DigiWorldz spearheads fundraising for export permissions fix

Today, grids that want to be hypergrid enabled but still allow creators to protect content either have to write custom code — as Kitely did — or filter content based on the current copy, modify and transfer permissions.

For example, some grids might allow you to take content to other grids only if you have created that content yourself, or if the creator distributed it with full permissions.

A more elegant solution, however, is to create a fourth permissions setting — export — and allow creators to decide on an item-by-item basis whether customers are allowed to take that content to other grids or save copies of it via OAR downloads, or export it through any other means.

The "Export" permission setting is already implemented in the Alpha version of the Singularity viewer. (Image courtesy Avination.)

The “Export” permission setting is already implemented in the Alpha version of the Singularity viewer. (Image courtesy Avination.)

Back in 2013, the closed, commercial Avination grid teamed up with the developers of the Singularity viewer, to create this new export permission setting, but the feature was only partially implemented. The original developers said they were waiting for commercial grids to test it, commercial grids were waiting for developers to finish it up, and people moved on to other things.

Now DigiWorldz grid owner Terry Ford has negotiated with a developer to complete all the work needed to make the export permission fully functional at a price of $800.

He already has raised $300 of the money needed, he told Hypergrid Business. Now he’s calling on other grid owners to contribute as well to make this a public project.

Creators can now decide whether their content can be exported or not. (Image courtesy Avination.)

Creators can now decide whether their content can be exported or not. (Image courtesy Avination.)

“Our community could then take away one of the biggest arguments from Second Life creators who are afraid of coming to OpenSim grids,” he said. “We could all benefit from the new items brought in from Second Life creators, and we would all probably see an increase in users.”

To make a pledge, email Ford at [email protected] and tell him how much you would like to contribute. No payments are expected up front — only after the work is completed.

“The amount doesn’t really matter as much as the participation,” he said. “I want to prove to all the OpenSim developers that we, the community can and will pay for advancements to the platform we all enjoy.”

Ford said he will work with the developer to finish the code, and any grid that supported the project would get the code in order to be able to test it themselves.

“Once we are all certain the feature works as we want, we will then pay what we have offered to the developer,” he said. “I don’t want the money sent to me, and I don’t want any money sent until we are sure the fix is working as it was intended.”

How it would work

The export permission would be a server-side feature. That means that grids would enable it on their own servers, and all content on that grid would then have four permission settings instead of just three.

The grid would decide how to set the permissions for existing content.

For example, all the content a resident created themselves might be set to “export,” but all content they received from someone else might be “no export” since in effect, all content currently on closed grids is “no export.”

Default appearance warning. (Image courtesy Crista Lopes.)

An avatar trying to travel to another grid while wearing non-exportable clothing would see a warning such as this one. (Image courtesy Crista Lopes.)

When someone creates new content and decides to give it away or sell it, they would need to use a viewer with the updated code to change the permission. Today, that includes Singularity, Firestorm and Alchemy.

“That overs an overwhelming majority of users, I would guess 99 percent,” YrGrid technical director Cindy Chidester told Hypergrid Business. Chidester is also a viewer developer.

Someone who bought an object and wants to check its permissions will also need an updated viewer, or use scripts to get the values of the permissions. However, the export permission will still work regardless of what viewer the user has.

Why an export permission is needed

Copybot viewers are rampant throughout Second Life and OpenSim — mostly Second Life, because that’s where most of the content is. But while copybot makes it easy to steal objects, it doesn’t grab scripts or rigging.

But someone who runs their own OpenSim region, and has access to their server or database, can simply go in and change the permission settings of any content they wanted. In fact, viewers have a “God powers” setting to make this process easier — which makes sense if you are the owner of a grid and need to be able to fix problems for your residents.

Commercial grids do not allow their residents to have “God powers,” and most do not allow users to connect regions that they run themselves, on their own servers. Open grids, like OSgrid and Metropolis, do. That means that is someone could take content from a commercial grid to an open grid where they run their own regions and have “God Powers,” the could change the permission settings and get their hands on rigging and scripts.

Active users on closed and hypergrid-enabled grids.

