NEW! A Discord Server for RyanSchultz.com Readers

I’ve decided to emulate a couple of bloggers whom I know (Strawberry Singh and Wagner James Au), and I have set up my own Discord server, an online community especially for RyanSchultz.com readers!

The focus will be the same as the tagline of this blog states: news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, as well as a more general discussion of virtual reality and augmented reality topics. And you’re invited to join us!

Here’s the invite link, or you can simply scroll down and look for the new Discord widget on the left-hand-side panel of my blog, located right under the search box and above my fancy new social media buttons:

RyanSchultz.com Discord Server.png

If you are connecting via a smartphone or tablet instead of your computer desktop, just click the three-bars menu button in the upper-right hand corner, then scroll down until you see the Discord widget displayed.

I’m looking forward to seeing you online! We’ll have some very interesting discussions, I’m sure! As Adam Frisby told me tonight, my Discord promises to be the first cross-worlds server, a true melting-pot of citizens from the various metaverse platforms!

Please be sure to read the rules posted in the #rules channel, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions, or if you want to suggest a custom channel. Thanks!

Intellectual Property and Copyright Issues in Social VR/Virtual Worlds: A Follow-Up Editorial

Apparently, Ghoster (whom I interviewed previously) is quite peeved at me for, and I quote, “bashing [his] server and VRChat”.

I didn’t even realize he was upset with me until I started chatting with him today on his new Discord server, Hi-Fi Traders, which is set up much the same as his previous server, VRChat Traders: a forum where people seeking a custom avatar can connect with avatar designers, creators, and riggers. The services are quite popular, and some people likely make a good side or full-time income from custom avatar creation for paying customers.

Ghoster probably has a right to be angry with me, after what I wrote about intellectual property and copyright issues in virtual worlds. He might feel, and not without some reason, that it was a personal attack. (It certainly wasn’t, but I can understand where he’s coming from.)

And it would appear that I have now been banned from Hi-Fi Traders, and probably VRChat Traders, too. I was still on the Hi-Fi Traders Discord channel when I found myself suddenly kicked out.

Before I was unceremoniously booted off his server, I told Ghoster (twice) that I would gladly give him a guest blogger spot to post a detailed rebuttal of my original blogpost, but it would seem that throwing me out was the preferred approach. I still stand by my original blogpost, and the argument I am making today. Also, I am not singling out VRChat, either; I have also blogged about IP infringement on OpenSim-based virtual worlds, and what I have to say here applies to all metaverse platforms, not just VRChat.

All I have done is point out that people charging money for the creation of custom avatars, where they do not own the intellectual property, are operating on sketchy legal grounds. Ghoster told me today that the high number of concurrent users on VRChat makes it difficult to police this sort of thing. That’s true. But frankly, that’s not an excuse for clear-cut cases of copyright infringement.

Custom avatar creation is a sort of cottage industry, much like those peasants who did piecework on their weaving looms before the Industrial Revolution came along. That’s fine, and I fully and completely support that work. (Many people still make a living creating and selling content on Second Life after 15 years of operation, for example.)

And creating a custom avatar inspired by someone else’s intellectual property is okay. For example, Roger Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit is based on a mash-up of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy:

Roger is a slender, white rabbit with large blue eyes, pink nose, a tuft of red hair who wears red overalls, yellow gloves, and a blue yellow polka dot bow tie. He is an amalgamation of various classic cartoon characters; taking Bugs Bunny’s cartoon rabbit form, Mickey’s gloves, and Goofy’s baggy pants. Animator Richard Williams described the process of creating him like an “American flag” with the red overalls, white fur and blue bow tie and American audiences would enjoy him subliminally.

But, if you make an exact copy of Mickey Mouse as a custom avatar for somebody and charge them money for it, don’t be surprised to find the Disney lawyers breathing down your neck (or, more likely, going after VRChat, High Fidelity, or whatever virtual world is hosting that avatar). Even worse, if you create a Mickey Mouse avatar modified in some X-rated way, you’re really skating on thin ice if someone reports you to Disney Inc. They don’t look kindly on that sort of thing.

And I do know for a fact that Linden Lab is carefully monitoring items placed in the Sansar Store, to ensure that no copyright-infringing items are placed up for sale. (They do have Star Trek items up, but it is with the explicit permission of the Roddenberry estate.) In fact, very recently, a lovingly-detailed, fan-made recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation was pulled offline following a cease and desist from CBS.

