TPV: First casualty

imprudenceImprudence issued a statement earlier this week that they are withdrawing from Second Life as a result of the Third Party Viewer (TPV) Policy. In the statement, they set out their reasons as to why they are withdrawing, pointing to clauses 2b, 4a(i), 4b(iii), 7a and 7d, and 8c and 8d as being “unreasonable”.

Having gone over the TPV a number of times, I have to say I find Imprudence’s position for the most part hard to understand, as their interpretation of four of the clauses then mention seems to be wilfully subjective and misleading; while their reaction to two more of the clauses seems to lack any professional clarity of thought.

Imprudence state that (4a)i, (4b)iii, 8(c ) and 8(d) require us to promise to obey Linden Lab’s every future whim and that as such, the Imprudence team are unwilling to make such broad promises, not knowing what they may request.

This is a very sweeping statement, with Imprudence further claiming that 8(c) requires that they agree to stop using or distributing the viewer at Linden Lab’s request and that 8(d) requires that they agree to add, modify, or remove parts of the viewer at Linden Lab’s request, within a time frame dictated by Linden Lab.

However, these claims can best be described as over-exaggerated. Here is what clause 8c actually states:

If a Third-Party Viewer or your use or distribution of it violates this Policy or any Linden Lab policy, your permission to access Second Life using the Third-Party Viewer shall terminate automatically. You acknowledge and agree that we may require you to stop using or distributing a Third-Party Viewer for accessing Second Life if we determine that there is a violation.

Note my emphasis: the qualifier is clear. If a third-party Viewer breaks the TPV Policy, the Linden Lab require it no longer access Second Life. This is far short of Imprudence’s blanket assertion that Linden Lab require they “agree to stop using or distributing the Viewer” – a denial of access to Second Life clearly does not prevent them from continuing to distribute their Viewer for use on OS Grids, etc.

Similarly, clause 8(d) states:

If you are a Third-Party Viewer Developer, you agree to provide any content, data, executables, or for Third-Party Viewers based on our viewers, any source code that we may request to verify compliance with our policies, licenses, the GPL, or the law. If we believe that your Third-Party Viewer is not in compliance, we may request that you add, modify, or remove features, functionality, code or content, and you agree to comply with the request within a reasonable timeframe specified by Linden Lab.

Again, note the qualifiers I’ve emphasised. There is really nothing unreasonable here – if you wish to play in Linden Lab’s sandbox – which, by connecting to their servers and services a Developer is in fact doing – then sorry, Linden Lab have the right to ensure, so far as is possible (or, as I’ve stated elsewhere, give the perception they are ensuring) that your code does not constitute a threat to their services in and of itself  (excluding, obviously, mods any user introduces – which the Developer should again be able to prove relatively easily via the provisioning of their own source code).

Similarly, it is hard to see why Imprudence should be so upset of clauses 4a(i) and 4b(iii). Clause 4a(i) refers  to data received from Linden Lab’s servers – data for which Linden Lab has certain legal responsibilities (likely to be both State and Federal in nature (such as data privacy laws). As such, their various policies, terms of service, etc., must reflect such requirements  – and by extension, they need to ensure (or again, give the perception) that they are doing all they can to ensure that this data is protected when used by the software connecting to their servers.

Similarly, clause 4b(iii) relates to the protection of user data and makes a perfectly reasonable request that third-party developers take steps to ensure such data is kept secure when passing through their systems (and remember, if you use their Viewer, your login information, etc., goes through their servers). As such, it is in Imprudence’s best interests to ensure such data is protected at least to the same degree as on the Linden Lab servers. It is hard to see Linden Lab being so stupid as to issue requests for user data protection that exceed their own, and frankly – one would hope that Imprudence already have the necessary safeguards in place to ensure the data is as secure as possible.

Given that both these clauses relate to potentially sensitive data, I find it hard to accept that Imprudence, as responsible code developers would find a request to take reasonable steps to protect such data objectionable.

Indeed, in this, I find Imprudence’s own assertion that If and when Linden Lab makes any request of us, we will use our own judgement to decide how best to handle that particular request to be at least as presumptive and arrogant as anything in the TPV – even to the point of suggesting that if they see little need to protect user data, then that is their call, and nothing to do with either Linden Lab or the users of the Imprudence viewer.

