SpotON3D responds to patent concerns, will license plugin to other grids

Press Release: Official Statement from SpotON3D’s CEO Stevan Lieberman, regarding our Facebook® plugin

The US Constitution established patents to promote commerce in order to permit companies a monopoly on an idea for a limited time, allowing companies to invest in ideas and possibly reap a profit from their investment before the idea is given to the world. As SpotON3D’s investor, I have provided a substantial amount of money into the SpotON3D project, much of which includes development of the plugin being discussed. If a patent is granted on the plugin, SpotON3D will enforce its IP rights. Currently SpotON3D ’s patent is private as it has not yet been published. In due course, the US Patent office will examine the patent and either allow it to issue or possibly issue an office action rejection, to which we will respond.

It has been argued by some in the community that software released a number of years ago worked in the same fashion as the SpotON3D’s plugin. We do not believe this to be true. SpotON3D is not attempting to patent the concept of a 3D world in a Web window. We have filed for a patent on a specific technology which is a method to do this. This technology works for multiple types of applications and is not limited to 3D environments. Our research reveals that previous releases of technology which placed a 3D environment in a web-window, used a method which, although did look very similar, had disadvantages. This might be the reason why it is no longer available on the market. The concept of a “child window” has been patented a number of time and we believe our current method is unique and non-obvious.

SpotON3D has every intention of licensing the plugin software to any grid that wishes to use it. Currently we are allowing the community to use the plugin, with the ability to go to any grid, while it is still in beta. However, eventually we will need to charge a licensing fee based on a sliding scale to those grid owners that show an interest. The sliding scale will allow those with less money to have as much access as those with more. This is necessary to fund further development of the metaverse.

SpotON3D’s goal from the very beginning has been to improve the metaverse. As such, we have diligently worked hard to prevent copybotting, thus engendering a respect for a creator’s intellectual property rights, and have worked hard to create technology which realizes the potential of the 3D grid, including establishing a stable grid which all can enjoy.

It has been argued by the owner of Kitely that the SpotON3D plugin has to be given back to the community because the browser is installed at the same time as the plugin, thus it is essentially the same software. In essence, Kitely’s owner argues that SpotON3D’s plugin is a derivative work of the open source browser. Kitely’s owner is incorrect.

“The primary indication of whether a new program is a derivative work is whether the source code of the original program was used, modified, translated or otherwise changed in any way to create the new program. If not, then I would argue that it is not a derivative work.” .

I would urge everyone to read Mr. Rosen’s full article as he explains the issues quite well.

It has also been suggested that SpotON3D has not given back to the open source community and that what SpotON3D is doing is diametrically opposed to the open source movement. The truth is no one can legally submit the code to the Open Sim project if they are currently viewing the GPL client. OpenSimulator’s structural change to an official non-profit organization under the name Overte Foundation should release SpotON3D and others from this restriction, but until this reorganization process is completed the current licensee rules still must be followed.

As a final note, I find it curious that the community somehow believes that our hard work as a threat. We are doing our best to expand the user base of the 3D community, something that will help the entire community.

Stevan Lieberman
CEO, Spoton3d

# # #

For more information about this topic, or about SpotOn3D in general,

please feel free to contact us. Our team is most happy to answer any of your inquiries.

([email protected])

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24 Responses

  1.' Ilan Tochner says:

    Since this press release misrepresented what I said, I posted the following in their blog, I doubt they will publish it:

    Hi Stevan,

    Having read your official statement I wish to state that:

    (A) Stating that I claimed that the reason the viewer may need to be licensed under the GPL is because "the browser is installed at the same time as the plugin, thus it is essentially the same software" is a blatant misrepresentation of what I said. I said:

    First, the GPL program (the original unmodified SL viewer that their viewer is derived from) is not designed to accept plugins that take over the rendering target and have keyboard and mouse commands rerouted from another process. They may have added this capability to it (I haven't checked) but then it would no longer be "unmodified" and therefor no longer qualifying for the exception you believe SpotOn3D can use to relieve themselves from the requirement to release their code under GPL.

