Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dusan Writer surveys NPIRL on content protection

Several weeks ago, I spoke up on behalf of the Not Possible IRL group and asked that Linden Lab add a Creative Commons tab in the object editor, as well as a Creative Commons option in the right click pie menu, so that everyone could see, with a simple right mouse click, what the rights were on an object.

An uproar ensued... Some misunderstood and thought that I was suggesting that the current system be replaced with only Creative Commons protections. Some felt that Creative Commons might not be the only way to go and that other systems, such as GNU, should be considered. Others accused me - and by association, my poor group, most of whom had very little to do with this suggestion - of being communists because Creative Commons empowers and protects open source creations.

The fact remains that the members of Not Possible IRL transform intellectual content into high-quality content, and have a great deal to lose unless the rights to that content are protected to the full extent possible

Blogger and specialist in vertical integration of media content and experiences, Dusan Writer, stepped in. Here is a man who inhales and paraphrases raw data better than anyone I know in our virtual space. I welcome his first contributions to the group and to this blog. - Bettina Tizzy

by Dusan Writer

Content creators are looking for solutions to current frustrations according to a recent survey conducted of Not Possible in Real Life members.

But they remain passionate about content creation. When asked to describe the benefits of creating content in Second Life®, they were almost spiritual in how they described the feeling of creating art:

  • "You can create your vision....You can create your own environment, clothing and style and share it with the virtual world"

  • "Satisfaction...enjoyment, release...pure pleasure"

  • "Become one with a dream - feel the pleasure of sharing your thoughts with others and their enjoyment of what you make"

  • "Almost infinite way of expression"

  • "Great options for creativity and a great audience to experience your work"

  • "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a 3D environment must be in the millions."

But lately there has been a lot of discussions about interoperability, Creative Commons licenses and content protection. But sometimes as content creators we're too busy making things to be able to engage in the communities and meetings, the office hours and blogs where these decisions are being discussed and made - and we'd like a voice at the table.

So we set out to poll our membership - to find out where the concerns are with the goal being to share what we hope Linden Lab and the openSim communities recognize as a key stakeholder in keeping virtual worlds vibrant, and retaining the creative Residents who help to make the grids more beautiful.

Who We Are
The survey represented a cross-section of users. Most had over a year in-world (click to see enlarged image):

Respondents embrace the full spectrum of content creation:

Our Experiences
We wanted to first understand whether our experiences with content creation have been positive. 60% of us, however, have "experienced situations where you feel your content was or may have been stolen or inappropriately used" (although only 6% have filed a complaint through Linden Lab).

Examples of inappropriate use included (quoted directly):

  • Use of works in revenue-producing machinima without credit

  • We have a free sculpty set that is provided as a learning resource and have had to deal with people mangling the item and then selling it

  • A creation was copied, changed very little, at times even the same textures were used

  • Images of work used in Second Life photographs set for sale as unique items

Our Concerns

Our main concern is the current system. 63% of replies considered the lack of flexibility with the current object permission system to be very important, followed by enforcement and unattributed use of content:

Our Hopes

Through the survey we asked content creators what they love about the current system, and what they'd like to see changed. When asked what code, tools and policies they'd like to see changed, the permission system was a recurring theme:

  • "I would like the ability to define the scope of a creation into the assets of the creation itself. This item is copy, transfer with attribution for commercial use, for example."

  • "Better permission system with more options"

  • The current (permission system) doesn't permit much flexibility and if you have a very complicated object with a great many scripts, sounds or animations, it can take hours to track them all down and make sure they have the correct permissions."

  • "Revisit the entire permissions system."

Other ideas ranged from an "undo" button to building a better system for texturing to a plea for "cooperation over competition and vision over vanity."

These are just snippets from this extensive survey and is a starting point in a broader effort to solicit ideas, insight and opinion by the content creation community. Our goal is to use this data to help ensure that content creators are at the table, that we have a voice as policy and code changes are proposed. As the metaverse grows, it will do so because of the joy that great content creation can bring - providing experiences beyond what's possible in real life.

Ensuring that our voices are heard is as much a mission for better systems and protections as it is the wider acknowledgment that without content there are simply empty grids.


Novel said...

Seems there is a confusion between DRM enforced at the technical level and IPR licensing. There are massive differences between the DRM like nature of the SL copy/mod/transfer system and what is achievable by a full license. eg 'transfer with attribution for commercial use' - the actual world system is unable to judge what is commercial , nor will it ever be able to do so.

Possibly a worthy addition to your survey is what should be in a mechanistic system enforced by teh in-world mechanics and when would you be prepared to do without an underpinning DRM and rely on IPR licensing (bear in mind many items distributed are distributed with licence conditions attached and the in-world mechanics are often little help to those dealing in textures?

Dusan Writer said...

Wonderful points Novel. The intent of the survey was to gather a snapshot of opinion and frustration along with top-line thoughts on solutions. However, the process is not complete - with this "temperature check" in hand we hope to engage the creative community in helping to craft a richer set of options and ideas.

Whether we then involve the type of expertise that would help to shape our understanding of the legal, technical, and policy choices that would be required to protect the broader interests of the community would definitely be a subsequent step - although as you know it's also complex and nuanced.

I think the key thing is to make sure that the folks who tend to be busy with prims have a seat at the table when DRM, IPR, C/M/T and other mechanisms are discussed.

Truthseeker said...

LOL don't let the Prok-readers scare you, Bettina:

In its own special way, the unfettered capitalism they so deeply crave is just as crushing to the creative spirit as the communism they so deeply fear...

Not every human transaction needs to be accompanied by that little cash-register sound, and it'd be great to have a way for creators to further clarify intent for their work beyond--but still absolutely founded upon--the rather blunt C/M/T instrument the Lindens already provide.

So glad you're on our side. Keep up the fight!!