Frankly, when all four of these clauses are viewed in their proper context, it is very hard to see how any professional software developer would find them in and of themselves reasons to reject the TPV Policy. That the Imprudence team opt to refer to the clauses somewhat out of context and apply highly subjective interpretations to them suggests that it is the thinking at Imprudence that is at fault, not the thinking behind the policy itself.

Clauses 7a and (d) have been the source of much wailing and gnashing of teeth across the Viewer development community, but again – as I’ve previously said – it is hard to understand why. While 7(a) is indeed poorly worded, and unnecessarily mixes Viewer use with Viewer development – there is absolutely no reason why the entirety of Section 7 of the TPV cannot be handled by a Viewer developer issuing their own EULA as a part of the distribution / installation package. A responsibly written EULA would clearly protect the developer for undue liability, and wouldn’t be in violation of GPL.

Certainly, it is what Kirstenlee Cinquetti has already done with her Viewer – and I’m pleased to see at least one voice of reason on the Imprudence website has raised the same point.

Which brings us finally to clause 2b. And here Imprudence have a point. As stated, the TPV Policy effectively restricts the export of content from SL to the creator. Period. If the user’s name is not on every prim, every animation, pose, script, contained in a linkset or whatever – then it isn’t going to be exportable.

This does – to be fair – read as overly restrictive. As if one is to remain fair, the clause seems to be less related to preventing content theft as it is about preventing “valuable” content being removed from Second Life per se – which LL have always looked less-than-favourably upon. Frankly, it is hard to fully justify LL’s stance on limiting content export so tightly: this automatically disallows the export of Group-created content for the purposes of back-up, and also disallows the export of content created by one person but sold under a license agreement to another. As such, I can see Imprudence’s concerns – just as I can see the issue LL face in trying to invoke the perception of protecting people’s creations when given the crudeness of the ownership / permissions system.

I doubt Imprudence will be the last of third-party developers to walk away from the Second Life sandbox. Each one that does will be a loss to the community to some degree, to be sure. How many do so on the basis of rational thinking as opposed to acting in a fit of pique, however, remains to be seen; and I have to say that having gone through the stated reasoning behind Imprudence’s move, I do feel it is a case of pique getting the better of them.

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10 thoughts on “TPV: First casualty

  1. “Which brings us finally to clause 2b. And here Imprudence have a point. As stated, the TPV Policy effectively restricts the export of content from SL to the creator. Period. If the user’s name is not on every prim, every animation, pose, script, contained in a linkset or whatever – then it isn’t going to be exportable.

    While I don’t understand you not understanding the issues at hand, as I believe they are clear as day, let’s just look at this statement as you wrote above.

    For one, Linden proclaims that they themselves give or grant usage “license(s)” to the content on the SL grid, which defeats the purpose of the end user licensing. In other words, If I license a product for use under the GPL, or under the Creative Commons licensing structure, Linden over rides my license when they state that the items on the servers are in essence the property of Linden Lab and that their license over rides that which I license my goods under.

    There are many millions of items in SL that are either “free”, or licensed under such terms as stated above and people should have the right to use such items on any grid, any database, any server, and in any form that is stated by those licenses. Linden doesn’t have the right to over ride the terms of prior license agreements. Nor do they have the right to state that they in fact “grant licensing” for items they clearly have no right to grant a license on. They re in the position of claiming that they own all the data. And that will take a court case to show where their ideas and terms are flawed.

    It does no good whatsoever to state that all items have to retain all the information such as prior owner, UUID’s etc.. for items taken off the server. As a systems administrator, I could very easily change all that information prior to importing the items into the database, or at will change the information once re-imported to another database. Linden doesn’t have the right to add terms to the GNU/GPL or other licensing agreements. And in turn puts themselves in a situation where legal matters are made worse, not better.

    None of what Linden attempts to do will work. None of it. The thieves will still thieve, and those that take legitimate items off the servers for backup use or use for other grids will be the largest loser in the deal. Legal, or not.

    Bottom line, Linden has no right to license, or grant usage licenses, for the works on the servers and over ride legitimate licensing structures that are put in place, those licensing agreements that are designed to protect against this very tyranny of corporate monstrosities.

