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Second Life Tries To Backpedal On the GPL 207

Posted by kdawson
from the one-hand-giveth dept.
GigsVT writes "The Second Life viewer has been available under the GPL for three years. Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, recently released a 'third party viewer' policy that all but erases the freedoms granted under the GPL. It includes such draconian measures as 'You agree to update or delete at our request any data that you have received from Second Life or our servers and systems using a Third-Party Viewer,' 'You must not mask IP or MAC addresses' (reported to the server), 'you must have a published privacy policy explaining your practices regarding user data,' and '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.'"
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Second Life Tries To Backpedal On the GPL

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  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:21AM (#31256436)
    things like second life make me afraid the movie idiocracy will come true...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aggemam (641831)
      Second Life is a good research project (or playground if you will) for whenever we will be able to hook computers up to our brains and map all sensory inputs and outputs to a virtual 3D world (matrix-style). Then the actual world you'd live in will be ready. I just hope that things be quite different from SL by then :)
      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:37AM (#31256540) Homepage

        I just hope that things be quite different from SL by then :)

        By that, do you mean, "with graphics that don't look like they're from the late '90s", or do you mean "with not so many flying penises"?

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          I guess, with flying penises that don't look like they are from a video game made in 90's.

          Down with particle floods! If you want to attack people with flying penises, have decency to make those flying penises out of prims.

        • I mean like Snow Crash along with every other true geek here!

          I like to check in on Second Life every once in a while just to see how things are going there. Though crude in a lot of ways, it's a cool place and every time I check in (maybe once ever 6 months to a year), it gets better.

          Hell, even if we can't "hook computers up to our brains and map all sensory inputs", I'd still like to attend a few virtual meetings through a full vision viewer. I've been to one or two futurist meetings in second li
        • I am very happy, thank you, that the the flying penises are NOT visible in a better quality than with late ’90s graphics! ;)

          Oh, and wanna know what gets people to stop sending flying penisis?
          Hovering flying Goatses right in the “landing zone” of those penises. ;)

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Second Life is a good research project (or playground if you will) for whenever we will be able to hook computers up to our brains and map all sensory inputs and outputs to a virtual 3D world (matrix-style).

        I don't view the Web as a continuous 2D space as is, why would I want to view it as a continuous 3D space? The model of separate data items linked to each other works far better for almost all purposes; why would I want to cripple myself by insisting on having a physical avatar in a place that doesn't n

        • by TheLink (130905)

          It's the same reason why I think GUIs should not borrow too much from "physical metaphors".

          For example something like 10GUI might seem cool ( http://10gui.com/video/ [10gui.com] )

          But it is SLOW. Sliding windows around takes a lot more time than say "alt-tab". Or even a click on the relevant button in the taskbar.

          If I'm trying to get work done and I know exactly what I want, for example a particular application window, I want to be able to get to it ASAP. I don't want to have to slide lots of stuff around. I don't want

    • by pydev (1683904) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:34AM (#31256524)

      SL is mainly a social network and chat platform, with audio support and translation. It's also a bit like YouTube, except that people listen and view together. And people who'd otherwise never go near 3D Studio or VisualStudio actually learn 3D modeling and scripting in it.

      If you think it has anything to do with people becoming "idiots", you really don't quite understand it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        my thats a clever way of saying it's about tenticle sex monsters and flying cocks.
        • You really have lost track of what is going on in SL. Linden Labs has restricted anything that is even close to "tenticle sex monsters and flying cocks" to its own little ghetto and requires members to jump through hoops in order to be able to enter those areas. Disclaimer: I do not use SL, but I have several friends who do. One of my friends is a "content creator" and the stuff he scripts skirts the edge of thier new restrictions, so he chose to go into the ghetto, but it has caused problems for some of hi
        • by pydev (1683904)

          my thats a clever way of saying it's about tenticle sex monsters and flying cocks.

          Well, it's still 3D models, 3D animation, and scripting, isn't it?

          (But actually, people do do other things in SL as well.)

