Sunday, October 24, 2010

some bullets in the back, and some scars on the skin (part I)

Is there really anyone working at Linden Lab that thinks ahead?

Darrius Gothly reminds me of me, on occasion, in terms of shrill and rising hysteria...and that's not necessarily a compliment to either of us. But if you push past the paranoiac screeching, and consider that the Labs have taken an open and (fairly) understandable search application from Google and made it concealed and quite possibly fraudulent...I think there's only going to be more business closures, more small sim owners going under, more moves to OpenSim servers over this. Essentially, Jack Linden strikes again? That's really not good news.

And if any of this is true...we're in bigger trouble than I thought.

I have recently revised a personal opinion, where Brodesky Linden, at least, is concerned. Speaking with people over the course of today, it may be that, for every strike against him in dealing with the public, he made up for that--more or less--one on one, at least where direct coding was involved. Moreover, it seems that he wasn't just the key lead on the Marketplace project, he pretty much was the damned Marketplace project.

And, while earlier rejoicing at his departure was fun, learning that he wasn't gently shown the door because of his appalling interpersonal skills, but because he moved to another state?

That's...profoundly broken. As broken as SL Marketplace, frankly.

Something I should probably do at some point, relatively soonish, is sit down and draft a comments policy. I'm fairly easy-going, in the comments sense--I tend not to publish pure spam unless it's entertaining, and I'm willing to let people have knock-down, drag-out fights with each other in the comments to entries. How'ver, there are a few things I should make (semi-) formal, at some point, so reading through that wouldn't be a bad start.

Speaking of discord, and the sowing of same...I'm not entirely sure why I'm doing this, but obscure and tenuous complaining, sent to me, puts me in a picky mood. So I took the time to run this nonsense down, for whatever it's worth.

Someone--let's call them Anhedonic, that's a fun word, and it is tenuously related in kind to the resident's name--complained to me about a previous entry on copyright.

(I trust that's suitably vague enough for you, Anhedonic--I'm not referencing the precise post, gender, or statements made.)

Seems their name had turned up in a five-minute search--along with scores of other residents--in two main areas, off the top of my head: a search for skins and furnishings using the word "Na'vi" from James Cameron's Avatar (© 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment LLC. All Rights Reserved); and a search for objects and outfits from Star Wars (TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. 2010. All Rights Reserved). I could have widened my search to any of thousands of other branded properties, trademarked properties, copyrighted properties, that people have put out for sale. I didn't. It was a group of offhand references intended to illustrate a larger point about copyright infringement on the grid (namely: there's a lot of it about).

(And let me be ruthlessly clear on this: I have a horse in this race. Not only do I have outfits and accessories--and at least one piece of art--that violate various copyright provisions, but over the course of my four years on the grid, I have made copyright-violating outfits, based on movie or comics characters, though I don't remember if they were giveaways or put out for sale. That doesn't matter in the least, however, because the provisions of 'fair use', and even parody or satire, do not cover "fan art" or fan-made objects of any kind. We're all selling under the table, kids. Righteous indignation makes no sense.)

But, Anhedonic contacted me in high rage, snippily informing me of the following things (split into two parts due to length):

1. I really should have asked before I used xir name in a blog post.

(Answer: No, I don't have to. I have to ask if I am passing on notecards of conversation in main chat or in group chat publically on the grid; I don't have to ask if it deals with resident commentary of any kind off the grid. This includes forum comments, Marketplace listings, and snippets of group or main chat that I am capturing and using off the grid, not on. This is within the provisions set out by Linden Labs' Terms of Service for Second Life [© Linden Research, Inc., 2010. All Rights Reserved)].

(Now, if the intent of that statement was to imply that morally, ethically, I should have asked? I'll grant half a point there. For the sake of social harmony, I will concur that it would make things run more smoothly on the blog, if not my life, if I made sure that every resident I planned on referencing knew what I was planning to do, how I was planning to do it, and the exact quotes I intended to use.

(By and large I don't do this. It is a conscious choice, and occasionally, people become irate, and there are a few souls--which Anhedonic will now join--that have asked I never refer to them on this blog at all. When I can comply with such requests, I generally do, unless there's overriding merit in my opinion that such self-censoring would cause more harm than good.)

2. What Anhedonic is doing is "fan art" and is thus protected by virtue of 'fair use' proceedings.

(Answer: This one's trickier, and it always has been. And I say that as someone who used to work merchant rooms at conventions. Granted, our business made jewelry and incense, sold original art by an artist in the collective, and sold various bits of fur for use in craft/costume projects, but still. You work a con, you see a lot of people selling fan art, fan costumes, and fan props, a large number of which can and do violate copyright. It's still trickier, though, because seriously--the fellow selling brown trenchcoats in honor of Firefly [the term Firefly when used in connection with the show is © 2002-2009 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox, All Rights Reserved] is at least partially doing it to educate others about the show, which would fall under 'fair use' provisions, and Joss Whedon, like Kevin Smith, is fairly liberal when it comes to fans publicizing his work. Not everyone is. Paramount, for example, used to be sheer liquid death when it came to cease and desist orders sent to people who appropriate Star Trek outfits, props, and fiction for their own ends. [Note: this hasn't changed much since CBS bought out the rights. While we're here, Star Trek is TM & © 2010 CBS Studios Inc., All Rights Reserved. STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.] It has nothing to do with whether or not one is making money, even--so the Lindens have repeatedly said--"play money" on the grid, or giving things away, and claiming 'fair use' protections as a cover for copying anything is rarely safe, or morally right.