    Despite your opinion, there are legal consequences for what Linden is doing. Regardless of your position, you will soon understand if you do not now that Linden’s position and power grab is to over ride any and all users of their service to protect and harbor the data that exists. They will do this any way they can, and right now they do such just by stating what can and cannot connect to their servers.

    In all the years I’ve been seeing what is happening, Linden has never once provided a way to export items off their servers. Not in all these years. And they won’t. They take the stance that they own your data with the illegal TOS they write and you just say oh well and agree to it. This ruins software. It doesn’t make it better.

    TPV’s are primarily good. And far superior to Linden’s 2.0 viewer IMO. And in the opinion of many thousands that use Hippo, Meerkat, Emerald, Imprudence viewers as well as others.

    Linden has pronounced open source dead within their world and their imaginations. They certainly haven’t created an open environment and kept to ethical standards of any kind since they started in business.

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    1. Nice rant.

      Answer me one thing: just how long has the Second Life grid been in the public domain, rather than being proprietary software owned and operated by a private company?

      And since when has it been “illegal” for a private company to set the rules of access to, and use of, their environment?

      There is nothing within the new ToS as regards content ownership that isn’t present in in the old ToS. There is no “power grab”.

      As to accessing SL – the same applies. It *is* LL’s sandbox, and as such, they do have the legal right to gatekeep what goes on when one is physically accessing the platform. *You* may scream that it is “illegal” as it directly impacts your ability to develop code – but I seriously doubt the law itself will see things your way. LL’s management are many things but I don’t for a moment believe that they are complete idiots; steps will have been taken to ensure that the policy meets with current legal requirements. Again, that doesn’t stop you from challenging them – and if you do and win – then bravo! Let’s get the TPVP updated to reflect the rulings arising from the case.

      You seem to think I’m against TPVs – I’m not. I’ve used just about every major TPV since they started filtering into the community, and am currently using Emerald and KLee’s S20. I also don’t necessarily think the TPVP is well-worded – and have said as much. However, I also think that TPV *some* Developers are not helping matters in their petulant reactions to the TPV. Again, SL is not your playground. It’s not my playground. We have always been, and remain, able to spend time there because LL allows us. In this regard, all I’ve really done here is point out those items in the Imprudence statement that repeat elements of the TPV out of context, and stated were I might agree with Imprudence. If you don’t like the fact I’ve pointed out the inconsistencies in their statements – tough.

      Finally, I do not dispute that LL have never allowed data export through their viewer. As commented above – it’s always been that way in the ToS. However, they have very much muddied the waters on such matter by using terms like “not all copying is illegal” and Cory Linden’s blog posting of Feb 16th 2006. As such, there has been a tacit acknowledgement that copying goes on – and even a nod that it is OK *despite* what the ToS states. Given this, I can empathize with the Imprudence team in their commentary.

      Have LL pronounced open source dead in their world? I think the jury is still out on that one. Sure, some developers will fall by the wayside either through the poor manner in which LL have chosen to roll out this policy (coercion rather than consultation) or for reasons that may sit anywhere from valid concerns to outright prima donna footstomping. And at the end of the day – maybe that is precisely what LL desired: a trimming of the TPV tree to a handful of developers they can comfortably deal with. Is that fair? No.

      But again, it *is* their playground.

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  2. “Similarly, clause 8(d) states:

    If you are a Third-Party Viewer Developer, you agree to provide any content, data, executables, or for Third-Party Viewers based on our viewers, any source code that we may request to verify compliance with our policies, licenses, the GPL, or the law. If we believe that your Third-Party Viewer is not in compliance, we may request that you add, modify, or remove features, functionality, code or content, and you agree to comply with the request within a reasonable timeframe specified by Linden Lab.”

    You cannot be told to add, modify, or otherwise change software to be in compliance with Linden’s terms. Linden cannot add anything, nor take anything from the GNU/GPL License. They cannot request you remove features to comply with the GNU/GPL, it would be to be in compliance with their bogus hostile takeover of the content on their servers. They would only merely keep you, or tell you, that you cannot connect to their servers. Which is the whole purpose and why they are putting policy in place in the first place. It’s their best shot at getting around the license in which the client is currently licensed.

