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Concerns around IP Protection


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As mentioned in the last usergroup, the weekly usergroup meetings don't have the right collection of lindens to discuss IP protections with. Its something we're very concerned about however, so I'd like to gather the feedback and concerns here so that they can be passed on to the correct people. Thanks!

 

 -Nyx

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I'm just generally curious what technical roadblocks will be in place to lessen the amount of unauthorized copying. For example, will mesh assets be harder to copy than prims, sculpts and textures? I'm asking this from a coding standpoint by the way.

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You may not be the right people to discuss the legal issues, but you are more informed than the corporate counsel on the technical issues.

* One way items have gotten stolen in the past is using a viewer that allows export of an object linkset and associated textures, and then re-importing it as their own.  What we upload for 3D models is a Collada .dae format file, which I understand is *not* the format they are delivered to the viewer in.  That may help reduce one kind of illicit copying, but it does not help if someone applies the mesh asset UUID when re-importing.

* An entirely different issue is illicit importing of existing 3D models from outside SL.  On a mechanical level I don't know of any way to prevent it, since the Second Life system (client, server, and asset databases) cannot check against every 3D model in existence.  Upload cost for high polygon models will prevent wanton import of some commercial ones, but I don't see anything else limiting them.

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If it produces audible clicks, it can be recorded. If it pushes pixels to the screen, it can be screen captured. If screen capture blockers are in place, there are tools of various sorts to either capture data out of the buffer or interpret the data files.

The *ONLY* real IP protection a content creator has is the better moral judgement of the fans of said IP content. "If you are a fan of my work, you will pay my fee." That's it. That's all there is.

If you are depending upon technology, there is software I will not name here... easy enough to find in a search... that allows you to scrape the content out of the data buffers to copy it. If you are depending upon the Lindens to intellgently process DMCA 'takedown' requests... I leave it to others to voice their opinion on how good Linden Labs has been with handling requests.

Your very best protection: my fans know my work and buy my products. They are the best 'IP police' on the grid, and so help anyone who steals my work because my fans will destroy them.

THAT is your best IP protection, bar none.

The really fun part comes in where you have people scream "IP theft" over textures they themselves 'stole' over the web. The thief complaining about being stolen from.

As for me, I've decided to protect my content by publishing it under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ so that people can 'steal' it all they want. It's freely available. That people are depending upon anything other than their fans to protect their artistic IP is beyond me. If I could see any realistic means to protect my IP, I wouldn't bother with http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ as I'd rather have the money.

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There is pretty much no way LL can block someone from copying geometry once it hits another computer computer there are tools which work with any data passed to the video card via OpenGL. It even works with that other program Blue M@rs or pretty much every game outthere.  But with that other Blue place content creator have to register and order a Software development kit and spend some money. If you end up copying peoples stuff they look as creation dates and pretty much kick ya out. and you are out if you are at fault.

You have to think of the SL viewer as a fancy 3D browser. If you post content on it people can see it and copy it. Sad but true.

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"If you post content on it people can see it and copy it"

What's more, it can be transformed in a 3D editing program, with things like retopo in Blender, so that it is still a copy while havinga completely different vertex geometry. It's possible to think of scemes imvolving timestamps generated on the server and never leaving it, together with some sort of normalised geometry hash that could go a long way towards detecting copies, but not if they are altered that sort of way. That brings us back to old fachioned human judgement.

However, the timestamp/userid for uploaded mesh assets, never involving the viewer, made by the asset server and never going out, does seem essential for dispute resolution. It provides some sort of registry of meshes, using the existing data store. I would assume that something like that already exists.

Of course the fact that two people upload the same mesh does not necessarily mean one is infringing the copyright of the other. Both could have obtained the data legitimately from the same external source. One may have given/sold the other the Collada files.Both may have bought them from the same third party. Naive interpretation of first upload as implying copyright could be open to all sorts of abuse (just as DMCA is already).

 

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Well... others have already pointed out that it's pretty much impossible to prevent theft.

You _could_ go ahead and limit mesh to people above a certain SL age, with PIOF or age verification. Yeah I can already hear the screams.