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        It has much more to do with people becoming perverts or furries.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FooGoo (98336)

      People always referencing the movie Idiocracy make me afraid it is already true. Denigrating other people because of the choices they make seems to be the modern equivalent of racism. The smartest person today could be proven an idiot tomorrow and vice versa....thats life.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        yes, because we couldn't possibly benefit from pointing out someone is doing something stupid.
      • by delinear (991444) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @08:00AM (#31257848)
        Do I get to do an obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com] here?
        • That’s one of the worst xkcd comics in existence. (Usually they are quite good.)
          Because it gets things completely wrong, and tries to adhere to a primitive “Amirite??” standpoint.

          People are de facto dumbing down. As I have done my own research, I also know the main causes:
          1. Excessive sugar. (Because excessive sugar eats away the B vitamins your brain needs, instead of delivering them, like whole grain carbohydrate products would.)
          2. The bigger the population, the less the single human has

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      things like second life make me afraid the movie idiocracy will come true...

      Idiocracy came true the moment the studio that paid for the movie decided not to give the movie a normal release because it was too controversial (to the idiots). If the successive waves of Birthers, Deathers and TEA Partiers haven't since convinced you, you're the subject of the movie.

    • things like second life make me afraid the movie idiocracy will come true...

      Really? In terms of stupidity, second life is far, far better than some things people did with their time in the past. Burning women at the stake for being witches comes to mind. We're not doing that anymore, I have to think that's a strong sign we're improving over time.

    • And FOX news doesn’t? ;)

      I bet they are at least already planning the show “OW, my balls!”.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The items mentioned in the policy have NOTHING to do with the freedoms granted under the GPL. Draconican EULAs are par for the course in the online gaming world.

    Read the last line before the Table of Contents: "If you do not comply, you are not allowed to use Second Life through a Third-Party Viewer, and in severe cases Linden Lab may terminate your access to Second Life entirely."

    • by jvillain (546827)

      I fully agree. Bad title.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's a kdawson post. As soon as you see his name in the story, read the slashdot article the same way you would watch Fox News.

    • by GigsVT (208848)

      There's also a clause that says you agree to delete any data you downloaded using the client.

      And that they can compel you to remove features that they don't like.

      If their remedy was limited to terminating access to the service, it wouldn't be as much of an issue. But you have this "agreement" that you become subject to by merely writing a compatible client, which subjects you to all kinds of requirements far beyond the GPL.

    • by mik (10986) *
      I dunno, while the threat is "we'll ban you from Second Life", the constraints on software are darn clear - they want developers to require shrinkwrap EULA to *distribute* downstream derived works, and require developers to assume liability for all downstream developer and user actions. Sounds like GPL conflict to me.
    • by mea37 (1201159)

      I would categorize it more as philosophical difference and less as deliberate scare-mongering.

      For the record, I agree with you. The GPL says "you can do X, Y, and Z", but Second Life says "if you do X, Y, and Z in ways we don't like, you can't use our servers"; I see no conflict there. Conflict would be if they tried to use copyright law to enforce their constraints.

      But the philosophical stance of a lot of Free Software folks is, freedom to change software is useless if you can't run the changes. So to t

  • by nhaines (622289) <nhaines AT ubuntu DOT com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:23AM (#31256452) Homepage

    While I don't think what they're doing is good or smart, I suspect this would really only affect the GPLed clients accessing the Second Life servers run by Linden Labs and not client use on any private servers that are running. And Linden does have the right to manage the data they store on their servers as they see fit.

    The beauty of the GPLed client is that users and developers can choose which servers to point their clients at--and pick the ones that have terms they agree wtih.

    • The beauty of the GPLed client is that users and developers can choose which servers to point their clients at--and pick the ones that have terms they agree wtih.

      Unfortunately, no. The sources can no longer be licensed under GPL, because Linden's new policy conflicts with GPLv2's clause 6:

      "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

      This is literal wording taken from the GPLv2 license [gnu.org], and is further reinforced in the GPLv2 FAQ [gnu.org].

      Linden Lab is imposin

      • by samkass (174571)

        That's only relevant if the further restrictions are part of the Copyright of the code. I haven't extensively investigated this case, but that doesn't sound like what's going on here. The code is still GPL'ed and you're still allowed to use it according to the GPL's guaranteed rights. HOWEVER, anyone connecting to Lindon servers (GPL'ed code or some custom proprietary code) is subject to the terms of service placed on the users of their servers. So this is an EULA agreement issue, not a Copyright one.

