Second Life – Copybot Viewer Debate


The laws of various countries are clear when it comes to theft. Don’t, it is illegal. What theft is, is well defined.

What gets gray, poorly defined, is when we start to deal with theft of intellectual property. Arguably all digital things are in the realm of intellectual property. The cat Medhue is creating is all ones and zeros. They aren’t edited with a text tool as we would use for written words. Blender, Maya, and other modeling tools are high-level data editors that provide unique ways of editing binary data. Only in very unique circumstance do we use a text editor to edit a model file. Even rarer is the need to get down to the binary level.



The ‘cat’ looks like a ‘thing’. But, it exists only in the electronics of a computer. Taking it is theft. The laws covering the theft of such a cat color what constitutes the theft (making it theft of intellectual property) and the penalties.

The theft part, the taking, is clearly illegal without question. There is no: if you are poor, you can steal provision in the law. The most the law concedes are mitigating circumstances. So, the starving stealing food is addressed. The law is not TOTALLY blind.

Legal Control

The meeting shows a large part of the confusion is in the area of what we can do after we legally buy something. The No-Mod things of Second Life are a complex problem.

There is no law regarding what we do with things we own. Don’t over think that. Buy a frying pan and never use it, is fine. Use it every day, fine. Forget to take it off and burn the food in it to ash, it’s OK to throw it away. Want to melt it down for the metal? No problem.

Use it to make copies and sell them… now there is a problem.

In copyright law, books are used as an example. Law says you can’t copy a book and sell it. You can’t even copy a book and give the original away. If you do, the law requires you to destroy the copies even if they are only for your use.

The principal at work with book copies is the idea of damage to the author from lost sales.

So, if we buy something and modify it for our use, we are legally within our right. If we buy a car and have it repainted because the factory does not offer it in the color we want, that is legal… unless… we sign a contract that says we won’t.

The fine point in that last scenario is the difference between a ‘crime’ and a ‘civil contractual agreement’ violation.

In Second Life, we hit a gray area with No-Mod things. It looks to me like many use the No-Mod permissions to force people to buy more versions of a thing. Is it legal to do that? AFAIK, yes. But, since no contract was negotiated and agreed to, is there anything to keep the buyer from changing an item they own? AFAIK, no. But, SL permissions get in the way. I can find no place where the ToS specifically addresses circumventing SL permissions. See ToS 2.4, 2.7.

With mesh body dev kits, creators require we agree to terms to get the kit. With full-perm things, we almost always have to agree to a set of terms at purchase.

If we violate those terms, we have broken our word, lied. We have proven we are untrustworthy, a person of low or no character.

The recourse of the one we violated is real life court. The damages are usually too small to be worth the effort. So, in SL violators of their agreements get away with it. In SL the whole anti-theft, anti-copybot thing is about having someone else stop the theft because we typically can’t afford RL court.

More pages, links below…

14 thoughts on “Second Life – Copybot Viewer Debate

  1. Thanks for putting this up. Copybotting is here because people allow excuses for it. Crime hapens, but we don’t allow it when society is healthy.

    I had a biz that I payed bills with in real life, so much hard work, lost it to copybotters. This isn’t ok or just how it is. I live remotely, very little work here, it was very important income to me. I had a nervous breakdown over it. Things are not good in our home now.

    I have warned off quite a few business and creators from SL and will continue to do so until they show some respect for small business, which thye won’t, as they too profit off all the unreported thieved stuff at 5%.

    What is needed is a mass law suit on LL and a change in culture, not everyone is fast enough to keep up products ahead of the thieves , not everyone wants to be exploited by thieves. some people feel so devastated by the loss of their income they become slower or stop. And really, there is no point.

    I am sorry I am so upset here, but I am gutted, this is what it does to people, many people.

    Sickening how people had a laugh and friendly chat with the copybotter at the end.

    • Being the target of theft and having it disrupt your business, which is the somewhat hidden cost of theft, is certainly traumatic.

      Your remedy of a lawsuit against LL and a ‘change in culture’ are both out of touch with reality. There is no historical evidence, in 7,000+ years, there has ever been a culture without theft. What possible cultural change do you think is needed? And why would every single human in such a culture choose to abide by it?

      Your proposed lawsuit likely presupposes there is something the Lab could do about theft that it isn’t doing. What, exactly, might that be?

      Digital content, which people can use, is subject to theft. (period) Both the music and movie industries have spent huge sums to develop anti-theft schemes. It has been an ongoing, escalating battle for decades. Expensive schemes months and years in development have been defeated in days if not hours. Software and hardware gimmicks have all been defeated. In general, the industry has given up on a technological solution.