The number of active users has been growing much faster on the hypergrid-enabled grids, but some merchants worry about protecting their content if it allowed to freely travel around the metaverse.

For some merchants, this isn’t a significant problem — they’d rather have the extra income from selling their content on the hypergrid, and the few people who would go to all the trouble of stealing it aren’t potential customers, anyway. And if the crooks try to distribute the stolen content and get successful at it, the creators can file DMCA notices and shut it down. To date, every major commercial grid has come out squarely on the side of being good citizens, protecting creator rights, and taking down infringing content when requested.

Other merchants are worried about losing control over their content, and want assurances that their products will be protected if they move to a new grid.

“As a grid owner, I hear Second Life content creators complain all the time how they will never come to OpenSim as it’s too easy for someone to steal stuff in OpenSim,” said Ford. “This is indeed very true in the current state of most grids.”

That puts commercial grids in a bind. On the one hand, residents want to be able to travel the hypergrid and take their stuff with them. On the other hand, some merchants don’t want content to travel. Plus, some commercial grids have proprietary content, customized for role playing games or other activities specific to that grid. They don’t want that content to travel, either.

A working export permission would solve all these problems. Commercial grids can turn on hypergrid connectivity, and merchants can decide whether to allow their content to be exported or not.

Kitely Market statistics, August 2015.

Kitely Market statistics, August 2015, with exportable content growing much faster than non-exportable.

Some will experiment with both options, perhaps charging more for exportable content, and see what works best. This, in fact, is what’s been happening on Kitely Market, where merchants have a choice of allowing or not allowing exports and where an increasing number are choosing to allow it. This means that instead of selling just to Kitely residents, they can now sell to the residents of the 100-plus grids to which Kitely Market delivers content.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

12 Responses

  1. geir.noklebye@dayturn.com' XMIR Grid says:

    I have made a pledge of $150 for XMIR to the development.

  2. services@farworldz.com' Talla Adam says:

    I’ve decided NOT to pledge any money to this despite the fact I have supported and promoted crowd funder’s in the past. I have always supported the basic idea of an Export permission too but the idea behind this proposal will, in my view, lock up what was an open Metaverse and effectively turn it into a closed Metaverse, and, in the process wreck the availability of a wealth of free content that already exists.

    I believe in a mixed economy and the type of Export perm developed by Kitely meets that perfectly. It allows merchants to sell to the whole Hypergrid on the basis of trust and there is no evidence that that trust has been widely abused. This gives the community a happy medium where those who share and those who sell content are able to work in the same space without resentment and hostility. For me that is what I have always wanted from an open Metaverse.

    If this change in the Export perms is adopted by core they will, in my opinion, be allowing commercial interest to hijack the Hypergrid and further direct its development purely for the benefit of merchants and to the detriment of the sharing community. There is no happy medium here and unless grid owners are prepared to do the massive task of changing the perms on free content most of it will be lost or unavailable.

    There is more going on too and since the commercial grid Avination is getting their code merged with core as we write (remember Avination first added export code and Singularity supported it but never implemented yet) and the commercial grid Inworldz is offering their own export code too in supprot of all this. Don’t get me wrong though, there is certainly good code in there that the open Meta can benefit from but what else is in there no one has spoken about?

    There has been very little discussion or debate on the pros and cons. I’m deeply concerned too that a debate that was running at G+ Opensim Virtual on the announcement Topic by Terry Ford appears to have been removed by the poster along with the comments although it is still available on the public thread here: https://plus.google.com/116282894634212418726/posts/3qaKV7gzePZ

    Terry’s argument is that it will encourage more merchants to sell their stuff to the open grids and that in turn will bring more people. Personally, after all these years of failure to attract all but a handful (and not the best) and the ambivalent attitudes towards Opensim of the Second Life merchant community I doubt the “locking up” of the once free Metaverse will produce much in the way of useful results.

    I’ve already suggested on Opensim Virtual that perhaps these changes should go into a forked Opensim that is fully intended to be commercial while maintaining the main core as it is now. Then let the two run and see which fork is a success. But anyway, I don’t know for sure but next generation VW/VR platforms such as Sansar, Sinewave.Space and High Fidelity are all set to change the game next year and I’m pretty sure the merchants have their sights set on that. Opensim is very small and I think it represents more trouble than value to them.