However, that won't prevent the rampant theft that's already commonplace: Importing textures, geometry, sounds willy-nilly from any source people feel like, along with equally blatant unauthorized use of trademarks.

Frankly, all I can see is the good old "it's a battle that cannot be won by technological means". You can make it harder, but that'll inevitable upset hobbyists (i.e. 99% of SLs creators). You can engage into an endless, money wasting war on IP theft... all you'll end up with is the same as the US "war on drugs" or "war on terrorism" - waste of money, little to no measurable benefits, a lot of harassment to honest people and the bad guys will merely laugh.

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I do still highly approve of the community efforts: the signs, "I'd rather go naked" I've seen around SL, or other more 'G-friendly' signs. Vivienne Schell's work on SL is easily enough recognizable. I saw one claiming he built something but I could tell straight away it was hers, and I could see he had his 'creation' tag on it so it was not one he bought. I made the mistake of telling her and then telling him I told her instead of getting an AR with a screenshot on it as quick as possible, but we both pummeled him a new one over it.

The very best IP protection: If you are a fan of someone's work, you will pay them for their work. No excuses. And if you see someone claiming your favorite work as their own, report it, shame them for their theft, and make everyone aware of their theft.

Rob Ganito http://www.the-gutters.com/comic/123-lar-desouza is an example of that sort of vile scum. The scum has been very publicly repudiated and is banned from setting foot in comic conventions on the basis of shameless IP theft. You can't catch every IP infringement, but when you catch it, make the price just a little bit more stiff than the thief was counting on in terms of public denoucement, public humiliation and public loss of income.

That is your only real IP protection, your fans loving and paying for your work and their willingness to call a thief a thief.

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But what if you don't have any fans? You are still entitled to copyright.

Concerning ease of copying, the UUID of nthe mesh asset should be inaccessible. There is no programatic access or access to it other than in the context of an object. So the only reason for sending it to the viewer would be for instancing. I think it could be replaved by a cipher for that, different for each sim. It's not much, but no access to the asset UUID would at least make it less easy to misuse/copy them than textures. ( How about that for textures? A sim-session-specific ID that the sim can interpret from a list.  Then the asset server sends the texture with the false ID so the client never sees the real immutable one?).

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"Entitlement" does not equal "Competency". Just because you have a recognized 'right' to something has nothing to do whatsoever with anyone's means to provide it outside of what you find you are able to do for yourself. You find you do not have fans for your work? It would appear wise to acquire the marketing skills and get a good fan base.

So... perhaps all the UUID's should be protected. I mean, why does mesh represent some sort of special case that does not also apply to every OTHER object within the database? Special cases always create more problems and more bugs. And you are still discussing a technical solution to a social problem. The technical solution you propose does not resolve the problem of plentiful tools to intercept the data to create an illegal copy. I am still unclear what blocking the UUID for a mesh does that permissions on the UUID of a texture does not also accomplish.

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UUID protection? Won't do any good, since no one needs the UUID for ripping. As has been pointed out over and over: _anything_ sent to display on the viewer, play on the viewer etc.pp. can be ripped without the UUID. Easily. Textures, animations, prims, meshes, sounds - they get in one form or another processed and displayed/stored by the viewer. You could invent the worlds best encryption scheme, and it wouldn't protect anything.

DVD has encryption. It has been broken before it even made it to market. BluRay has encryption. It has been broken over and over. Always because of the same reason: Anything displayed on a screen or played through a speaker is trivial to intercept. There's all kinds of "clever" schemes to foil movie screeners. They still exist, thriving as ever. The bill is being paid by the honest customers.

I understand why people prefer the "lalalalaaaaa... I can't hear you" approach to that simple little unchangeable fact. Ignoring that doesn't make it any less true. Heck, it's even possible to just browse the local viewer cache.

What it takes is to come up with a reason for people to _stay_ honest.

Or put REALLY simply: http://www.thebuzzmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/why-people-pirate-movies-steps-to-watching-video.jpg

Annoy users enough and they'll prefer the copy over the original.