      If you think LL lacks respect for the creative types… explain why Sansar is being designed for creative types? No one invests millions in a group they have no respect for.

      Your bitterness sounds misplaced.

      The laughter with the copybotter and the copybotter’s belief her behavior was justified/acceptable reveals the lack of philosophical depth and insight in today’s culture.

  2. To be honest, i see copybotting as sort of punishment for bad quality or bad content habits. In all my 10 years SL i have never seen a copybotted item and especially not one of content creators that are open and honest with their content. You would think with the creator openly offering all PSD’s of their textures as well as all models and rigging/UV data someone would do bad stuff with it. Seems like being open and honest pays off in the end as these are the least copybotted items. So few that there hasn’t been a single report.

    But ohwell that’s just my unpopular opinion.

    Whoever copybots bad content, please continue. May you continue doing god’s work and may you never be tempted to copybot good content so that it will always stay good and open, without hassle for modders.

  3. Copybots *can’t* be used to steal everything. They can rip mesh, prims, textures, sounds, notecards, and (under some circumstances) animations. Rigged mesh can only be ripped in an unrigged form. This is why we don’t see copied mesh bodies; although the copybot can dump the model, it doesn’t have access to the rigging data, and content thieves are far too lazy to do that amount of work.

    They do this by taking the data directly out of the client; most inventory permissions are actually implemented on the server. This is why scripts cannot be ripped. (Thus, unless you’re trying to stop a customer from changing the colour of an item, selling no-mod products is pointless and harms the customer.)

    Most high-profile cases of content theft consist of someone simply re-selling full-perms mesh at a lower price, which violates the terms provided by the item’s maker, but does not involve using a copybot. Similar problems exist around selling models meant for use in Poser/DAZ3D, or ripped content from games, though for clothing these do generally require re-rigging.

    • Technically you are right on most points. As to how much work thieves will put in… There are few that seem to never know when to quit.

  4. I know I am bitter, of course I am. I am upset every time this comes up. If I wasn’t I’d be worried about myself. I was just relieved someone posted something about it and let it all hang out. Like I say I would one of many, SL has probably survived, in it’s own way thrived, for so long because it offers the little person a chance to make a genuine part or even full income and is available remotely world wide. And yes, I agreed with you first up, there is crime in our nature.

    When I say a change in culture, I mean, not the mass think of simply sitting back and accepting it. We can fight this and should. Ideas around trying to work with or around thieves aren’t helping anyone. In all our history as well, we’ve also fought crime. Places where people don’t or can’t fight it aren’t pretty.

    If we go with trying to work with it as part of life to the degree it happens now, then the only ones who will be able to work and survive it are the huge teams,Blue Berry and Meli Ameko (sp) etc, there won’t be any small original shops left.

    LL could ban the thieves and all accounts linked, by email, IP mac addy etc, they simply don’t. Yes it would be extra work, but work worth doing.
    They could pull the entire copy bot store off line & don’t. They get 5% of each sale.
    They could put warnings out on the start up screen about phishing scams with which the copy botters steal accounts to use on MP, they don’t.
    There is no way on earth I would encourage anyone into this environment. I do think some kind of action, if not a law suit, then something as forceful, is needed to make LL do the things they can do and aren’t is needed. By trying to work around it or compete with theft we/they actually give it a place.

    If you go to MP, select full perms & newest first, often you will see at least 50 percent, at times more, stolen content.
    Usually these too are small creators. Also if you go to these copybot sites and take a look, i did, they want people to steal (copybot) some items before they will let them share the stolen booty, not a nice culture.

    The IP laws online are hopeless, I think adapted from pre online days, laws change when pressured. Remember that fellow who sued LL over his sex anims being copybotted, he won, so I guess they tightened their laws ot avoid that again, but it can go the other way and they can also change their own laws to fight thieves, but only if we force, otherwise it will stay at talk. These days much of big biz is about “what it can get away with,’ not “what is the right thing to do here.’ I’m just saying It DOESN’T have to be this bad.

    Anyway I mean no offence, as I said before, that you post this is appreciated. I ‘m being honest in how I feel and think on this, and what has happened in our lives re having our small biz stolen.

    • I think you miss understand the nature of bitterness. Also, to become upset every time this comes up is its own set of issues. There are healthier ways to move on.

      I agree if one is not trying to mitigate crime and reduce it, the culture will devolve into a cesspool. But, not learning from history leaves one repeating others failures.

      I do not understand why you think large groups can better survive the impact of theft. As one person, I have no payroll. My costs are minimal. A large group has a much higher operating cost. So, why do you think theft of their IP and subsequent lost sales will hurt them less?

      You seem to think LL doesn’t ban known thieves or close Marketplace stores. I addressed that in the article. You seem to be ignoring all the legal problems I pointed out and try to put it all back on the Lab. Thus, my doubting your knowledge of the reality of the situation.

