Tuesday, November 20, 2012

second time around, I'm still believing the words that you said

I bring you a heartwarming story of what might be the (currently) most amazing fan engagement ring ever. If you're a Star Wars fan, or a wedding fan, you won't want to miss it.

There's a petition going around for Linden Lab. No idea if it'll result in appreciable change--oh, who am I kidding, it won't--but I do find some of the text in the petition interesting. I quote:
Due to company detachment from its customer base and a failing abuse reporting system Second Life has become a product where its clients are repeatedly victimized while thieves thrive.
See, I can't really deny this one. This is exactly what it feels like. There's this initial reaction of "why bother" when we come across yet another scam from some (usually new) avatar on SL. It used to be these were huge and startling events, and word spread quickly, and everyone was on their guard...then one av stole an entire hair line, another stole an entire sim, and now it's every damn day, it seems like.
Because Linden Lab is enforcing its policy in such a way that the act of reporting a crime puts an honest victim at immediate risk of punishment while the perpetrator of the crime is often using a disposable alt on illegal software while IP jumping, the product, Second Life, is becoming a haven for those who prefer crime over imagination.
Here's where we run into problems, because what the petition seeks to redress is a legally established chain of circumstances which Linden Lab has neither control to change, nor desire to change. Copyright law ain't their purview, per se; they just do their best to enforce what they can, when they get correct complaints.

But for anyone who knows, it basically goes like this: Avatar A complains against Avatar B. As Avatar A rarely has Avatar B's real name, this is often done using a combination of their avatar name--which is usually some combination of numbers and "Resident" anyway--followed by mention of their main business and/or store location. (So, say, LL would get a letter accusing "sweetsubbeh1949567 Resident" who has "Subbeh Hair" on the Marketplace, and has the "Subbeh Hair D-Zigns" store in Golden Shoals. The Linden who receives this, if the form is accurately filled out, will put an operation injunction against "subbeh", who--if she chooses to--will retaliate by turning in a challenge form of her own.

Here's the trick they're talking about: the original DMCA cease-and-desist form can go out to the avatar name, and the business name they're doing business under on the grid. How'ver, when the challenge form comes in, because it is a legal document primarily used to establish territorial lines between Corporation A and Corporation B, it will ask for the business address that Corporation A operates from.
Now, in the case of corporations, this will likely be ABC Box Company, 1212 17th Street, South Gables, FL, with the accompanying telephone number, emails, fax lines, or whatever. Because it's a business address, and public domain, there's no issue with giving out the information, because that's for the other company's legal department anyway.

But most businesses in SL operate out of their homes. So instead of getting an address in an industrial district, they'll get Susie Jones-Haddington, say, on 2920 Fourth Street, Burnt Needle, Oklahoma or something.

It's important to remember: this is not a flaw, this is more of a feature. Why? Because the entire DMCA procedure, start to finish, is a legal construction developed to allow corporations to challenge corporations. There's no need for the challenging company to have the challenged company's corporate information: they already have it in order to make the challenge. At that point, it's just a matter of exchanging Corporate Office Info A for Corporate Office Info B--or, more importantly, getting Legal in both places to start talking to each other.

But in SL, this is not the way it works. Because DMCA was never intended to be used by private citizens, ever, there are severe gaps in the process when applied to non-incorporated entities.
After high profile cases showing Linden Lab refusing to reimburse a customer for loss of funds due to the company's failure to address this new crime wave, or their jump to permanently ban a very prominent designer from his intellectual property, many victims are refusing to share their own stories, allowing the criminals more freedom to victimize Linden Lab customers while growing even more confident that they will never be punished for their crimes.
I know about Maxwell Graf's unhappiness with just that, to the point where he eventually returned his sim in utter frustration because it seemed like a poor investment to pay a company for a section of virtual real estate with zero safeguards against IP infringement.

He's not the only one, and it's just as frustrating to have smaller things cloned and redistributed by unsavory alts. Part of the problem is how easy it is, still, to do; but to be absolutely fair to the technology involved, another part of the problem really does come down to people who don't know enough about the tech they're using. Only since last year, I believe, was any serious headway made with adding watermarks, trademark notes, or even lifted logos in the margins of digital work by more than a handful of designers. (I'll toss sculpt makers the exception; most of them began by adding watermarks to their designs.)
When customers of Linden Lab are harmed by another's violation of the corporation's TOS, the company's customer service is unacceptable, telling those who support Linden Lab to file an ineffective abuse report. If a customer reports a crime via an abuse report, they risk being treated like a criminal themselves or being banned from their own intellectual property without any explanation. The company refuses to reimburse customers for funds lost due to the fact that the corporation is negligent when it comes to enforcing its own terms of service.
While I understand the upset--and even the anger--the petition writers have, this is not the way to accomplish things. I think it's really going to come down to another major law suit, with a ton of bad press attached, for the Lindens to wake up and address some of these issues.

When we consider that Linden Lab has, as of 2012, no accredited standing with the Better Business Bureau because of one hundred and forty-three complaints filed against the company over the past three years alone, we've moved beyond anything a petition can solve.

In other news, Google's taking on a couple different tacks for the future, in tech news. First, they're trying to set up their own cellphone network, but also, they're making an augmented reality game. I'm thinking, Idea A for the cell network would work really well with Idea B (the game).

And what can you do with mesh and sculpts? This comes to mind. For more information on the creation of that image, go to Victor Hugo's website which has a ton of really interesting details.

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