In case anyone infers some silly motives: I buy every movie I like, I own almost a thousand books - many hardcover - and I buy CDs of every band I like. And I rip all of that to my (private, non-shared) media server instantly so I can access it easily.

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"In case anyone infers some silly motives: I buy every movie I like, I own almost a thousand books - many hardcover - and I buy CDs of every band I like. And I rip all of that to my (private, non-shared) media server instantly so I can access it easily."

Yes sir!

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There is also the hackingway , downloaded rendered content stolen with Open gl programs that can download all ggeometry , textures and so on , so ppl can always steal , the problem is that LL should put a "POLICE" group that checks constantly on unautorized products and copied content , I can't go now throught the whole list of the people that copied my products by donwloading and then reuploading or even just downloading altering and then uploading as altered form to show its more "original" ... The DMCA is useless so far as the people just reuploaded again after a while and plus we need to spend lot of money buyding the copied products to make controls and checks , something that shoudl be LL to do ....

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Jenni Darkwatch: "UUID protection? Won't do any good, since no one needs the UUID for ripping."

As indeed I pointed out in my earlier post. Do you lock your car in public places? You know theives can break into it by smashing the windows? So there's no point in locking it really. In fact the car manufacturer's are wasting resources by including locks that demonstrably don't work. Let's all lobby against locks in all new car models.

Romaq Rosher: ""Entitlement" does not equal "Competency"...."

Did I sat it did? I am talking about the legal entitlement to copyright protection which is enshrined in the real life law of most countries and by international treaties. That has nothing to do with competency. I would certainly not agree with the proposition that competency in marketing skills should be a necessary prerequiste for copyright protection, although there is nothing wrong with your taking that point of view.

Romaq Rosher: "why does mesh represent some sort of special case"

It doesn't. The only special thing in this context is that it is new. Mesh itroduction has provided the opportunity to introduce prim accounting that is truly related to resource consumption, avoiding the mistakes made with previous prim types, and thus combattting lag. Why shouldn't it provide th opportunity for better ip protection too. If successful, some of that might be back-poortable to images, although the possibility of incompatability with existing content mitigates against that.

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In the case of a car, a physical object, breaking into a car is non-trivial. Unless they take the entire car (which is time consuming for a crime-in-progress) there is damage left behind or special tools required. It's a physical object not subject to trivial duplication.

IP is a product where the tools are freely available and is subject to trivial duplication.

"I am talking about the legal entitlement." You win. You are entitled. There. Now that you are entitled, how do you propose to collect on your entitlement? Rubber checks? Are you going to picket LL's office with nasty signs? Do you plan to call 911 and explain you've been robbed? Entitled? Great! Being entitled and $20 USD gets you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Where does the means to pursue just compensation come from? Be entitled all you want. Stopping IP theft in an environment where preventing the theft is decidedly NON-trivial while the theft itself is decidedly TRIVIAL is far different from saying, "I'm entitled!" Getting back to your 'theft of car' anaology, suppose anyone could just walk by, take some photos with a digital camera of your custom made special car, take it to any local garage shop and have their very own copy of your custom car for $20 USD while you had to pay $95,000 to get the car customized the way you wanted. Kinda sucks being 'entitled', doesn't it?

Ok, so you agree that mesh really isn't a special case needing protection, other than that mesh is 'new'. Congrats. Let's hold off mesh for another 5 years while LL figures out how to incorporate better content protection into ALL asset resources with a consistant, coherent schema that is STILL trivially circumvented using freely available off-the-shelf products that will skim the textures and mesh IP right out of the GPU. Congrats, mesh is on hold until the end of the decade. You win.

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All meshes should be unique. Unique field maps, UV maps, material settings, etc, etc... Would it be possible to create an ID number/hash off of this unique data, along with a time stamp and AV uuid at the time of upload? Then check new uploads against these ID numbers.

I can see issues where legal off line sharing of assets could trigger such a system. In those cases, the original uploader could check the new "allow people to reupload" button. this would remove that meshes ID number from the check list.