    Second, you've seemed to overlook the quotations I provided from the GNU site specifying that:

    "However, in many cases you can distribute the GPL-covered software alongside your proprietary system. To do this validly, you must make sure that the free and non-free programs communicate at arms length, that they are not combined in a way that would make them effectively a single program."

    "By contrast, pipes, sockets and command-line arguments are communication mechanisms normally used between two separate programs. So when they are used for communication, the modules normally are separate programs. But if the semantics of the communication are intimate enough, exchanging complex internal data structures, that too could be a basis to consider the two parts as combined into a larger program."

    Unless SpotOn3D do some very frowned upon hacking their plugin would need to modify the SL viewer in order to work, thus (A) not qualifying it under your quoted exception, i.e. it does not work with an "off-the-shelf, unmodified, program" and (B) making it very likely that their combined program will be considered by a court of law as "effectively a single program" thus needing to be licensed under the GPL.

    (B) You ignored all that I and the community have said about the inherit anti-competitive and exploitative nature of SpotOn3D's conduct. Instead you chose to just restate the various claims that have been made by SpotOn3D in the articles that have been written about this. People have had a lot to say about the validity of those statements, I recommend you read all that they have written.

    Repeating the statements that have gotten you in the hot chair in the first place is probably not the best way to calm the situation. Please take a step back and reconsider.

    Whomever drafted their response did not take Public Relations 101. Restating falsehoods is not the best way to respond when you are caught with your hand in the communal cookie jar.

  2. And nowhere do they address the two counts of prior art against their patents. Surprise surprise.

    • My work
      IBM's work
      Bloody ActiveWorlds! (they still exist apparently)
      Linden Lab's experiment with browser plugins
      At least 6 off the top of my head and there's likely more

  3.' Alex says:

    Even if they "could" claim a patent for this, their product is junk. All it does is launch a pre-installed Second Life viewer inside Facebook inside a browser. Anyone who has SL installed will never have any use whatsoever for this nonsense. And anyone who would visit a virtual world via Facebook won't care to install the infamous bloatware that is SL.

    • The approach that could be used in the SL viewer is through modifying LLFile to use Curl instead, so that only a very slim bit of code is downloaded at first and the rest is downloaded as needed and then cached.

      There's lots that could be done, but not if someone gets a monopoly granted first.

  4.' kripken says:

    It is the combination of mentioning the existence of this patent application, the explicit intention of "enforcing IP rights" should it be granted, and keeping it secret meanwhile, that is so offensive and threatening. Perhaps it is not intentionally so? If that is the case, there are ways to resolve this issue. For example, make it clear what is being patented, how much the license fees will be, and so forth. Then this will no longer be a vague and ominous threat.

    If, for some reason SponON3D is unwilling to give details about the patent or the future licensing, then why even mention it at this early time?

    Returning to the technical issues, it is hard to make sense of the vague claims here. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with previous implementations of virtual world viewers through browser plugins, including multiprocess ones. They worked fine. This is not something hard to do properly. The real problems are not in that area at all.

    – kripken

  5.' Tim Hunt says:

    Very good analysis of how patents have 'helped' inventors and society over the years: "Against Intellectual Monopoly"…. Written by two economists.

  6. Sigh. Some much smoke for very little fire. It is not at all clear that SpotON3D will be granted this patent. If it is granted there are, as others have mentioned, many ways to arrive at this functionality. It is very unlikely that any real lock out will occur. While I generally think that software patents are a travesty I don't see all that much danger here. I do see a danger in the IP fight for so many years that prohibited people who work on one client side open source program from working on the server side opensource program. That has hung this community up for some time and limited progress mostly needlessly. So problematic IP is not just on the non-open source side. The idea was to have more people working on, learning from and building out from what came before. Saying some fences in the idea space are good and noble and other are horrid is a bit of a strained argument.