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        *shrug* not really - the developers can still make their code as they see fit, they just can't use it to connect to Linden Labs servers. They are free to host their own though.

  • >'You must not mask IP or MAC addresses' (reported to the server),

    Any bets that this has been driven by griefers more than anything else?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dave1791 (315728)

      From the new policy

      You must not circumvent our intended limitations on Second Life features. For example:

      1. You must not circumvent the Second Life permissions system or any features that limit copying, transfer, or use of content within Second Life.
      2. You must not alter content metadata like the Second Life creator name or the Second Life owner name.

      These hit right to the core of Linden's Business model and are something that SL content creators have been screaming about. If people make things in SL and sell them to each other, Linden makes money. If people stop bothering (at least professionally, leaving only the amateurs) because of copying, then this trade does not happen and Linden makes no money (and ultimately has to shut down).

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      But my MAC address IS fe:ed:fa:ce:be:ef , you insensitive clod!

      (I am an FPGA developer).

      • by qubezz (520511)
        'You must not mask IP or MAC addresses'

        My MAC address is only the business of me, my switch, and my router.
        I think someone needs to teach their lawyers the OSI model.
        • My MAC address is only the business of me, my switch, and my router.

          Second Life uses your MAC address as an identifier to ban you.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      I wonder: my ISP provides access only through NAT. I'm pretty sure they filter off my MAC as well. Does that mean I can't access SL any more?

    • by jandrese (485)
      I'm more curious why LL gives a damn about MAC addresses. It's not like they'll see them on their end unless you've hooked up your computer to their server LAN. Do they key permissions off of your MAC? That seems unlikely since you can log in from any machine by just downloading the client and supplying a password. Can you lock content down to specific machines (or more precisely: specific network cards)?
  • not true (Score:5, Informative)

    by pydev (1683904) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:29AM (#31256494)

    That's just not true. You have all the rights granted under the GPL. What you can't do is connect to their servers with a client that doesn't conform to their policies. That conforms to the GPL, and they don't have any choice in the matter anyway: people use modified SL viewers to grief and spam, and that's basically what they are trying to prohibit.

    Even if you couldn't connect to their servers with a modified client at all, it would still be useful: Linden Labs also open sourced the server. So, if you like, you can connect with your client to your server, or anybody else's server who allows it.

    Linden Labs didn't have to open source anything; they did the enlightened thing and open sourced both their client and their server code. One of the most popular viewer is now an open source viewer, with many more functions than their original viewer. And the grid of non-Linden Labs servers will probably grow to be bigger than their own, money-making grid some time this year or next year.

    • Re:not true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Homburg (213427) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:44AM (#31256568) Homepage

      You have all the rights granted under the GPL. What you can't do is connect to their servers with a client that doesn't conform to their policies.

      It's a little unclear. The intro to the policy does look a little more onerous: they write "we require users of Third-Party Viewers and those who develop or distribute them (“Developers”) to comply with this Policy," which looks like an attempt to limit any distribution of clients that don't conform to the policy. When it lists the consequences of failing to comply with the policy, it's mostly that they will revoke the client's right to access their servers, they may remove it from their viewer directory, and ban anyone who does use the client, none of which are particularly unreasonable. But they also write (section 8c):

      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.

      I'm not entirely sure how to parse that, but one way of reading it suggests they think they can require developers of non-policy-compliant viewers to either disable the client's ability to connect to Linden's servers, or even perhaps to stop distributing the client altogether.

      I think this is likely a case of some slightly overreaching language in the policy, rather than an evil attempt to get around the GPL; but it would be nice if their policy was clearly not attempting to take away people's GPL rights, rather than being, as it currently is, rather unclear.

      • by Eskarel (565631)

        IANAL but the key phrase is the bit about for the purpose of.

        I'd read that as saying you can't distribute your client as a second life client or do things like prefill the second life server details. To be honest that should be a legal requirement anyway a second life client that cannot connect to the second life servers is not fit for purpose and shouldn't be legal to distribute as such.

        Distributing it as a client for opensim or whatever it is called is another story.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        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.