 

Due to each meshes uniqueness, this should be way easier than trying to protect prim content. IMO.

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"In the case of a car...."  You misunderstand (or misrepresent) the intended analogy. Let me be prosaic. The fact that an obstacle to an illegal activity is surmountable is not a  valid argument for demolishing that obstacle. It depends on the cost of the obstacle. In this case, I believe the cost is very low. I leave that judgement to the developers, who are  quite likley to agree with you that the cost is too high. That would be a rational argument for rejecting it. It is true that this argument is a matter of dispute among legislators who wish to avoid unenforcable laws that fall into disrepute. The current row about super-injunctions in the UK is a good example. However, in the case of IP, the argument does appear to have been widely settled in favour of maintaining protection in the face of the difficulties you describe, despite considerable costs and doubts about enforceability.

"..how do you propose to collect on your entitlement". Probably not at all. I'm not sufficiently interested in commerce or reputation. My interest is in furthering rational discussion of a topic about which many have expressed concern, and which we were invited to discuss here. Your point about the relative ease of theft and it's prevention is valid and importanht, even maybe the whole point, but I don't see that the answer here is to dismiss any discussion of measures on that ground alone.

If I paid $95,000 for a customisation that could be replicated for $20, I would be a fool (which I don't deny).

"Let's hold off mesh for another 5 years"  I certainly don't suggest that anything should be done that would delay mesh release. If the answer was "we can do that but it will delay release". I would say "don't do it". Eighteen months of fiddling with it on Aditi is enough.I want to put meshes on my land yesterday.

I am impressed that you feel, apparently, so vehemently determined to dismiss any discussion of the subject we were invited to consider. I am aware that that is stance is shared quite widely, but I really don't understand it's source.

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Alisha Matova wrote:

In those cases, the original uploader could check the new "allow people to reupload" button. this would remove that meshes ID number from the check list.


Problem: a first uploader of a mesh freely (or even expensively) licensed externally could block subsequent uploads by others who are licensed to use it.  I think this sort of thing is plausible for settling precedence claims but maybe doesn't work for automated enforcement.
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Ok, I see where you are coming from. I had not thought about people uploading non-unique,or premade meshes. Perhaps my mesh ID idea works if the non-unique meshes are made an exception. Along with basic shapes like; cubes, planes,etc.

 

Surely there is enough data in each *custom made* mesh to deem it unique. Making it possible to red flag any other uploads containing some or all of that data.

Perhaps a button in the uploader, "create unique ID" for uploads we want that level of protection on.

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There would appear to be technical ways to copy mesh that we cannot protect ourselves against. I do know that the scripting inside the object, if any, is safe enough. I don't know if a copybotted rigged mesh would come out with the rigging intact.

The best the Lindens can do is tighten up their policy, for example deciding whether or not the creator needs to file an abuse report or DMCA, or if anyone who spotted it could file an abuse report to have it acted upon. For example, if I see something from WOW, would an abuse report from me be enough for the Lindens to act on it and take it down, or would Blizzard have to file a DMCA? If I see hair that is from a well known maker with another person listed as creator, could I file an abuse report on that and have the Lindens look at it?

As for discovery, you will likely find out from others if someone has stolen your content. A friend might tell you, or someone might even complain at being asked to pay for something in your store when they saw it elsewhere for a lower price or for free. That happened to me once with a Native American Woman's dress I had made. The dress was completely hand painted and totally an original work. The stolen content was identical. The Lindens took down the stolen content, removing it from everyone's inventory who had it as created by the thief, and I was satisfied.

They would not tell me of any action taken against the thief, and I was okay with that, privacy issues considered. It would have been nice to have a pound of flesh, but that is an unreasonable demand.

It would be nice to get some formal statement of their policy revisions, and I am sure that we will when mesh hits the grid. We know it has been of concern to them and no doubt a high priority. The big boys, like Blizzard, would certainly come after them with greater legal resources than you or I would have.