    Linden’s own clients cannot even pass the TPV policies.

    Just another company playing corporate god. It won’t work in court. And much of their Terms of Service would be subject to various issues on the stance(s) they take.

    At one time it was “Your world, your imagination”. Along with stating you could “own” virtual land, and other misnomers and false advertisements.

    Now it’s more like, “Our grid, our database and data”. Regardless if they are correct or not, legally or otherwise.

    And I suppose you don’t understand what an “F” rating means in terms of the BBB?

    Oh that’s right, that doesn’t matter either does it.

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    1. There is no bogus takeover of content. If you’ve failed to read the ToS until now, that’s your lookout.

      Corporations play god all the time. That’s the nature of business. Do I approve, no. But I live in the real world. *Should* the courts see things differently, doubtless LL (as I’ve already said) will move to comply with whatever ruling that comes forth. Will this make them “fairer”? I doubt it.

      Yes, LL have changed their slogan. But if you cannot differentiate between a slogan and the ToS….more fool you.

      And again, it always HAS been “Our grid, our database and our data”. How you can possibly think it has ever been otherwise is mind boggling. All LL have ever acceded within SL is the IP that lays BEHIND the content – never the content itself. IP and content are two very different things.

      I fail to see you snide remark about the BBB’s “F” rating; have you actually comprehended what I’ve written? I actually state the rating does matter

      As to your opening statements….again, I’ll say it slowly. The TPVP isn’t about overriding the GPL. It is about connecting to Linden Lab’s proprietary servers. It does not seek to override the GPL. Sadly, it IS exceptionally badly worded and does much to create confusion (that people are screaming about GPL violations is proof of that). Because it does, Developers have my sympathy – but some don’t help their cause by blatantly quoting the TPVP out of context (as Imprudence did) or by selectively quoting the GPL.

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  3. We will see if you feel the same way over time. This isn’t the first TOS change by any stretch of the word. And many changes have been performed to the TOS over the years.

    You can argue all you want about Linden and their proprietary servers. The content on those servers, including the database they host the data on is not proprietary. Which is my whole argument. There are many license agreements and terms that are written by the individual content creators. This “is” the license agreement. Not the terms that state that Linden themselves grant usage license on such works.

    As far as the TOS, I’ve never agreed to what they write, and stand stead fast that if ever just one time it’s ever challenged in a court of law that it will be torn apart and thrown out.

    But you are free to disagree. We will still be friends.

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    1. I’ve been around a long time – longer than this avatar – and yes, changes have abounded around the ToS.

      As to Linden and their servers: I’m reasonably confident that the licenses they hold relating to the software spell out what they can and cannot do, and they are more than likely well inside the law where such are concerned. Again, as I’ve said, LL have sufficiently muddied the water around what can and cannot be done around content, both in terms of the ToS and what they’ve stated in public.

      You also, for some reason, mistake me as being in favour of the ToS. With respect, I suggest you read what I’ve said – which is pretty much the only thing in its favour is the fact that the language has been somewhat cleaned up (at least from my perspective, but then licensing, contracts and the likes are part and parcel of my professional life).

      And glad to hear we can still be friends. I’m ever so easy to get along with. Honest.

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  4. “As to your opening statements….again, I’ll say it slowly. The TPVP isn’t about overriding the GPL. It is about connecting to Linden Lab’s proprietary servers.”

    You don’t honestly believe that do you? If I cannot connect, and import/export others software based off of licenses other than Linden’s usage license, they are indeed over riding the GPL and other such licenses by not allowing access to the code to download and distribute. Some of the items in SL have both script, images, and other content and is freely available. To state that it is inherently against policy to remove data from Linden’s servers unless the clients meet expectations that their own clients doesn’t meet is indeed what I state. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not in the the TOS, you wouldn’t for a second think Linden would come right out and say it would you? Why such confusion over policy?

    “It does not seek to override the GPL. Sadly, it IS exceptionally badly worded and does much to create confusion (that people are screaming about GPL violations is proof of that). Because it does, Developers have my sympathy – but some don’t help their cause by blatantly quoting the TPVP out of context (as Imprudence did) or by selectively quoting the GPL.”

