Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Third Party Viewer Policy Runs Into Backlash


At the same time as the Beta of its new viewer, Linden Labs also announced a new policy concerning the use of third-party viewers in general, such as the Emerald viewer. The Lindens say they are willing to accept the use of these viewers, though a number are raising questions about the wording of the policy.

The policy was a long list of legalese that this blue collar worker in real-life found hard to understand. Going through the Linden blog, readers expressed similar confusion. Some thought things looked fishy.

Well, not one single instance or version of the 3rd-party clients that I have ever seen or used can meet a strict interpretation of the new rules for an "approved" client, So you have, despite all your noise to the contrary, effectively banned ALL 3rd party clients, as they exist today. At least, banned their use by anyone that plays by the rules. The thieves will still use fake tags and pretend to be an LL-approved copy of Snowglobe and have a field day.

And you know what? LL's OWN CLIENTS can't pass those restrictions!

One of my friends came to me. He thought that the Lindens were making the use of a third party viewer punishable by suspension or ban, and pointed out an entry in the Boy Lane blog. Boy Lane called herself one of the people behind one of the 3rd party viewers, and had this to say:

What happened now however is going way too far beyond a reasonable policy. Besides making some clear statements about content "backup" LL also introduced some funny terms they could not legally enforce previously. Such as not using the generic term "life" which one has to explicitly agree upon by signing LL's new policy.

But unfortunately not all can be labeled "funny". To come to the (at least in my opinion) main point. LL introduced one killer clause:

7. Your Responsibility for Third-Party Viewers
If you are a user or Developer of Third-Party Viewers:

a. You are responsible for all uses you make of Third-Party Viewers, and if you are a Developer, you are also responsible for all Third-Party Viewers that you develop or distribute.

What this means is that a viewer developer has to take (legal) responsibility for any action of any viewer user. That's something GPL specifically allows to exclude, now LL forces such responsibility back to software developers. It is pretty much impossible for anyone to take such a responsibility. Besides many other questionable points this clause renders the whole 3rd party viewer policy unacceptable.

Boy Lane stated she refused to comply with the new policy, and recommended others stop using third party viewers, saying they were risking being banned from Second Life.

Tateru Nino in Massively called the new policy, "the worst day's work that we've seen come out of the Lab to-date. ... the TPV policies have a number of glaring flaws, chief among which are multiple incompatibilities with the existing source licenses, so that you can't actually build and distribute a viewer from the open source code-base while simultaneously being in compliance with the TPV policies. That's quite an astonishing oversight. In fact, not a single release of the source-code made by Linden Lab to date complies with the TPV policies. An unmodified build from the trunk code-base would be violate the policies as they presently stand."

Why were the new policies so poorly written? The question was summed up between comments between Tateru and one of her readers. He thought the Lindens were too proud to admit that their viewer was inferior to that others could build. Tateru thought this wasn't the case, but rather a blunder, wondering if, someone on the legal team just phoned this in half-asleep.

Word is, Soft Linden is writing up a more clear policy. Hopefully this will clear up a good deal of confusion and suspicion, and quiet fears the Lindens are trying to ban third-party viewers without saying so.

To go to the Linden Blog post, Click Here

To go to the comments, Click Here.

Other sources: Massively, Boy Lane


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