It is not reasonable to demand that the Lindens make it technically impossible to steal mesh, for it is impossible for them to do so. This does not mean that they are inherently evil, out to make your life a misery, or do things on purpose to upset you or "screw" you. It is just not possible for them to technically eliminate all ways by which content can be stolen. 

 

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QFT

I think Drongle has expressed what I was going to say quite well. I don't get the point of the "well, why bother adding protection since people can steal anyway" argument. Yes, most assets that hit a person's computer can possibly be stolen. However, the average user doesn't know how to steal certain assets. Bringing back the car analogy, a lower level car criminal might be able to break into and hotwire a low-end car while he is unable to circumvent some of the security measures placed in a high-end car. And yes, there are criminals who know how to break into high-end cars. But, they are a smaller group than the other. However, no one would go around stating that car owners shouldn't lock their doors.

Obviously, LL won't be able to stop all content theft. No one can do that. But, they can make the files as secure as they can. That is the responsible thing to do. Once theft has occurred, it is a legal matter for the merchant to deal with.

I can agree that the most powerful weapon that a content developer has (outside of legal avenues) after their work has been stolen is the community itself. I do believe that many people in SL are honest and don't want to support stolen content. I have known people that went out of their way to tell a merchant when they have spotted someone stealing that person's work. So, the community can make it harder for blatant thieves to make a profit.

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"It is not reasonable to demand that the Lindens make it technically impossible to steal mesh, for it is impossible for them to do so."

Indeed. But it may be reasonable, given their expressed concern, that they will do what they can to make the resolution of accusations of theft as efficient as possible, using appropriate metadata. This is in their own interest to minimise the resources needed for DMCA responses, as well possibly increased deterrent. However, it is much easier for the copying of internal data than for the illegitimate use of external data, and I am sure you are right that the latter is going to be the more troubling concern. The scope is so large, both for uploads and for false accusatiuons. 

:smileysad:

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I have an emphatic lack of faith in the goodness of my fellow man in general. I also have an awareness of how easy it is to capture IP using the various tools that violate the Linden TOS without getting caught up to the point where someone reports a violation with sufficient info that the violation can be acted upon. I have definite faith in my fellow people on SL to use DCMA as a weapon to unfairly stifle perceived competition. I also believe quite strongly in the frailty with which Linden would handle such reported violations without being overwhelmed with the very best of intentions. I do not believe the 'man in the trench/ low level cog' comptency of Linden Labs employees to live up to the public stated best of intentions policy the company may publish.

What we have here is a complete, thorough emotional breach of trust between me personally (and I believe most hobbiest genuine content creators) and Linden Labs concerning IP protection. I have watched non-mesh IP content removed in fury and disgust over LL's handling over reported DCMA violations. I am aware of how trivial it is to engage in such DCMA violations. I have watched two vendors engage in battle using DCMA as an offensive weapon to stifle legitimate competition rather than as a shield of protection.

On an emotional basis, I must state I am very displeased and angry at the whole thing. Even so simple a thing as wishing to watch a DVD movie I paid for I'm forced to watch 'previews' regardless of my desire to do so. I find myself pressured to use so called 'illegal' tools to engage in the moral task of enjoying the content I paid for. Now we have discussion of bringing 'content protection' to mesh on a technical basis when we can agree available tools trump any technical means on the horizon to protect said content, but we can sure make legitimate use of mesh more difficult and annoying. We still have a breach of trust with Linden Lab's competency to live up to any stated policy they may have. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Fortune 500 company with the legal means to bury Linden Labs in yet another lawsuit, and screw the 'little guys' who may just as likely be using the same process to beat upon one another over content they themselves may have stolen off the web or from some third party.

I have a very grim outlook on the whole thing over my perception of a grevious breach of trust on all parties (in general) involved. I do not see any non-technical policy means to correct this breach of trust. I do see how attempts to mend this breach of trust using technology only tends to bring about problems like DVD's that force you to watch previews, or software you bought but you can no longer install because you *MIGHT* be a software pirate, even when you are not.

