CopyBot: “Prim Dong Without Functionality”

by prokofy on 15/11/06 at 1:32 am

Baba_002 Baba Yamamoto’s Bots: All Dressed Up And Nowhere to Go

By Prokofy Neva, Community Affairs Desk

Tableau tonight is dark and closed to teleportation, with only one green dot on the island map. Usually the upscale boardwalk shopping sim built in the weather-beaten Cape Cod style has a dozen shoppers browsing the stores of some of SL’s finest content creators like Barnesworth Anubis, Ingrid Ingersoll, Nylon Pinkney and Toast Bard. But in protest against the CopyBot, the designers have closed their storefronts by putting their land on access-only or group-only.

All over SL, hundreds of shops — mainly of newer and smaller type of people easily intimidated by the rhetoric of liberation movements launched by reverse engineers — have shuttered their doors. Content creators of SL wanted to send an instant, sharp, and strong signal to the programmers who imagined that their hard work and creativity was something with which to goof around in a sandbox.

But has anything actually been stolen and resold? CopyBot does copy — but poorly; clothes and shapes don’t save very well, and it’s mainly shoes, glasses, and all typess of attachments that tend to save and render better — but without any working scripts. It will likely not affect one of SL’s most-used products.

“It will copy your prim dong but it won’t be functioning,” Barnesworth commented dryly — though other designers were arguing in avid group chat that nothing was really safe from the replicating monster. (Picture below the fold not safe for work.)

CopyBotters will find performance problems if they rip off meticulously made products like this one created by Jocko Snakeankle.

Furry heads are said not to blink; other scripted attachments are replicated but essentially hollow inside — still, the damage by the undermining of the fabric of this creators’ world is still untold.

Others felt it was more of a threat. “Only scripts are safe,” one prominent designer said to friends in a group chat.

Arguments proceeded far into the wee hours, with many shop owners picking up all their stuff and returning it to stores, refunding from rentals, and even vowing to leave SL — though actual damage could not yet be measured.

The LindEx jumped up (i.e. devalued) a few points as some people nervously cashed out their Lindens, but remained steady at selling rate of 278L/US $1.00, up from yesterday’s close of 271 and average of 274. Lindens were said to be watching the LindEx like a hawk. At press time, 12,069 users were online, and they and others who logged on before them had spent a record $685,779.


Most people had not heard of the bot, and continued business as usual — the majority of Second Lifers do not create content, but consume it. Some argued that creators would only be hurting themselves and their customers if they kept their stores closed.

For others, experiencing, or even merely thinking about, having their special persona in SL suddenly duplicated — avatars that they spend months or years honing to a unique style — was the most unsettling aspect of the bot controversy and made people stay inside to avoid being zapped.

The one item that seems to be briskly selling is the CopyBot itself; avatars close to the vendors now banned said that $70,000 in sales had been racked up today on one store alone. GeForce, a vendor who reportedly only got 20 percent of sales, was said to be permabanned or at least removed from the list; meanwhile Prim Revolution, who made the bot — and was said to be related to the banned W-Hat and V-5 groups — remained at large in SL, victory-dancing at the site of the already- sold CopyBot parcel.

Groups of residents remain bitterly divided over whether a device like CopyBot aids the imagination and creativity of Second Life, or steals and ruins it. A great deal of anger was directed at libsecondlife, in part because members blandly continued to justify their actions with the “information wants to be free” argumentation.

Some members of the 24-avatar Bots of Second Life group, only 5 of which have the title Puppet Master, were more sobered by the issue, however. Adam Zaius, long-time SL resident, island rentals manager, builder, and scripter, told the Herald, “Copybot has huge ethical liabilities attached to it – and as a consequence, I personally believe it should never have been released into the publically accessible code branch.”

“LibSL on it’s own is not necessarily evil – there is a great deal of good that can be done with it,” said Adam. “But like all things, any powerful tool can also be used for great harm; and I think a few of the developers need to learn a bit of common sense about what people are really going to do with things.”

