Intellectual Property Issues in OpenSim/Hypergrid

I have been exploring a couple of OpenSim-based virtual worlds that were recommended to me by people who were leaving InWorldz. One of the features about OpenSim that fascinates me is the Hypergrid feature, which allows you to visit other OpenSim-based grids without having to create a new avatar from scratch.

OpenSim grid operators advertise their grids as “open” (Hypergrid enabled) or “closed” (you are unable to visit other grids from that grid). I must confess that I have never visited open grids before, so it has been quite the experience teleporting from grid to grid. Most of the time I didn’t even know what grid I was actually on!

At one of the grids I visited, someone kindly gave me a list of freebie stores, and I went exploring. I don’t even know which grid I was on when I came across this particular sim:

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With this prominent sign:

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I entered the Mesh Body Shop you see in the background of the first picture, and I found a lot of free items that looked very familiar to me from my time in Second Life: Catwa mesh heads, Belleza mesh bodies, Bento AOs from Vista Animations, etc.:

Hypergrid 3 28 July 2018Hypergrid 4 28 July 2018

And I thought to myself, “That can’t be right.” So I did a little investigating on the internet, and I discovered that intellectual property theft happens on some OpenSim grids. Moonrise Azalee posted an item to the Opensim Virtual group on Google+ a year ago (here’s a link to her post):

I know this isn’t a popular opinion – but when I see regions advertising themselves on OpenSimWorld with ‘freebies’ and those freebies are Catwa heads, Freya, Maitreya (clearly pictured), and upon checking these freebies out they also include Blueberry clothing and other rigged mesh items specifically for Freya and Maitreya – I find it really disappointing.

I don’t condone botting – but I know its pretty common. Someone has an item they paid good money for elsewhere and have no moral or ethical qualms about taking it out of the Big Grid so they can use it elsewhere. That in itself is a different topic outside of this. But to see these items taken from creators who spent a lot of time and money of their own to use programs and create items that take many hours to do – just offered for free to anyone as though it is some sort of good deed is kind of sad.

When I first found a body called Athena, I was pretty excited. Then I put it on and realized it was Maitreya’s Lara. Even some parts were still named as such, and the clothing for it was identical to the blueberry clothing I have for Maitreya in SL. So trying another body – one called Mesh Body I believe – I saw it was Freya and had freya clothing.

And in a few other stores I saw these same bodies not even being disguised but actually just called Freya – and the Maitreya sales box with Athena written on it.

It just kind of discredits the OpenSim community. I understanding wanting to be a free comunity – but commercial creators DO deserve to get paid for their hard work. I am sure we have people here talented enough to take on the task of creating great content and they can do so and then give it away for free. But using exported items without permission KNOWINGLY (i do realize some people might not know what these things are, especially if they weren’t familiar with them in SL) and giving it away for everyone else to use just seems kind of cruddy.

In fact, the owner of one OpenSim grid, DigiWorldz, has gone so far as to ban the Athena mesh avatar body from their grid:

Hello All,

I want to clarify a few things concerning the banning of the Athena Mesh bodies.

Some users are upset about our decision and understandably so. After you spend time setting something up, it tends to be a pain to have to change and start all over.. I get that.

Please understand, this isn’t being done based on “Rumors”. Granted, it started out with “Rumors” from users telling me the bodies were copybotted and are not legal. These rumors continued and finally I started telling people to please contact the creator and have them send me a DMCA claim and I’ll be happy to remove them. The DMCA never came. Meanwhile, other rumors started being spread about DigiWorldz allowing copybotted items and that we condone the use of illegal content, which is very far from the truth.

Since our inception that has been a basic core belief of mine.. to protect “All” creator’s content, no matter which grid they live on.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to prove my point that I have always been interested in doing the right thing by protecting the rights of the creators in OpenSim.

I don’t care if the creator is on SL, OSGrid, Metro, InWorldz, or any other grid. I will always stand by them and do my part to help protect their content.

The facts are that this issue with the mesh bodies has been reported multiple times. We have been waiting for a DMCA claim from the creator of the “Lara” body in SL to come forward and put in this claim so that we could take action. This claim never came. Meanwhile our name was being dragged thru the mud as a haven for copybot content which simply is not true.

Today, we contacted the creator of the Lara body in SL and asked them specifically if the Athena mesh bodies found in OpenSim grids was a direct copy of the lara body. The answer was yes. We asked if she had given permission for these bodies to be in OpenSim, the answer was no.

Based on that exchange, it makes these bodies in OpenSim illegal.