The only solution I can see to this problem is for the general culture of people who enjoy SL to NOT TOLLORATE IP theft. By *MY* definition, if you are a fan, you will pay for my work. If you are *NOT* a fan of my work and you steal it anyway, SCREW YOU! I'm not doing this for thieves and scum. I'm doing this for me, and I'm doing this for the enjoyment of my fans. I refuse to punish fans of my work with technical kludges that are largely ineffective at best anyway. Everyone else can and will do as they see fit.

I *would* and *do* strongly approve of efforts by Linden Labs to heal the ongoing breach of trust between them and the various communities using the Second Life product. I believe this is the effort Nyx Linden is making. I simply lack the confidence in positive and meaningful execution on the part of Linden Labs concerning that effort. I would be delighted to be proven my estimation of LL's ability and competency towards that end is incorrect.

I also support and encourage the 'community contract', by the community, of the community, artists, vendors and consumers of all IP content on SL. http://analutetia.com/2008/03/10/intellectual-property-rights-campaign/ is the correct idea, except that it will never be effective to the extent it depends upon Linden Labs for execution. "Together we can make a difference." That is a statement I can support. That is something I can put hope in. I trust community effort more than I trust Linden Labs. I trust the best of a community effort more than I trust the best technical solution Linden Labs could ever arrive at.

You may say my trust is misplaced, or perhaps at best my trust in the community is insufficient. Fine, so be it. I would like someone to simply show me in a real world execution of some technical means to protect IP that actually works without causing more harm to the content consumer than it is presumed to bring aid to the content creator. I would really prefer to create content and trust that I will receive full value in return for the effort I put in.

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I hear and understand the frustrations around this issue.

I had some animations and a couple of items I made for someone else to sell with full and exclusive rights get "leaked" out through errors in setting permissions before placing them for sale. The problem was corrected quickly, but the few that did get out quickly spread over the grid and people were selling them who had no right to. There are some items that do not have to be copybotted that are sold with full permissions because they have to be for others to use them, such as textures to be used by builders in making things to sell.

In one case such as this, I determined to deprive the person reselling of profit. I simply decided to give that item away as a freebie. At least that way I benefited from it in that it created some good will.

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I have a sculpty of planes (creates a one way shadow effect or a 'sculpty lettered sign') and a 'floating dock' support sculpty, and I am in the process of creating a Tiny House and other items. On my origional IP, I plan to offer those full perm and free to 'buy', but have a tip cup out with a 'suggested retail price' on the items. The only means I could come up with in the game of 'protecting' my IP was to choose not to play, and to provide on my personal website the means to recreate everything I did, as well as publish info to get to the website within the content I release. People would even be free under license to 'sell' the content, with much the same benefit as if they were attempting to sell content out of the library.

That is not for everyone, and at least script content can not be stolen as far as anyone knows. Animations can be stolen in theory, though I have not yet seen evidence that could be accomplished outside of leaks and 'mistaken ill-perm'd releases' as you mentioned. A factor in my choise is seeing Raglan Shire on the edge and public statements leadership has made towards leaving SL 'soon', as well as the crash of Elf Clan. Skidz Tweak is on both SL and InWorldz, and it would not take much I expect to push him off. The problem is not 'technical'. At least at the moment, SL really has InWorldz beat on most technical issues. The problem is LL's behavior towards major SL communities and non-fortune 500 content producers. "Breach of trust" seems to be the phrase that applies. A technical solution won't heal that breach of trust.

So I plan to have my content full-perm and as 'open' as I can make it. Anyone who finds the need to leave SL will be quite welcome to take the content to any other grid that suits them instead of having a 'legal' need to pay for it twice, or being prevented by technical means to enjoy their content they paid for upon whatever grid they should choose to enjoy it on. I did not arrive at this decision lightly. I enjoy money. Altruism be damned, I want paid a fair price for my effort. I simply do not see a technical means within this 'IP content protection game' to achieve that fair reward for services rendered. So I have personally choosen not to play the game and trust fans of my work to pay me and *ONLY* my fans. That's scary as hell, but I trust it more than I do LL or any technical solution I can see on the horizon. Again, I'd love to be proven my assessment is not correct, but I simply don't see it from where I sit.

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