        I'm not entirely sure how to parse that, but one way of reading it suggests they think they can require developers of non-policy-compliant viewers to either disable the client's ability to connect to Linden's servers, or even perhaps to stop distributing the client altogether.

        It seems to me that you can satisfy this requirement by stating that the client is for use in connecting to OpenSim-compatible servers, and not coding in a default connection to SL.

        but it would be nice if their policy was clearly not attempting to take away people's GPL rights, rather than being, as it currently is, rather unclear.

        Agreed.

      • One of the beautiful (or evil depending on your view) portions of the GPL is that the license terms are non-retractable. Linden Labs gave away certain rights to others when they distributed the project under the GPL. There is nothing they can do to reverse that. Any claim to the contrary is just FUD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kripkenstein (913150)

      Even if you couldn't connect to their servers with a modified client at all, it would still be useful: Linden Labs also open sourced the server. So, if you like, you can connect with your client to your server, or anybody else's server who allows it.

      No, Linden Labs did no such thing. You are probably thinking of OpenSim, a separate open source project, which is a reverse-engineered SL server with a BSD license.

      OpenSim is far less mature than the official closed-source SL server. It is also written in C#, with the issues that brings. So it isn't the same as if the official SL server were open sourced (which they considered doing at some point, but never did). To clarify how separate it is from the official SL codebase: OpenSim won't accept patches f

      • by pydev (1683904)

        No, Linden Labs did no such thing. You are probably thinking of OpenSim

        OK, they announced open sourcing the server. I thought OpenSim contained some of their source code.

        LL has been active in working on virtual world interoperability, so at least they are supporting this kind of thing.

        OpenSim is far less mature than the official closed-source SL server. It is also written in C#, with the issues that brings.

        Better maintainability? Simpler development?

        OpenSim won't accept patches from people that hack on th

    • One of the most popular viewer is now an open source viewer, with many more functions than their original viewer.

      What's it called? I haven't tried SL for ages, but I could kill an hour or two to see if anything has changed. :)

      • by pydev (1683904)

        One of the more popular ones is Emerald [modularsystems.sl].

        SL hasn't changed as much as I had hoped over the last few years, but they have made some progress behind the scenes. They may be working on a completely new rendering engines.

        One thing that seems to be a big change is the open simulator grid that's growing fast.

    • I've detailed the issue in a prior post [slashdot.org].

      The GPL is no longer available to developers of Second Life clients, because Linden Lab has added new restrictions on a developer's freedom to develop and distribute, and those restrictions are not GPL-compliant.

      Lindens have to choose one, either GPL licensing, or removing the developer restrictions on developers given in the document linked from the Slashdot summary. They can't have both simultaneously, the GPL doesn't allow it.

      Don't confuse this with Linden's right

      • Don't confuse this with Linden's right to dictate the terms of their service, which they of course have. The conflict with the GPL is not in their restrictions on the USAGE of a modified client, but in their imposing restrictions on the freedom to develop and distribute it.

        The Third Party Viewer restrictions only apply to users of the service. If you never use Linden Labs' service, you aren't bound by them.

        The GPL is no longer available to developers of Second Life clients, because Linden Lab has added new

  • by PylonHead (61401) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:32AM (#31256506) Homepage Journal

    And everything to do with the terms of service for access to their game servers. Feel free to make any changes you want to the client. But if you break their terms of service they won't let you connect. Sounds fair to me.

    • by GigsVT (208848)

      They won't let you connect...

      But they also have the legal power to demand that you delete any data downloaded through the client... Your own private data.

      And the right to demand that you disable features they don't like...

      As I said before... the remedies here aren't limited to termination of access... they go far beyond that.

  • by Parafilmus (107866) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:43AM (#31256564) Homepage

    Linden Labs has not "backpedaled" on the GPL in any sense at all.

    Linden generously donated a lot of code to GPL developers. They never promised to grant unlimited access to their servers.

    There is really no cause for whining here. The community should be grateful to these guys.

    • Ever hear of TIO [tiolibre.com] principles?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nashv (1479253)
        While those may be all good and sound principles, they have nothing to do with this specific case of a (non-)violation of the GPL - which is a license, not an ethical/freedom/rights guideline.
        • It is about the freedom to leave an online service with your data, which has nothing to do with the GPL for the client.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      > There is really no cause for whining here. The community should be grateful to these guys.