    Finally, I will just state what I believe; Opensim has more of a future as a mixed economy of sharing and selling on trust than trying to commercialize it for the benefit of a few. If it leaves that path then I for one will be ready to move on to the next generation platforms and, with some sadness, say good bye to Opensim, and Second Life too.

    • butch.arnold@digiworldz.com' Butch Arnold says:

      This request to help develop this feature is only just that.. to develop this feature. I can not speak for the core developers and we cannot control whether or not the core developers will think this feature warrants being placed into the core code. This was only a call to help develop a feature which many feel is a very important need in OpenSim.
      Additionally, since we are early in this process, it’s not too late for you and others to help shape how this function could/would be implemented. Maybe this feature needs to be a configurable option, where a grid can choose not to implement this feature. I think this was the original intention as the basic plumbing for this option already exists and is indeed a configurable option.

      In the end, I believe those who want the feature will gravitate towards those grids where the feature is implemented and my thoughts are that users would then gravitate to these grids as well as that is where the best content will be found.

      • services@farworldz.com' Talla Adam says:

        As I’ve already stated on Opensim Virtual I support the current blanket option for Grid owners to block exports while keeping Hypergrid open and I am not averse to merchants having the option to over ride these grid controls to make their own goods exportable. If it’s on trust fine but I can’t see how that content can be distributed without further software controls being imposed on all grids if no one is to be trusted. This is certainly what Cinder, the developer, indicated would have to happen. The Avination export method is similar but not yet implement. Kitely’s Export method imposes nothing on other grids. The exports are distributed on trust and nothing more.

    • Talla —

      The new export permission imposes nothing on other grids, works VERY similar to the way that Kitely’s system works (just a minor difference in how they deal with copy-transfer settings). It doesn’t lock down content — it gives creators the FREEDOM to decide whether or not to lock down their content to one particular grid.

      That means that, say, they can come to a grid to sell 100 items, lock down 99 of them, and sell the other 1 item with export permissions enabled — and find out that they make more money from it, and that it doesn’t lose them any business. And then they turn on export permissions for a few more items. That’s happened in the Kitely Market, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t happen on other grids, as well.

      Some merchants might decide to make all their copybottable items exportable, but keep their scripted items non-export.

      Or they might make all older products exportable, and just keep the newest ones non-export.

      Or they might decide to charge extra for exportable items, and less for non-exportables.

      It’s their choice. Right now, their only choice (outside of Kitely) is to embrace the hypergrid fully or not at all. That’s a big step. With export permissions enabled, they will be able to dip in their toes, check the water temperature. Maybe back up a step until they feel more comfortable.

      I fully support this export permission, and have pledged a donation to Terry as well. I really believe in encouraging business and content on the hypergrid, and I think this will help. And more content will bring in more users, which will bring in more merchants and creators, which will bring in more users, which will inspire more people to set up new grids, which … etc… etc.. It’s all good.

  3. butch.arnold@digiworldz.com' Butch Arnold says:

    I’m happy to report that I have received numerous email responses from people who like the idea of this new feature and many have made pledges of varying amounts of money to help pay for the development. I am pleased to say that we have met our goal and work on this feature has started.

    I will be contacting each person who has pledged money directing them to send money to developer only after this feature has been completed.
    Please do not send money to me, I don’t want it. 🙂

    Thank you to everyone helping to bring this feature to OpenSim.

    • services@farworldz.com' Talla Adam says:

      Congratulations Terry. I’m not surprised this quickly reach its funding target. There are enough merchants out there that believe they will benefit from locking up the Hypergrid and, being a commercial grid, I’m sure DigiWorldz has a seriously vested interest in helping this along too. Anyway, sorry I didn’t believe in this one enough to back it. Maybe it was the poor way in which it was explained and what got left out.

  4. adam01time@gmail.com' Adam01time says:

    The extra permission very simple to implement on the client side. This is a wonderful idea in order to export items not created by the owner. I look at why would you want to be a closed sim and use this. Whats the use of being a closed sim with your own marketing.