    I disagree. When a developer is told to conform to agreements that in no way reflect the obligation of the developer to honor original license agreements, they have no other option but to not contribute code. Linden is plainly stating that the developer is indeed responsible for what “others” do with the code. That is not compatible with the GPL, like it or not.

    There is no mistake that Linden wrote it as they have. Their arguments are as poor as yours on the dev-list.

    It’s not opinion to state that the GPL license doesn’t give Linden the right to suggest that a developer be responsible for others use of the code. There are express limitations to what a developer is responsible for. That is the bottom line. And I’ve not seen any resolution on the part of Linden to correct, and modify such statements.

    Again, I disagree with you whole heartedly. It is a power grab over allowing others to import/export content at will. No set of circumstances will change the fact that I as a developer can change the UUID’s, the ownership of items exported to directly reflect what I expect, either within the database, or outside of the database, the provisions of making it mandatory to keep prior Linden permissions on data that is to be exported to other databases doesn’t fly. Period. There is no reason to have prior permissions that could be altered by any end user developer on external databases at will.

    Linden doesn’t want the data on their servers within other domains, despite the fact they have no legal domain over the data and that prior licensing allows for the distribution to or for other grid services. And they will do anything to make sure their policy states so. They will do anything to make sure that developers are put through hoops that they themselves don’t aspire to to full fill the agreements. Thus making such agreement utterly useless.

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  5. “Linden doesn’t want the data on their servers within other domains”

    Actually, that’s precisely what I said in my original post.

    Whether it is legal or not is something we’ll have to agree to differ on. Why not put it to the test in court? And this isn’t being facetious; if the matter is as black and white as you claim – then you should easily win the case.

    I’ve also never commented on the dev list….are you sure you’re not confusing me with someone else?

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  6. “Linden doesn’t want the data on their servers within other domains”

    >>”Actually, that’s precisely what I said in my original post.”

    Agreed, I just think that the idea that this was over reacted to by client developers as a general topic is inaccurate in my opinion. From everything I see, they don’t have a choice other than to back off of the development.

    Signing any deals to with Linden or agreeing to the terms is just not an option. It may very well be that Linden just over reacted. Either way, the issues need resolved and I don’t see it happening. Hopefully they will come to their senses.

    “Whether it is legal or not is something we’ll have to agree to differ on. Why not put it to the test in court? And this isn’t being facetious; if the matter is as black and white as you claim – then you should easily win the case.”

    I’m merely making the suggestion to you that making blanket decisions over all content is not proper. And further, taking the stance that you can license software based on the TOS as an end user “usage” license is basically saying that the creators of content have no authority to license their works under their own guidelines or license requirements. This in my mind is harboring the works by writing terms that state that the information is not to be used on other domains. If you believe that would stand up in court, more power to you. I don’t.

    “I’ve also never commented on the dev list….are you sure you’re not confusing me with someone else?”

    Oh, sorry, If you re-read, you’ll see that the intention was to state that the arguments by Linden, or worse yet no reply to valid questions within the dev-list. Not yourself.

    Anyhow that’s all I have to say about the state of affairs, thank you for allowing my opinion. Have a great weekend.

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  7. I still don’t see that LL need to “come to their senses”. It’s still their playground where TPVs are concerned. Also, I’ve never actually stated that blanket decisions over data and content is proper – rather, I’ve pointed out that LL have always taken that position via their ToS.

    And, no sarcasm intended – I’m terrible on picking up grammar and spelling errors with others given that I still miss about 20% of my own mistakes – but had you said:

    “Their arguments on the dev-list are as poor as yours are here”

    Then your meaning would have been clear. Unfortunately,

    “Their arguments are as poor as yours on the dev-list”

    …*does* imply you are referring to comments I’ve made on the dev-list.

    Whether my arguments – or yours – are poor is a matter of perception; certainly, your own have done little to dissuade me from my view that some developers have over-reacted to the TPVP. As stated in my post – some have go so far as to take specific clauses of the TPVP and present them entirely out-of-context in an attempt to portray LL as seeking to stop the use of a viewer anywhere at all – when said clauses are clearly and categorically limited in scope to Second Life.

    And you’re welcome to your opinion, always. I suspect that somewhere down the road, our views on some matters will overlap to a greater degree than may be the case now.

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