Examples of positive use of libsl cited by Adam including the ability to make ban lists longer than 60 and lists that would time-out bans; and also improve search capability to get around the lagging and clunky inworld SL search.

10 Responses to “CopyBot: “Prim Dong Without Functionality””

  1. Woodward

    Nov 15th, 2006

    –meanwhile Prim Revolution, who made the bot — and was said to be related to the banned W-Hat and V-5 groups–

    i find this rather interesting being that baba has long had ties to w-hat and indeed has defended them on occasion.

  2. Eric Maelstrom

    Nov 15th, 2006

    Banning Copybot and things like it only offers a false sense of security. When you are logged in to Second Life, every texture and prim you see is streamed to your computer and stored in either your cache or your graphics card memory. It’s just a matter of figuring out where it is stored and in what format, and once you figure that out, everything you see can be saved and copied. Deprecating the use of Copybot on SL servers won’t prevent copying. The only way to prevent your items from being copied is to remove them from the world so that nobody can view them.

    Digital Rights Management technologies of whatever kind also offer only a false sense of security. Given time and technical skill, DRM scheme can be cracked, just as any lock can be picked by someone with the tools and skills to do so. All DRM does, ultimately, is create a hassle for content creators and infringe on the legal rights of end users to use their property within the guidelines of fair use.

    As a show of solidarity against digital property theft, could all the merchants displaying the “closed due to Copybot” signs also display their receipts for their copies of Photoshop and related software, and also prove that the textures used in the creation of their wares are completely original and not “stolen” using photosourcing, copying from the web, or snatched from the texture banks of other games? Often in life the people shouting the loudest and waving the biggest pitchforks are the ones with something to hide.

  3. Eric Maelstrom

    Nov 15th, 2006

    You know, now that I think of it, my avatar is wearing a pair of boots that is a, uh, copy, of a real-world design, sold by a merchant participating in the Copybot protest. In fact, most of the items sold by said merchant are, to put it charitably, “inspired” by (meaning copies) of things not designed by him in real life.

  4. Atom Lahtoh

    Nov 15th, 2006

    DRM is the wrong way to go. Not only does it provide a false sense of security it usually ends up hurting the people it’s meant to protect, like when you’re new Windows Vista pc crashes for the third time and you have to buy the OS over again.

    How about all the paintings and posters people sell that are simply real life posters imported into the game? Those are all copies. How about the images of the art? Did they go to a museum and photograph that Van Gogh? How about that Johnny Cash poster?

    Did you get permission to stream those movies and music onto your land for public consumption?

    Where does it end? Most of SL is based on the rip.mix.burn culture.

  5. Tao Takashi

    Nov 15th, 2006

    Right, Atom. And I would like to be more open about it. Many cool things can happen if you are a bit more permissive about your stuff. That’s what Creative Commons Licenses are for. I don’t think this world (RL and SL) needs any more restrictions. We have enough and most of the times they are in the way of the honest customer but mostly never in those who do copy (see the music industry and file sharing against DRM).

  6. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 15th, 2006

    1. I don’t at all buy the concept — which is just extreme radicalism wearing cyber clothing — that just because you *can* do something against someone’s will, that it is ok then to do it and profit from it.

    On freebie selling, in fact, SLers often use this argument — “just because you can physically do it doesn’t mean it’s morally proper”.

    I disagree on using that argument for freebie selling, however, because a freebie seller has a conscious, available ability to uncheck “transfer/resell” and leave the box blank. He could theorize that someone selling his freebie if that box IS checked off is selling “against his will” but given that he has ample, visible, easy opportunity to uncheck that box, his claim is hollow. If he doesn’t avail of this opportunity, because he wishes to put the rest of SL to work crowdsourcing and virally copying his object to give him a) attention as a big newbie helper and enhancement of his reputation and/or b) loss-leads to TP to his store from seeing the object’s creator name — that’s just too damn bad.

    The problems with the GLINtercept and CopyBot issues are that they are copied against the creator’s will, intention, and physical settings on his object to “no copy”.