    The truth is the virtual world may need this to create commerce. Then again same reason I stop investing in to the opensim platform world is the unsuitability of the people that actually run the grids. You look at the open sim closed sims that want there cake and eat it two. this want to be able to bring people in from other grids. This option could help them. So every day I log in and and pop into 6 or 7 grids and look about. I still see a finite amount of users getting spread thinner and thinner except for craft world mm wonder why. Not sure.

    This option of you can have export permissions and teleporting has very little to do with the big picture. What I see is a vehicle for large commercial clients ability to move objects and marketing from grid to grid.

    Open sim is a business tool and as it becomes diluted through many spin off grids. From the guy just collecting IP’s and email addresses and selling them as a data harvest. To the large structured ones doing the same thing yet claim they are the big guy with many customers.
    Such as the so called big one Kitely that does not show on line numbers. Because it is a farce with a great concept.
    but with craft world it is very transparent who is online and what are the numbers.

    The biggest problem I see with this export permission is leaves a back door to many other security issues that Kitely has taken advantage of. When I did my year long study of open sim and the media that surrounds it I found it very unstable and will never be able to deal with the right out scams to data theft. And if you do bring it up there will be some troll that works for a grid ruin your business model.
    Here again we are trying to create a avenue for people to teleport from one grid to another. Why? And what does that really do for anyone. I have heard it all. It not about land grab it is the people grab. We all know this type of thinking is wrong. But every day we see people creating a problem that is not there. Open a website sell your product. You still want your cake and eat it to.
    Sorry pick your market and build it. The export button does very little for what I see the future of opensim.

    But I do not use opensim to just build or script it is a commercial tool.
    This to me and my opinion only will be used in an unstable way and reflects the fact the people grab is here to stay. No one wants to just be in one grid and build with it. Oh I cant wait till the bug shows up and everything is exportable. Smile.

  5. tribe_gadgets@hotmail.co.uk' TribeGadgets says:

    Very happy to see that some steps are being taken to enable this export functionality. Just a few points though.

    Primarily, a rock solid guarantee that however it is implemented all content in existance prior to this change will be by default set to NO export until changed by the original creator or uploader. No blanket exceptions please.

    Ideally I would like to see a two tier approach. A blanket level whereby a creator can set the flag to enable an item to travel without any further restriction so that all content intended to be freely shared can continue to be so with no further problems. That covers anything released that creators are happy to let spread wherever so freebies etc are – well free. With that, a secondary export permission that enabled transport between what would best be described as ‘trusted’ grids. That gives commercial creators the assurance that while items can be used by buyers freely the items themselves still are retained within a space that ensures at least some protection. Its not the lock down offered by a closed grid by all means but may be the added point that will attract more people – less chance of stuff escaping in to the wild when it was not the creators original intention. I would be more than happy to set up shop on a grid offering that feature (or even grids as offering local use + exportable in situ would be great).

    Grids already would be checking items for exportability so could at the same time check for the second level. And might even be a selling point to attract more people too.

    (Personal wishlist would be a traceability data set showing original creator and
    date/place of first instantiation on all objects but I’m just an old school db2/400
    hacker so what would I know =^^= )

    • butch.arnold@digiworldz.com' Butch Arnold says:

      Hello, Thank you for your questions.
      This feature had already been partially implemented prior to our call for help to fund the completion. It was started back in 2013 and In it’s current state, this function remains an option which grid users can turn on if they want to use it, or they can leave it turned off. So far, the dev working on this feature has said she will leave this as an option, to allow each grid owner the choice to turn it on or off and she has indicated she is going to also try to leave it as a choice to allow the grid owner to choose if this feature will allow exports by default if it is turned on.. or disallow exports. The intention is to leave it up to the grid owners and or standalone/region operators to decide how the feature will work for them if they choose to use it.

      There’s no guarantee this code will be accepted into the core code, so it is entirely possible that the code will not be accepted and in this case we would place the code on bitbucket or other repository to make it available to those who choose to use it.
      With the intentions being this feature remain an optional feature one can use or not and also leaving it up to the operator to determine how it will function if turned on there is no way I can answer most of your questions. I’m sorry.

      I will however, direct the developer to this post to read your comments and she may be able to address some of these if it fits within the scope of what she is doing.