Islandz, the official successor to the InWorldz grid, is shutting down, owner Beth Reischl announced today on the grid’s Discord channel. Residents will have ten days to wrap up any current projects.
Reischl, who is also known as Elenia Llewellyn in-world, cited financial difficulties.
“I’m not working for free for another month, period,” she wrote. “I’ve done that for 8 months now and I have to consider my family.”
She said that she will not be making filtered OAR region export files available to members. “I’m not going to spend the next 3 months working for free to filter out stuff.”
Instead, she said, she will simply mail full OAR files to members.
Many creators chose InWorldz as their primary OpenSim home because it was a closed grid. That means that the content could not be exported to other grids via hypergrid teleports, or via OAR exports. According to some creators on the Islandz Discord channel, releasing full OAR files would violate the grid’s original license terms.
“Knowing and willing taking IP like that is not a good legal position to be in,” wrote one group member.
“There are people out there who would take advantage of the full [perm] content,” wrote another.
OAR files are full exports of regions — including the terrain and all the objects rezzed on that terrain. They can be uploaded to any other grid that allows OAR imports, as well as to grid that people have on their personal computers via easy OpenSim installers like DreamWorld. This is particularly troubling with creators who have high-end scripts or animations in their content, which can’t be stolen with regular copybot hacking tools. Competitors will be able to copy those scripts and use them in their own creations, for example.
InWorldz was OpenSim’s most popular closed grid for many years, and was the most popular of any grid for a good portion of that time as well. The decision to release OARs will affect a very large number of creators who came to OpenSim becaase of their trust that InWorldz would keep their stuff safe.
The decision to release the content is extremely controversial.
“Doing that could ruin some creators with all their stuff out in the wild,” wrote one group member.
Most OpenSim grids today either have a fully open policy, allowing all content to travel freely, or have filters in place to keep proprietary content from leaving the grid and taken to places where the scripts can be exposed. Kitely, for example, has a very robust permissions systems in place that allows content creators to determine whether their creations can be taken elsewhere.
The important thing is that creators know up front what the rules are, so they can decide whether to bring their content over and how to manage the permissions.
“Quite honestly, I don’t really care if content creators like it or not,” Reischl wrote. “We went through all of this because of them, trying to make everyone happy. Fortunately, I do have all the OARs on my computer.”
As several commentators pointed out, releasing the content without the permission of the original copyright holders is a violation of copyright law.
“What are they going to do? Sue me?” Reischl asked. “Good luck, there’s nothing to sue over.”
It’s been a difficult period for Reischl. InWorldz shut down last summer after financial problems, bureaucratic mistakes and communication issues caused the grid to go down.
“I can’t do this fight anymore,” Reischl wrote this morning. “I have cried myself to sleep more times this past month than I care to admit to. People are not willing to come back, it’s fine. I understand that.”
According to Reischl, the grid is not financially sustainable, and it has caused incredible stress in her personal life.
“We knew what our break even point was,” she wrote. “We’re not even remotely close. I’m being evicted from my home, my date of move out is Feb. 11. My mother is about to be evicted from her home because I’m working up here so they hiked her rent up as its the same landlady. My phone is completely shut off. I have no electricity, hence why I’m up by my mother’s condo during the day. I’ve tried to sell my motorcycle in the States to no avail as it’s not riding season.”
It has also caused stress for Jim Tarber, who was heading up technology for the grid. Although Tarber originally said he would be stepping away from the project last summer, he nonetheless came back and helped with Islandz.
“After the community contributed generously and offered such incredible support for restarting a grid on new servers, I was again drawn in to continuing to do what I could to help,” he wrote last week in a blog post.
It was a full-time job, he wrote, a demanding and unpaid job on top of his also demanding day job, leading a team for the Department of National Defense on a Canadian Navy basem developing server/client software that manages all networking and communications on Navy ships.
“If you think InWorldz or Islandz is a high-pressure, high-demand working environment, you should try a meeting with Navy commanders and NATO representatives,” he wrote. “It should be obvious that this work duality is something I could only keep up for a limited time.”
Working on Islandz carried a heavy toll, and in his post Tarber said that he was cutting back to focus on his family and day job.
However, when he joined the Discord chat today, he said he would do what he could to help.
“In the end it is up to Ele but I try to take as much of the burden as I can in order to see things are done right,” he wrote, adding that he didn’t expect to hear that the grid was shutting down.
“This is a surprise to me,” he wrote. “Although I knew Ele was struggling financially and with life. Somehow she kept going.”
He added that there might be a way to find a compromise about the content. “It still leads to Islandz shutdown but it provides protection of IP for most of the content while allowing users to get most of their regions.”
Messages of support
The Discord group discussion wasn’t all negative this morning. Many members spoke out in support of Reischl and her work on the grid.
“My heart goes out to everyone and the valiant effort everyone made to try and bring Islandz back again,” wrote one member. “Thank you Ele for years of great virtual world experience. Thank you Jim for all your hard work.”
“I would like to say thank you to all those new awesome people I have met in Islandz and thank you for all the kindness and helpfulness you people have shown me and all your hard work re-creating as much as was possible,” wrote another.
Some members also pledged to voluntary remove all proprietary content from the OAR files that they receive.
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