred anymore. That it doesn't matter how many sims we might own, we can go down on a whim.

This is not what the Labs want us all to be thinking.

When we were having this discussion this morning, there was at least one fellow who didn't get it, and kept making inappropriate comments in the group.

[15:34] VIKTOR Faerye: chill out ppl , just get the stick right out of ur asses

Tomo finally bounced him. Me being me, I couldn't leave it there:

[15:50] Emilly Orr: We did try to warn you. Apparently you don't listen.
[15:50] VIKTOR Faerye: cmon i have things to do here and that window keep coming
[15:51] Emilly Orr: So close it. That stops the window from popping up. Instead, you've now irritated the highly stressed partner of Azriel, who has banned you from the group and from the store. Consider it your lesson in being polite on SL.
[15:53] VIKTOR Faerye: lol i dont even know why i was a member,so how can i tell u i dont care

Yeah, I should've dropped it there. But I am stubborn when frustrated, and I am frustrated in so many ways at present.

[16:02] VIKTOR Faerye: why ppl is so hostile these days, i just was trying to have fun
[16:02] VIKTOR Faerye: i dont even know wat the problem is
[16:03] Emilly Orr: Azriel Demain, the owner of FallnAngel Designs--the group you got kicked from--got banned by Linden Labs for using what they consider to be a copyrighted word in a description on an XStreet listing.
[16:03] VIKTOR Faerye: wats the word_

(As it turns out, actually, it was the "inspired by", not so much the "Dracula", near as we understand things now.)

[16:03] Emilly Orr: It is now July 29th. He was told he was banned yesterday. This gives him seven days before he will be able to log back in--IF the Labs don't make it a permanent ban.
[16:04] VIKTOR Faerye: but wat was the word he used
[16:05] Emilly Orr: On the 2nd of August, tier is due for his sims. If he doesn't pay it in in-world currency, there are two ways that Linden Labs can deal with this. One is to pull funds from his personal checking account, which means certain longer-term RL plans will be scotched; the other is to declare the sims defaulted, return everything, and reclaim the land.
[16:05] Emilly Orr: Which word?
[16:06] VIKTOR Faerye: damn he is in some trouble then
[16:06] Emilly Orr: Yes. And you came in with your sense of humor and pretty much stomped on Tomo's last remaining nerve.
[16:07] Emilly Orr: Do you understand why this is a little big bigger than 'damn, people, chill, pull that stick outta yer asses' territory?
[16:07] VIKTOR Faerye: lol poor tomo im sorry bout him too * no kidding *

Go figure. He's sorry now that he's been bounced from the group and estate-banned. Some people.

[17:21] Emilly Orr: Did they tell him anything about payment on his sims?
[17:21] Tomoyuki Batra: they just kinda said 'oh well'
[17:22] MichaelE Eiren: don't they WANT their tier??
[17:22] Emilly Orr: This is a PR nightmare, but I'm not entirely convinced the Labs care.

This is the exact listing from XStreet's current "Report Item" policy:
Report Item

Before you continue to file a report, please review the following:

Are you having delivery problems with an item? Is this a general complaint better handled by Customer Support? Please DO NOT use this tool. Instead contact the Customer Support team directly.

Contact the Customer Support Team

Do you want to report an intellectual property violation? If you are an intellectual property owner with a complaint about a marketplace listing, contact the Intellectual Property team directly.

Contact the Intellectual Property Team

If the above situations do not apply to your complaint, then use this tool to report basic listing issues. Examples include: miscategorized listings, adult content, wrong language, listings for real-world goods or services, non-item listings, item or keyword spam, re-listed items, references to other e-commerce websites, anti-competitive or abusive behavior, or other Second Life Community Standards violation
It sounds like "inspired by" anything isn't even an issue, by what they're looking for. What they're looking for according to this would be:
  • adult content in non-adult listings
  • item or keyword spam in the listing
  • re-listing the same items with new names
  • referencing websites not XStreet/SL Marketplace
  • abusive language or "gaming" tactics used in the listing
  • assigning listings to the wrong category
  • using the wrong descriptive language in the listing
Maybe the Labs are just that nervy, but if they're telling him he can't re-enter SL, or use any SL-related services, until August 8th...he's going to lose all four sims.

FallnAngel Designs at that point will be a dead fashion house. Does Linden Labs really want this?

One last thing: on this YouTube video (don't ask, Fawkes is dragging me through Phineas & Ferb), they list the allowable use section of the Copyright Act of 1976:
"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for 'fair use' for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."
Does that matter a whit in terms of DMCA provisions, or Linden Labs' own internal Terms of Service? Not a lot, no, per this section:

Linden Lab may suspend or terminate your account at any time, without refund or obligation to you. Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account, terminate this Agreement, and/or refuse any and all current or future use of the Service without notice or liability to you. In the event that Linden Lab suspends or terminates your Account or this Agreement, you understand and agree that you shall receive no refund or exchange for any unused time on a subscription, any license or subscription fees, any content or data associated with your Account, or for anything else.
Yeah. Like that. So according to that passage, it may not matter why Azriel was banned, just if the Lindens will let him get back on. But this is making a great many of us nervous about many things--creating in world; living in world; and staying in world.

It is becoming a very, very hostile Second Life.

In other news, there's news on MyWorld--is it the next Second Life? Or the next Facebook? From here, it's hard to tell. All we know so far is it's an international social game--there are no avatars, but there are vehicles--be they cars, trucks, planes or trains--that one can use to compete in mini-games.

[23:59] Poppet McGimsie: this really happened: a friend of mine was teaching a logic class, and explaining how two negatives can make a positive, but two postiviers can never make a negative, and someone in the class said (very sarcastically) "yeah yeah"

Showed them, huh? And that's all from the cheap seats for tonight. Ta!


Rhianon Jameson said...

I assumed in the previous post that it was the "inspired by" that supposedly ran afoul of the DMCA, but it's still not clear how. "I copied this real world garment" is a problem, sure (except for all those forward-thinking SL designers of Victorian-era clothing; that Worth gown has been in the public domain for quite a while!). But "inspired by"? Really? At a minimum, wouldn't it take some judgment regarding how close is too close?

Just another illustration of why the DMCA is a terrible law.

Samantha Poindexter said...

Given that Dracula is very much in the public domain, I am confused. (Was this referring to some specific recent film version?)

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson, Miss Poindexter:

Keep in mind that this was not a DMCA filing. It was originally thought to be, but it's been confirmed it was a standard "report item"-level removal by the Labs. Who reported it? No one knows. (And may never know.)

The line in question, again, was "This was inspired by the 'grey suit' Gary Oldman wears in the 1992 movie Dracula." The name "Dracula" in itself is not actionable or copyrighted; but "inspired by" is stated to be disallowed, and the mention of Oldman, and the 1992 movie version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, may have been enough for whomever saw it to take this action.

What still kills me is, this entire thing is a nightmare of their making--because they know that certain emails from the Labs are still being labeled as spam (as happened in this case), and get misfiled in the spam folder or directly thrown in the trash by many, many email services.

The dogged stubbornness also gets me: when there's a client with a specific misdeed, who has changed the wording on the listing, and in all other ways complied with the notification, BUT needs to be able to access their funds to pay tier fees--I mean, really, you would think they do want those tier fees--the fact that they are completely unwilling to compromise on this issue is baffling.

That, and Az got hit for being "inspired by" a certain film. But the people that directly use "Twilight" gestures go untouched. The people that make "Avatar" avatars go untouched. Why is that perfectly fine?