LL to make “concerted effort” on content protection

Stroker Serpentine and those involved in the class action against Linden Lab over content protection have reached an out-of-court settlement with the makers of Second Life.

During a recording of Metaverse TV’s Grumpy Old Avatars, Stroker stated:

“We settled the lawsuit with Linden Lab. We settled amicably, and reasonably, and we’re anticipating a concerted effort on Linden’s behalf going forward towards content protection and the rights of content creators and at least being aware of the fact that there is a lot of content theft going on out there.”

Precisely what this means for SL as a whole is unclear. That settlement has been reached would indicate that both sides realised they had slim chances for an outright “win”. That action of some description is now anticipated on the part of Linden Lab is clear. Quite what that action will be remains to be seen.  One wonders if the shelved Content Management Roadmap may get a dusting-down; if it does, then it needs to be given a long, hard look. The first cut wasn’t that impressive.

The legal department at Battery Street seems to have its hands full right now…

RedZone and security: separating fact from fiction

The mills continue to churn on the matter of RedZone and its ilk. As such, I thought I’d pause for breath and try to sort some of the wheat from the chaff for those still confused. I’m deliberately avoiding any attempt to delve deeply into the more questionable aspects of RedZone and its data-gathering, and focus on the raw facts in the hope of illuminating the bare bones of why RedZone has little or no legitimate use in matters of security.

Myth 1: RedZone prevents copybotting

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even deter copybotting. RedZone attempts to identify known malicious viewers – which sounds good until you consider the following:

  • Anyone seriously engaged in content ripping (aka copybotting) knows how to hide the identity of the Viewer they are using so that it appears to be perfectly legitimate – thus RedZone cannot identify it. They can therefore create an alt, enter a sim, be scanned a “legal” and still copy items on display
  • Copybotting existed long before the Viewer was open sourced. As such, while the Viewer is the most convenient way to rip content, it is not the only means. The code for content ripping is still available to those that want to use it. There are also software applications that can be used for certain types of content theft. RedZone cannot even detect such activities – much less stop them- RedZone cannot even detect, much less stop them
  • RedZone works on the assumption that the Copybotter will actively engage in theft within the shop. Some may – and will likely avoid detection, as noted above. However, the simplest way to copy something is to legitimately buy it and then rez and copy it away from the store, rendering RedZone pointless.

So, don’t be fooled. In terms of “stopping copybotting” RedZone will be about as effective as using a wet paper bag to stop a bullet. At L$3999 a pop, that’s an awfully expensive wet paper bag…

Myth 2: RedZone prevents griefing by alts

RedZone is no better than any non-invasive (and cheaper) security tools for stopping griefing. In many respects, it is actually worse.

Much is made of RedZone’s ability to “identify alts” and so “stop griefers returning”. While this makes good reading, let’s look at the facts.

RedZone uses a method of obtaining avatar data and IP addresses (through a media stream exploit) and then compares results, the “theory” being that if two avatars have the same IP address, they “must” be alts of one another. BUT…the system ignores the fact that the vast majority of IP addresses currently in use are dynamic and can be changed frequently.

For example, I can turn my router off for 3 or more minutes, and when I power it back on again, I have a “new” IP address assigned to me by my ISP – an IP address that was previously been used by someone else possibly in the same general geographical location as me, but certainly using the same ISP.  This means that potentially:

  • *If* I were a griefer, I could avoid detection on a sim using RedZone simply by forcing my ISP to assign me a new IP address and then creating a throw-away alt.  There is a better than even chance that RedZone would not detect me, leaving me free to go about my dirty business
  • As someone who does not engage in griefing, I could be innocently accused and convicted of the crime, simply be because my ISP has assigned me a dynamic IP address that was previously associated with a “griefer”

RedZone further fails to acknowledge the existence of “block” IP addressing – such as might be used within an office building, or in an apartment block or by an Internet cafe, and so on. This means that if *one* person is identified as a “griefer” on that IP address – then all users of that IP address “must” be alts of the “griefer” – and are therefore banned.