  7.' Sarge Misfit says:

    "All it does is launch a pre-installed Second Life viewer inside Facebook inside a browser." ? If this is true, then I won't be using it. I refuse to use FB for anything, due to their attitudes and actions regarding privacy.

    If its not true, I still won't be using it. I gave it a look and saw how reduced the viewing area is. I use a maximized window on my viewers, which gives me the maximum viewing while retaining all the various menu buttons. I know, I can use full screen, but I ust don't like the look.

    And so, two reasons why I won't be using this.

  8. Sarge — The plugin isn't intended for existing users of Second Life and OpenSim since it doesn't offer anything new or useful. The plugin is intended for Facebook-using noobs.

    Say you've got a private little roleplaying grid with a cool roleplaying game that's all your own. And you want folks to come in and play — but nobody knows what OpenSim is, and they're scared to download Imprudence (the name itself sounds ominous!) and they can't configure their grid list to add your grid… by the time they actually get in-world and get ready to spend their hard-earned PayPal cash on your weapons and outfits, you've lost 99.9999% of your potential customers.

    So you takes your Imprudence and you wraps it up in this wrapper, and you sticks it in the Facebook page. Oh, and you add a "full screen" button — I'm hearing that SpotON3D is planning to have one by the time they go live with this in September.

    So now your Facebook users choose their avatar — right from Facebook — pick a new name if they want (or use their Facebook ID) — click "enter world" — twiddle their thumbs for a minute — and then they're in. (And when they come back, no thumb-twiddling is required — the software's already downloaded.)

    No deciding whether they want to install the software or not. No figuring out what directory to put it into. Do they want it on their desktop? On the start bar? Do they want to associate things with it? Do they have the privileges to do any of that? Arrgh! All these questions! I'll go play Angry Birds, instead.

    So, no, you as a competent, computer-savvy person wouldn't be using this plugin. But you, as a marketing-savvy, customer-friendly grid owner might make quite a bit more money by rolling it out.

    •' kripken says:

      > No deciding whether they want to install the software or not.

      Maybe I misunderstand your intention, but this sounds like it's impossible. You can't run a plugin in a web browser without installing it.

      You can install a plugin that then downloads and installs more code later (perhaps that is what this patent is about? Tons of prior art on that, of course). But you do still need to agree to install that original plugin. You lose a *lot* of users in that step, and for good reason.

      The browser experience will never be seamless as long as it uses a plugin.

  9. Maria has it in a nutshell. It's cool, it's usable, it's for noobs – and Facebook noobs at that. Good luck to SpotON3D. Clever slight of hand trick to get noobs downloading a viewer when they thought they were getting just a plugin apps. Sounds like a recipe for hard work if the PR disaster on the patent issue were not enough. Imagine all those noobs with hardly a clue what they are getting into trying to figure it all out? Perhaps the good thing is they will all be inside SpotON3D's very own closed Metaverse and no way out to the free Metaverse.

    • Actualy Gaga, that's not true. We're doing a get together today in a few hours at 8 am PST/SLT time in SpotON3D. Would be honored if you'd share your thoughts, as Stevan and I both will be taking questions.

      No, we're not the mob, as Ilan would like to portray us, and NO we're not robber barons, as we haven't broke even yet, so NO we're not greedy. Just trying to run and business profitably, and NO I don't think its fair that Ilan go on and on and on about how we should be boycotted or trying to force our hand in giving our our code, when he's not given over his own trigger code and so far has refused to address that bit of inequality – if you can walk the walk ….

  10.' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi all,

    A free OpenSim without a free viewer is useless so stating that this doesn't jeopardize the long term viability of an open metaverse is somewhat myopic.

    If we let people stake a claim over pieces of the viewer or the server in order to demand that other people who wish to compete with them "pay up" then there won't be free options or communal work towards creating a shared ecosystem. Even the threat of a patent can cause problems and, as other people have pointed out, many people aren't able to defend themselves even when the patent is completely bogus.