    Sure, I can take screen shots with “print screen” and snag somebody’s texture, or a poor copy of it, even if checked to “no copy” — but wouldn’t everyone argue that is theft? It is theft because I am overriding the obvious constructs of his will and the physical permissions of the SL system.

    The CopyBot stuff is done defiantly, deliberately, and gleefully, with victory dances — and it surely represents criminality. People deliberately, maliciously are deciding that just because there’s an open stream of something they can dip their cup into it when it was not the streamer’s intent — that simply doesn’t fly for me as a moral proposition.

    2. I also have to contend Tao Takashi’s notions that Creative Commons represents some mainstream, garden-variety legal solution. It doesn’t. First of all, people are no more likely to obey a Creative Commons license than they are a check-off box saying “no copy” if they intercept the streaming world at its source or in its reflections and grab it.

    Second, the whole Creative Commons thing is merely an extreme leftist/liberatian/tekkie utopian concept that they are trying to pass off as a mainstream liberal notion — and many are fooled.

    The ideology at its root propagated by Lessig and others is a very decided socialist “property is theft” and “information wants to be free” sort of radical ideology.

    Who gets to decide what “a little more free” is or “what’s looser”? That’s absurd.

    Certain kinds of content makers might benefit from taking an attitude that their stuff should be free and that they can still sell around that free stream.

    Example: Frogg Marlowe puts up 3 clips of entire songs of his on his website (not just the little partial clips many musicians put up). He also puts up a web page to order his CD. And he has inworld concerts where he accepts tips. I imagine his living is meager, given the ability of SL people to pay tips or buy CDS, which isn’t as large as everyone imagines, but in his case, he evidently feels putting out a whole song to be heard like that in full any time for free is part of the whole climate for marketing and sales of his work to sustain his creative abilities. So an argument that says his decision to have some stuff free and some for pay is supportable.

    A store owner who has a loss leader of one t-shirt or dress and the rest for pay might also argue this.

    But basically, Creative Commons doesn’t work for commodities. It works for intellectual property and digital arts in the sense of images, or lectures, or machinima, or writings in text.

    Software programmers have a very hard time accepting that users of SL who have commodities like shoes and hair trading view them as discrete objects and want to treat them as such. There is no such thing as an amazing wardrobe that you can have as a Creative Commons license always for free, and also hope to sell some part of it. Clothing is the kind of commodity that simply doesn’t work with this concept of intellectual/artistic work in the same way. Clothign is part of fashion, and it can take many hours to make and then even in SL where everything can last forever (until the server crashes) it has a function of wearing out, becoming outmoded, overtaken by others, etc. So it’s value isn’t as permanent as a work of written art.

    The extremists in the software gang say that all visuality on the SL servers is an artifact/feature/property of their software and therefore “belongs to them”.

    The Lindens liberated us from this extreme leftist notion by saying, no, the copyright to the commodities people created with the software as discrete viewable and inventoriable objects belong to the people who make them. They cannot be viewed as only the property of the intellectual and credentialed programming class which wishes to pwn everything on the servers; it also belongs to those who labour and create and market their goods.

    If Marx were here, he’d say the programming class wishes not only to alienate the worker from his product, making it ephemeral and dependent solely on programming wizardry; he’d like to claim ownership totally of other people’s labour, which is crowdsourcing theft and exploitation.

    In fact, the laborer should retain more discretion over his product and if he is granted the right to sell and move it he should expect copyright protection to some degree from the server owners WHO EXPLOIT HIS LABOUR TO SELL THEIR OWN PRODUCT AT A FAR HIGHER COST.

    Tao Takashia is merely one of the noveau riche making his living off his reputational enhancement and possible also product sales, not sure which, by positioning himself as a “media arbitrater”. He simply grabs the streams of everybody else’s content, some of whom are paid to create that content, and RSS feeds it from his Planet of SL blog. He’d like to think that’s just a public service — and it is, that, in part. But it also positions him to be seen as some kind of famous media maven that enhances his SL rep and also gets him RL contracting jobs.