(I suppose the somewhat simple answer is, as far as most courts are concerned: would what Anhedonic makes be confused, at a glance from a casual observer, as the 'real thing'? If not, then the similarities could be ruled as null for the purposes of copyright--and trademark--violation. But if this hypothetical court thought Anhedonic was attempting to have xir work taken as the "real" article [which is virtual in the first place, which makes it even more complex], then that could be a valid case for dilution of trademark, at the least, and violation of copyright, at worse. We'll get to examples later on.)

3. Anhedonic has pure intentions to supply skins and objects for roleplayers in the Na'vi universe on SL, and at quite reasonable prices, too, unlike evil gougers of a captive audience: aka, zir competitors.

(Answer: This one's unclear. Leave aside the selling for money/giving away myth that has become inextricably attached to 'fair use' arguments; it's specious and distracts from the main point. Instead, let's look at this sheerly from a sales angle and leave copyright and trademark to the side for a bit. Even a casual search for anything containing the word 'Na'vi' turns up a lot on the Marketplace; however, targeted searching, filtered for best-selling items only, and counting only blue-toned skins, or skin/shape/attachment combos me these figures before I stopped searching:


(Brief translation--these are rough counts of how many items are offered at each price range; so three items were being sold for $200, two were being sold at $350, and so on.) I think it's worthwhile to note that the L$2500 Na'vi set was a fatpack of all the skins that shop offered. How'ver, the main point--it looks like most people sell Na'vi skins on the grid between L$300 and L$600 each, exclusive of shape; some come with shape and skin, some just skin, there's a whole range of stores doing shapes alone for much less. So, Anhedonic is selling xir Na'vi skins within that range. I will grant this point: they are reasonably priced, according to the fluctuations of the current market.)

4. Any resident named on my blog is a copybotter. Anhedonic resents being labeled as such.

(Answer: This charge is false. I name a lot of residents on this blog. Friends, acquaintances, current enmities that flare up, artists, designers, builders...and yes, there is a special adored place in my heart for the people who go out of their way to look extraordinarily bizarre on the grid. Bless their pointy little heads.

(How'ver, none of that means that anyone named on the blog has hacked any textures or sculpt textures, or other grid-based ephemera, with Copybot or any program variant thereof...unless I specifically mention that. Even taking that into consideration, in the (deliberately left vague by request) entry in question, I did not specifically single out anyone mentioned as a copybotter, just an infringer of copyrighted or trademarked content.)

5. Anhedonic doesn't like being mentioned on my blog, period. It offends xir.

(Answer: That's a fair cop. No one likes to have their hand slapped for doing bad things, even virtually. I feel xir pain. And, depending on when I get around to posting this entry, as zie have so requested, I will likely trim your name out of that particular deliberately-left-vague entry. How'ver, for anyone paying attention--or who's bothered to cache particular copies--you won't be hard to find. In fact, even leaving out those who want to compare things, line by line, a general perusal of the Na'vi offerings will point directly to you, as yours will be the only name not mentioned.

(But hey--you want to be anonymous on the blog? I'm here to help. Consider your name struck from all rolls.)

To be continued...or you could just click this link.


HeadBurro Antfarm said...

So has this Brodesky Linden bloke gone now? If so, what's happening to the market place?

Emilly Orr said...

That's what people are wondering.

At some point there was a team, we know this. But over the course of time, especially over the course of the last two months, whether or not there were coders working on the project, Brodesky was always working on it. There are rumors he slept in the office, and that doesn't hit me as outlandish, because I had a friend who, for eight weeks, never left his office. His company wanted him on call "at all times"; when he asked what that meant, they sent over a folding cot and a mini-fridge.

But getting back to Brodesky...yes, Friday was his last day. And keep in mind that he wasn't fired for his abysmal customer service (which is at least partially explaind by sleep deprivation), but rather, because he moved to a state where the Lindens would have to pay taxes--to support things like health care, workmens' compensation, and Social Security.

They chose to fire him rather than pay the pennies on each dollar it would take to formalize the working relationship with the new state.

Darrius Gothly said...

@HeadBurro - Brodesky is still keeping his fingers on some parts of the Marketplace, but in an informal "Cuz they're still my team" sorta way. Like most cybernetic humans of his ilk, instantaneous disconnection from the last project is not only impossible, it can be injurious.

As for his customer service skills, after getting a better understanding of his schedule and motivations, I've developed a lot more forgiveness. Of course I've personally NEVER snapped at someone at the end of a 36 hour programming spurt .. but then I'm perfect in eevry way and nevrr make a misteak.