    It is therefore the interest of the community to create an atmosphere that dissuades companies from trying to stifle competition using patent threats. It is completely irrelevant whether those patents are for things that are innovative or not, if you let one person claim to own an idea for software then others will do so as well and no one will give back anything to the community.

    Companies are held accountable by their share holders. If trying to use a software or business patent becomes overly expensive to the company doing so due to bad PR or lost sales then even existing patent holders will avoid using them as offensive tools.

    In the long run this type of defensive activism by the community can result in politicians who currently have no reason to vote for the abolishment of software and business patents to decide to listen to their constituents and take a stand for the better good.

    Once these types of patents are removed from the valid tools a business can use then the patent cold war in the software industry will cease to exist. This will free up a lot of money towards actually creating innovative R&D and return people to compete on features and price instead of hoarding ill-thought legal tools of mass destruction.

    Just read all the research on how much the current situation is bad for innovation in the United States. We can't wait for companies or the government to get around to finally resolving the problem. We need to take a stand together as a community and force companies to act in ways that are, in the end, for their best financial interest as well.

  11.' Sarge Misfit says:

    @Maria Yes, I understand all that, having read other discussions regarding the usefulness of having a web-viewer. 🙂 In fact, I look forward to the creation of one, soon, hopefully. My comments regarding the look and feel of that was more along the lines of being a critique, with the hopes that future development will keep such things in mind. I can even understand having it 'connected' to FB, given the large number of FB users out there. However, that is a huge negative for FB Luddites like myself. I think there is also a risk of being linked or tied to something else. What if FB really craps out and doesn't recover? What about all those others that relied on that connection to FB?

    And speaking of FB, how will this plugin be used? Will it become easier for others to link a person's avatar to their RL self? I mean, Joe Avatar logs in, gets griefed, and reports it. In retaliation, can the griefer find out Joe Avatar's RL info? What about cyberstalking and cyberbullying?

    As a soon-to-be grid owner, these are some of the issues I have with this plugin.

    • SpotON3D — at least in the beta version of the Facebook plugin that I tried out — gives new users the option of using their Facebook name to create their avatar name, or to pick a brand new one. After that, they have to type in their user names to log in — Facebook doesn't "know" their SpotON3D user names, and SpotON3D only "knows" their Facebook names when they first create their account. (At least, I hope — there's no good reason for SpotON3D to store this information).

      If I was setting up a new grid, and using a plugin like this, that is how I would set it up as well.

      In addition, their plugin can be embedded in other websites.

      If I was setting one up, I'd embed it in my grid website, and allow people to use their Facebook, Twitter or other IDs to create a new account (or create a name from scratch) — and give them the option of storing their info and logging them in automatically in the future.

      And have a full-screen option, of course. 🙂

      But build a loosely-coupled system, so that when a new, better, HTML-5-based viewer came along, I could embed that instead (or give my visitors a choice).

  12. All I see is hearsay conclusion-making… no beef… concluding a bluff is just as valid.

  13.' Lord says:

    When I first saw a screenshot of this 'new' viewer, I realized it looked alot like the Cool VL Viewer from Henri Beauchamp. The Cool VL Viewer is unique among currently distributed Third Party Viewers of Second Life in that it uses the method that TPV's developers used for building their viewers prior to Emerald/Phoenix/Firestorm. This method employs the Second Life Viewer as a separate standalone viewer and then lays another program over the top of it or in-addition to it. You can still use the Second Life Viewer part of the TPV independently of the second 'layover' part.

    My guess would be that the 'plug-in' part of this viewer that SpotOn3D is distributing uses a similar method and is not directly integrated into the viewer, but is, rather, another 'lay-over'.

    Does that still make it a 'derivative work' , technically or lawfully, speaking ? I don't know, but I do know that Linden Research, Inc., has not successfully argued against Cool VL's method of viewer development or distribution (for whatever their reasoning might be).