      Blocking by IP Address, MAC Address, and other identifying tags is useless. Search on ‘how to fake IP Address location’ and you get 1.5 million hits. Faking MAC, 10 million. There are 4.6 million hits for software to fake online ID. Any determined thief can have a new online ID in hours and be back online.

      I can understand why you wouldn’t encourage people to enter the environment you imagine/perceive. I wouldn’t either. I just don’t see where you are perceiving reality. You also seem to be presupposing SL is the only place where this is going on. That certainly isn’t the case. Everything digital is being stolen from all the game makers and those marketing digital goods. So, are you telling people don’t do anything digital?

      When you go to the marketplace, how do you determine what is legal and what is stolen?

      You are right, the people running copybot sites have no principled ethics. Slimy. Steal for us, but not from us, is their motto. They go to great lengths to make it hard to steal from them. Yet, they too get ripped off. But, they are slow learners.

      Copyright laws and IP theft laws haven’t changed much since DMCA was passed. Stroker Serpentine (Kevin Alderman) is not the only one to sue and win. Since you are guessing about the laws I’ll take it you are pretty much uninformed on the subject of IP & Copyright law in virtual worlds.

      The laws aren’t hopeless. The legal process is too expensive for most of the issues in SL. Someone making $50 or $60k a year living from SL really can’t afford to hire an attorney and eat too. Those with the entitlement mindset tend to ignore the reality of life and the stress placed on our legal system and ramble about how it is SUPPOSED to take care of them. Those people are miserable.

      If you have an online theft, the FBI won’t even consider investigating until the amount is over US$250k. And that is an old number. I suspect it is higher now.

      “change their own laws to fight thieves” … you seem to forget or not know, SL doesn’t get to make laws. The ToS is not a law. If you aren’t clear on that and what it means, you are out way far from reality.

      That statement presupposes they haven’t done something they could do. What is it you think they haven’t done?

      “I’m just saying It DOESN’T have to be this bad.” Have you ever considered proving that? Answering the question either requires one to remain shallow and quote clichés (opinions) or dive deeply into the philosophical. Which will you do?

      Life is what it is. Then there is what we think it is. We can choose how we see life. You’ve chosen to be bitter and get worked up.

      We can change our local environment. But, we aren’t going to change 7+ billion people.

      I take no offense at your viewpoint. I just see it as out of touch with reality. That usually leads people to misery and they can’t understand why. They blame others, which makes them a helpless victim. Sad. There are better courses of action.

  5. Since LL “owns” anything and everything uploaded to SL, to me this is a form of theft and copybotting. In reality, InfoSocialism is here to stay. You wont be able to sit on your laurels and get income all your liife (like Gone With the Wind), you must constantly produce to make money. LL takes from the creators and makes it theirs. Period. Now thing about that!

    • You have a weird idea of what theft is. Have you considered joining the shared reality?

      Since you clicked the agreement for use of SL you and everyone else clicking gave LL permission to use the content uploaded. At no time were any of the people uploading forced to upload. LL has taken nothing. The creators of content they upload retain all rights to the content. They didn’t lose anything. Rational thinking people are clear that once they share something with someone, like LL, it is impossible to exclusively share it with another.

      InfoSocialism is a concept the ‘me-first’ generation seems to love. They have yet to figure out why it doesn’t work in the long run. Nor have they matured to the point they have bothered to learn how and why society works as it does.

  6. I’d like to correct Rhetorica’s information. Rig data CAN be downloaded with the model. The reason behind Firestorm not being able to download it with geometry is that the developer didn’t find it necessary. After all, you’re downloading your own creation.

    But the rig information is in the viewer cache inside the same data chunk where the geometry is.

    And copy-botters have the tools to download, decode and upload a rigged mesh back to SL, as their creation.

    Only no-mod scripts are safe from downloading, but not from being reused in a new object.

  7. Pingback: Protecting Intellectual Property – Jorgen Toftner NMIT blog

  8. I see a lot of items being copybot Ted and placed in the marketplace. One web site that started it all is they have a lot of items on the marketplace there for free.

  9. Hello
    Two years after the last post i am writing this because i am back to SL after 7 years. I was what you guys call a shitty human back then i was ripping anything that my viewer could rip. But my speciality was cars. I had a land with a garage where i was demantling ripped cars and creating new ones. Now my new project is mesh bodies because it seem like a hard thing to do. So im gonna spend this winter finding ways to accomplish that.

    PS: everything i do is for the challenge i have never sold a single item in SL money is not an issue its i just love being an outlaw in games and the challenge that comes with it.

    Much love

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