As far as I am aware, VRChat is still not doing that sort of checking. (And giving it away for free isn’t an excuse.) They are opening themselves up to a possible lawsuit. So is any other social VR platform or virtual world that is allowing people to recklessly copy somebody else’s intellectual property without permission. And if the company owning the IP comes after a virtual world platform, they have no choice but to comply.

And kicking me off your Discord server, because you don’t want to hear that, isn’t going to change that reality one bit.

DisneyCopyright
You might not agree with it, you can protest it, but it’s the law.

Sorry, Ghoster. I hope you can forgive me over time. But it doesn’t change the facts. Your beef isn’t with me; it’s with the system. If you disagree, then put your efforts into copyright reform, not into a personal feud with me. Don’t shoot the messenger.

UPDATED! High Fidelity Pick of the Day: Beyond is a Monumental, Epic VR Masterpiece

Nozaj
Noz’aj’s User Icon on YouTube

Ever since I first got my Oculus Rift VR headset in January 2017, I have spent almost two years visiting just about every virtual reality experience imaginable—everything from games such as Obduction, to meditation apps such as Nature Treks VR, to social VR platforms such as Sansar. I have had some truly awe-inspiring (even spine-tingling!) moments in virtual reality, which have absolutely demonstrated the powerful creative potential of the technology. Many of them I have written about in my blog.

At yesterday’s well-attended FUTVRE LANDS Festival in High Fidelity, they had a Favorite Domain Contest. Seven HiFi domains (regions) were entered into the contest, and voters had to use the new Vote app on the user interface tablet to visit all seven domains before casting a vote for their favourite. All seven were interesting and fun to visit, but one stood out for me.

In fact, I will go so far as to make this statment: Beyond, which was the winning entry in the contest, is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in a VR headset. I was completely and utterly blown away by what Beyond’s creator, Noz’aj, had done within High Fidelity.

Yes, this is a rave review. It’s the best thing I have seen in VR all year (and I have seen a lot).

The only thing that even comes close to Noz’aj’s achievement in its epic and mysterious content, its monumental scale, and its use of atmosphere-enhancing soundscapes is Cyan’s puzzle game Obduction, which I absolutely adored playing. If you are a fan of Cyan and its games (Myst, Riven, etc.), you simply must drop what you’re doing, and come and experience Beyond. Seriously, it’s just that good.

I am so impressed, and I so much want you to experience this masterpiece for yourself, that I am not even going to post any pictures of Beyond! All I am going to do is point you to the very brief teaser trailer that Noz’aj has posted to YouTube, which gives a hint of the flavour of the experience:

The domains entered into the Favorite Domain Contest will only be available until November 25th, 2018, so I very strongly urge you to pay a visit to Beyond and fully explore this epic, monumental experience before it’s gone. You will not regret it!

Here’s a link to Beyond.

UPDATE Nov. 19th: I have encountered a few problems trying to get back into Beyond in the past 24 hours (perhaps it’s just taking a very long time for the domain to load), but Noz’aj tells me:

Hi Ryan. Thank you for the kind words on your blog. As far as I can tell, my domain is still up. I host it on Digital Ocean. There is also an instance being hosted by High Fidelity which you can get to through the FUTVRE LANDS domain.

So it would appear that the link I have posted above is to a permanent version of Beyond, while the copy hosted directly by High Fidelity is the one which will be taken down on November 25th.

Noz’aj adds:

My original instance will be staying up and over time it will be expanded.

I have lots of ideas, I’m just not sure if there are enough hours in the day to get it done :wink:

I can’t wait to see what Noz’aj does next!

Also, a hint: if you follow the path all the way through to the very end, you will eventually land up back in the spaceship where you started. Set aside at least an hour to explore every nook and cranny of Beyond.

A Look at the Latest Gadgets in Virtual Reality

There is no shortage of new innovations to make virtual reality even more immersive. The following six-minute video compiled by Real Spirit Dynamics gives us a glimpse of some of the new VR technology that is currently in development:

Among the projects profiled is a VR chair by a company called MMOne which turns on three different axes:

I wonder how much this little gadget is going to cost when it is commercially released? This potentially vomit-inducing chair is obviously intended more for serious education (flight training schools, etc.) and for high-end gaming arcades than for personal use in your own home (unless you’re a millionaire with a thirst for bleeding-edge VR).

(A big thank-you to Bruce Thomson for alerting me to the first video via Facebook!)