      But...but...but.. the GPL community is so good at it.

  • Say what? (Score:2, Funny)

    by consonant (896763)
    There are people still on Second Life? The intersection of AOL and MySpace users I would hazard to guess! :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Issarlk (1429361)
      There are still people thanks to the ever growing community of furries with giant penises.
  • by stimpleton (732392) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @05:00AM (#31256940)
    They need to do this because so much happens on the client side.

    With the SL viewer and the Linden Lab servers, the relationship is somewhat like HTML javascript form verification with some but not complete server input cleansing. They have been expanding input checking at the server side but it is lagging behind.

    If I could use a simplified example: The server sends to the viewer all avatars in a scene. A scene is a viewable distance which is 64 meters to 512 meters governed by the slider in your graphics preferences. The avatar scanner distance is hard-coded to a max of 16 avatars in the viewer. The scanner distance default is 96m. But some minor fiddling in the .NET code, you can change avatar scan distances and avatars in a scene, so with an individuals viewing distance also increased we see gross increases in bandwidth at the server side.

    Moving from that to the buzzwords of DRM and copyright laws(DMCA etc), the server sends the hash keys to the viewer of server assets(textures etc). It is somewhat trivial to match these keys to what it in RAM in form of a texture.

    Simply put the Second Life viewer can be modified to be an indexer of Digital Works created by both Linden Labs and users.

    This means LL has lost control of content, and it is content that gives Second Life a competitive advantage in 3D perpetual world games.
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @05:17AM (#31257032) Homepage

    This is like saying that Firefox is backpeddling on open source because Mozilla.org is free to block you if you spam their forums.

    However, I hear that because of the new policy, Emerald is closing shop. Anything that gets rid of those "giving access to our change history would mean someone could release binaries of our changes before we do!!" assholes is a good thing.

    • by GigsVT (208848)

      It's more like Mozilla saying that any browser capable of connecting to their forums is subject to a million terms that dictate what features it may or may not include and make the developer liable for what the users do with it.

  • Another angle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:30AM (#31259740) Journal

    There is another angle to this that wasn't realized earlier.

    This new policy makes Second Life incompatible with CC-SA and GPLed content within the world as well.

    It places a new restriction on the export of content that is incompatible with the terms of CC-SA and GPL.

    "You must not use or provide any functionality that Linden Lab’s viewers do not have for exporting content from Second Life unless the functionality verifies that the content to be exported was created by the Second Life user who is using the Third-Party Viewer."

    So you can only export what you have uploaded, not what you have received from someone else. This makes Secondlife incompatible with GPL and CC-SA content within the world.

    • No so, it only means that your TPV is not allowed to be the distribution mechanism for SL content, CC-SA/GPL or otherwise. Nothing is stopping the creator from distributing, or a recipient from modifying/redistributing, appropriately licensed content by other means (email, torrents, web downloads, etc), and a user then importing to SL via a compliant viewer.

      Parallel: While a radio station gives musician no mechanism to provide listeners with the score to their compositions over the air, there is nothing to

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GigsVT (208848)

        Person A releases a picture under CC-SA-By

        Person B uploads it to SL. Person B has now violated the copyright of person A, because the Second Life environment now places restrictions on further export of the picture.

        Prior to the TPV policy there was no policy against exporting content as long as you didn't violate copyright law.

        Secondlife is now incompatible with CC-SA and any kind of copyleft license.

        • I realize this is a fine line, but the viewer rules don't place any legal restrictions on the content itself, only on the features provided viewers.

          Person C would allowed by CC-SA-By to take a screencap of Person A's image that Person B uploaded, print it out, use it in a CC-SA-By licensed derivative work, and so on. If Person C were to request it, Person B would be obligated to provide the image file he uploaded, in accordance with Person A's license terms. If he no longer had a local copy, Person B could

  • by Wokan (14062)

    Since my video card wasn't blessed by the Second Life gods as good enough, my only experience with it was somewhere between terrible and horrible. Linden can take it's virtual world and flush it down the toilet (real or virtual) as far as I care. I'm glad I didn't invest much of what little time we have on this earth to a fake one.

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