Now, I don’t just remove something from the grid when I get a report from someone. I have to have substantial proof of the claim before I will act on it, otherwise, anyone could cause trouble for someone by claiming illegal content.

We now have legitimate proof these bodies are in OpenSim illegally based on direct communication with he creator in SL.

Unless someone can prove the creator of the Lara body in SL is wrong, these items will stay banned.

So, when exploring the Wild, Wild West of Hypergrid-connected OpenSim grids, you should be aware that some of the “free” items you are buying may be property stolen from Second Life creators.

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OpenSim: A Brief Introduction

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OpenSim (short for OpenSimulator) does not refer to one virtual world, but to dozens of virtual worlds! The main webpage of the OpenSim project states:

OpenSimulator is an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. It also has an optional facility (the Hypergrid) to allow users to visit other OpenSimulator installations across the web from their ‘home’ OpenSimulator installation. In this way, it is the basis of a nascent distributed Metaverse.

OpenSimulator allows virtual world developers to customize their worlds using the technologies they feel work best – we’ve designed the framework to be easily extensible. OpenSimulator is written in C#, running both on Windows over the .NET Framework and on Unix-like machines over the Mono framework. The source code is released under a BSD License, a commercially friendly license to embed OpenSimulator in products. If you want to know about our development history, see History.

Out of the box, OpenSimulator can be used to simulate virtual environments similar to Second Life™, given that it supports the core of SL’s messaging protocol. As such, these virtual worlds can be accessed with the regular SL viewers. However, OpenSimulator does not aim to become a clone of the Second Life server platform. Rather, the project aims to enable innovative feature development for virtual environments and the Metaverse at large.

None of the OpenSim grids is anywhere near as popular as Second Life. I sometimes still pop in to visit OSGrid, the most popular of the OpenSim-based virtual worlds, with about 65,000 user accounts created. I also visit InWorldz, which is not really considered a true OpenSim grid, because although it has its roots in OpenSim, Inworldz runs on the in-house developed Halcyon platform, while OSgrid runs on current OpenSim software.

There is a very active Google+ community called Opensim Virtual, where people post news and events happening in various OpenSim-based virtual worlds. The great thing about OpenSim is that there is nothing stopping you from setting up your own virtual world, which other users can visit! Many people have already done exactly that.

Thanks to Talla Adam for her comments urging me to include OpenSim on the list of virtual world platforms I have written about on the RyanSchultz.com blog!

UPDATE July 5th: Talla tells me that this is a more up-to-date list of OpenSim virtual worlds: Active OpenSim Grids (maintained by Hypergrid Business).

Hypergrid Business is Winding Down: Does This Mean the End for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds?

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Hypergrid Business is a long-running website that covers enterprise uses of immersive virtual reality environments and virtual worlds, with a particular focus on OpenSim-based virtual worlds.

In early June, editor Maria Korolov announced that the Hypergrid Business is winding down, saying:

The reasons are both personal and practical.

Personally, I’ve moved on from covering virtual worlds to covering cybersecurity and, most recently, artificial intelligence. (You can see some of “day job” articles here: mariakorolov.com.) I barely spend any time in OpenSim anymore.

Practically, there was once a strong possibility that OpenSim would evolve into an open source, virtual reality metaverse. That’s not happening. Our viewers are still stuck where they were ten years ago, without any real support for web or mobile access or for virtual reality headsets. All projects to address that issue seem to have faded away. Instead, the focus has shifted to VR-native platforms from Google, Facebook, and, to some degree, Microsoft. We don’t know yet what Apple is cooking up, but they’re busy as well.

It’s increasingly looking like the whole SL-OpenSim ecosystem has hit a dead end. It will probably continue to exist as a niche platform for its half million active monthly users, shrinking slightly each year until it’s just a nostalgia thing, like text-based adventure games or manual typewriters.

They’ve had quite a long and successful run, publishing more than 3,000 articles by over 200 contributors since March of 2009. The website was my main source of news on OpenSim-based virtual worlds, so I will miss them. I wish Maria the best of luck in her future endeavours.

Does this mean the end of the many OpenSim-based virtual worlds that Hypergrid Business covered so well? No. Many will no doubt continue for years to come. But perhaps this is indeed the end of an era, the end of a dream that a hypergrid of open-source, OpenSim-based virtual world platforms would eventually supplant Second Life. In the end, there just didn’t seem to be enough people who believed in that dream to work on it and make it a reality.

If you’re interested in exploring the Hypergrid, here’s a list of OpenSim virtual worlds.

Thanks to Richard DE Haan Eesti on Facebook for the tip!