And if that weren’t enough – RedZone does not distinguish between accounts on the same IP address. Thus, if one person in a household decides to do something silly, then can end up being banned as a “griefer”  – along with the rest of their household.

Proponents of RedZone will say this is acceptable – in other words, condone “guilt by association” – for the “greater good”. Yet all they are actually doing is potentially banning customers from their shops and patrons from their venues. Again, the genuine / serial griefer can circumvent RedZone as easily as the serial copybotter.

Myth 3: RedZone provides better land security features than other systems

No, it doesn’t. For general land security – keeping out unwanted visitors, preventing “casual” acts of “griefing”, removing troublemakers, etc., RedZone offers no more than can be found – free of charge – in the land tools available at parcel level, or at estate level if you own a sim. Using the land tools you can ensure:

  • Residents with no payment info logged with LL (directly or via PayPal) cannot access their land
  • Residents who are not Adult Verified cannot access their land
  • Residents who are not Adult Verified and have no payment information registered cannot access their land
  • Only members of your own Group can access the land.

These options alone should deal with over 99% of potential issues around security. And even if there is the occasional issue with a troublemaker, all parcels have a simple-to-use Ban List.

Similarly, griefing objects can be taken care of  simply by:

  • Restricting object creation / rezzing to Group members only
  • Restricting object entry to Group members only
  • (Worst case) restricting script running to Group members only.

These three steps alone eliminate the means by which the majority of griefers operate.

Sim owners can similarly restrict access to their sims – and in the case of residential sims, restrict access to multiple Groups if they wish, to save having everyone living on the sim a member of “their” Group.

If, for whatever reason, estate / land tools don’t work for you, then there are a number of items out there specifically developed for land security, none of which require your visitors / friends to be surreptitiously scanned. I’ll name two here, because I’ve used them for the last 4+ years at both parcel and sim level with great success:

  • Psyke Phaeton’s outstanding PDS Home Security orb – offers both parcel and sim-level solutions
  • Thomas Conover’s Land BodyGuard HUD, which provides sim-wide protection plus remote access to functions (you don’t have to be on your sim to ban someone, similarly, you can ban someone who is not physically present on the sim at the time of banning (because, say, they’ve created mischief and run away). It can be fully integrated with the SIM Radar system, if required – and both for half the price of RedZone. Find both in-world here.

These are just two systems. There are many more. All are cheaper that RedZone, and all carry out their functions without the need to covertly scan your visitors, as stated, nor do they lead to additional angst and drama over people being incorrectly accused of being alts of one another or having information about them stored on a third-party database outside of SL (which would most likely cause them considerable upset were they to be told this is in fact the case).

The facts that do count with RedZone

  • It cannot prevent copybotting. The most it can give an a false sense of security
  • It may deter the odd griefer, but not those who make griefing a habit
  • It offers an expensive solution to the problem of land security costing far more than dedicated land security tools that offer the same functionality
  • As a basic “security tool” RedZone is invasive of people’s privacy that sends avatar information to an insecure 3rd party database. As such, and given its use is detectable, all it is liable to do is encourage people to stay away from those stores / venues where it is used.

As I said, I’m not using this post to delve into the deeper and more distasteful elements of RedZone or the unethical behaviour of its creator following recent revisions to the Second Life Community Standards. These are all public knowledge. Rather, I’m hoping this post will simply give pause to those who have RedZone, or who are considering it, so they can ask themselves if it is really worth L$3999 when something costing L$750 will do the job without embroiling them in the wider aspects of the RedZone situation.

Linden Lab remove 1.2x and Snowglobe from Downloads

It went unannounced and pretty much unnoticed – except possibly by Boy Lane.

The end of the official Viewer 1.x moved a step closer mid-February, when both it and Snowglobe were removed from the official Viewer download page.

LL have apparently informed TPV developers that the date they officially stop supporting Viewer 1.x hasn’t been agreed as yet, but this move suggests it is drawing closer.