  14. Hi Maria

    I am really impressed with you're last Comment and with out being rude I have had extended thoughts on the subject,
    It went on way too long to post here so except my apologise in advance I have set up a blog with some thoughts

    Please feel free to read and comment back here or remove my Link if you feel I’m being cheeky.

  15. Due to the reaction of the OpenSim community about our World on the Web plug-in and the pending patent, we’ve decided to take the debate to another level and give everyone – BOTH SUPPORTERS AND NON-SUPPORTERS, the chance to bring their ideas and questions directly to us one-on-one. Our goal here is not to win anyone to a particular way of thinking, but to try answer the biggest questions and at least understand each other's POV. And who knows? Maybe this can help start a continuing dialog between the OpenSim community, SpotON3D and the many other grids out there.

    Stevan and I will try and answer as many questions as possible in a 1-1.5 hour period of time. Due to a previously schedule business trip, Stevan will most likely only have one hour. I will be staying an extra half hour or more if necessary. I can not answer any legal questions, because … well, I’m not a lawyer! Any questions about the legal aspects of the patent, plug-in or other legal matters not answered at this event can be addressed directly to Stevan via email at [email protected].

    THE VENUE< TIME< DATE – August 7th at 8 am PDT/SLT/MVT
    The meeting place will be in SpotON3D in a Quad MegaSim called OUTREACH. Any and all voice chat in the main sim will be relayed over all four sims, so please be patient and fair to everyone else. This mega sim will hold about 150 people, so it will be on a first come first serve basis. Below you’ll find some general guidelines

    This event will be filmed, archived and uploaded to our media page, as well as the usual web sites for everyone, so that everyone will have something to review and point others to.

    We are looking forward to this being a productive event for both SpotOn3D and the community. You can teleport direclty into OUTREACH ISLAND, if you have the World on the Web Plug-in installed on your Windows PC, (sorry MACers and Linux guys … that's next on our to do list) and just click on the 3DURL below – works just like a SLurl.

    Thank you!
    Tessa & Stevan

    • Tessa — I'm based on the East coast, so your comment came in during the middle of the night. I didn't get a chance to approve it until noon, my time — which is 9 a.m. pacific time. Sorry about that.

  16.' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi Tessa & Stevan,

    If you truly wish to talk to people in an open exchange of ideas then why not address them where they are asked in public forums instead of in your own closed venue?

    Do you wonder to why I object to having this discussion inside SpotOn3D's grid, here's why:

    If you are really open to what other people are saying why misrepresent what I said in your previous press release then block my rebuttal comment on your blog? Its text was included here as well:

    If you are open to a public discussion then why hide the reply comment from Rob Knop who also posted a reply on your forum:

    As of now both our replies are still missing from the comment section below your press release even though this comment section now includes two other comments – people can see you are hiding our comments you know…

    We know you read at least some of the various articles that have been written about your conduct as you've added your comments to them. Why force people to register to your grid, and attend at the time that is convenient to you instead of just answering people in blog comments like people from the community are doing?

    There are several people who have written replies in almost all those comment threads that discuss your patent threats. Are those people, myself included, more willing to spend time talking to other people in forums they do not control than you are?

    I will not condone having this discussion turn into a marketing opportunity for your grid, under your own timetable, with you controlling how long people can discuss the issue. If you want a truly open discussion then begin by taking the time to address the many questions people have already asked you in the multiple threads that deal with this:….

  17.' The Flying Nun says:

    The lack of vision some of these posts is almost as jaw-dropping as the pure paranoia! I've used the SO web plugin and it works very nicely indeed. I can see some astounding possibilities in being able to go effortlessly from a conventional web space into virtual with ease and in such a way as to remove as many barriers as possible to those who aren't virtual natives.

    Still, there was a time when the short-sighted required someone with a red flag to walk in front of cars!