    Tao and others who are in the apex of the pyramid of content creation or content re-fabbing and manipulation can command huge sums as RL consultants, or have RL discretionary income that lets them play in SL and get reputational points.

    This New Class is heavily oppressive of the rights of those many rungs down below them, merely pushing old-fashioned meat-world type of commodities — clothes, hair, shoes. The labour in hours and the payment in micro-payment Linden dollars of these hordes of toilers is far, far below what the Metaversal Consultants and tekkie web page owners and podcasters earn in RL and even in SL often. They scorn these lower classes and sneer at their concerns about copyright protection in ways that are really shocking — I’ve never seen such a sharp class dichotomy with such rigid castes in any RL society in my life — this one in SL borrows from all the worst features of all the most stratified and hierarchical societies out there.

  7. Atom Lahtoh

    Nov 15th, 2006

    I think you are confusing your groups. GNU is popular for their Copyleft approach, where works should be free; Creative Commons licensing attempts to clarify what the copyright holder’s intention is.

    Everything, including my response to your comment, is instantly copyrighted the moment it is created, according to US law. CC doesn’t abuse copyright or promote any sort of agenda other than making it clear what the creator wants, without having to track down the copyright holder to do it.

    Your whole argument that it’s an extreme leftist movement by a minority is hogwash. If you’d like to learn more about what you are talking about you should pick up Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig. You might take note that the original issues taken with copyright were from people who printed books, a very real world commodity.

    The point you make about clothing being like real clothing is also ridiculous. The essential reality in Second Life is that there is no cost of manufacturing. No paying for that rosewood inlay on a Robbie Dingo guitar, no paying for that fine silk and cashmere. Besides, haven’t you ever heard about bootlegged t-shirts? Yeah, they make them in secret labs and they look just like the real thing.

    But you know what? Copying them isn’t illegal, nor is it amoral. Copying things has been going on in every culture in existence. The issue is not copying, it’s selling a copied work. In that regard LL should investigate claims.

  8. Eric Maelstrom

    Nov 15th, 2006

    As Cory Linden himself said in his recent blog post: “Like the World Wide Web, it will never be possible to prevent data that is drawn on your screen from being copied.”

    Regardless of any political or philosophical interpretation of recent events, that fact remains and should be considered by anyone who creates any sort of digital content. Ultimately, there is nothing the Lindens or anyone else can do to prevent it.

    If that fear drives them to close their stores, then it’s a shame, because there are a lot of talented people in SL, making wonderful things. And a few of those things are even original and not “stolen” from someone else’s designs.

  9. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 15th, 2006

    Lessig has spoken in SL — I’ve heard him speak, and he is more CopyLeft than anything I’ve seen.

    I’ve read the available summaries and chapters of his book, and all the debates with him on the Internet, and I see that he has a Marxist or “critical” approach to the problem of transfering wealth, where he loves the idea of third-world people being able to mix and mash the artifacts of old white dead guys.

    You, as someone clearly on the hard left in all your responses, aren’t in a position necessarily to appreciate how left Lessig is; he may seem mainstream to you.

    Oh, not at all, there’s LOTS that can be done. I’ve given 3 good social solutions to the CopyBot and libsl problem in the other thread.

  10. winn

    May 10th, 2007

    There needs to be good protection for investors of content. If there is not, content will degrade as it morphs through copies with each making their personal ‘changes’. Not to mention zero revenue for the artist.

    Any serious artist surely will think twice about investing long hours creating great content, if it can be snapped up by anyone making it worthless.

    I’m a RL architect with a serious interest in creating SL content. SL offers an amazing potential to present and display designs. But the copybot saga has stopped me investing weeks and months putting good content together, specially if Linden is not really putting effort into removing such crippling code.

    What do I get from it if my content that took a month of work is copied? Nothing but extreme frustration.

    Rather spend time investing content out of SL where it can be controlled.

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