One month ago, Linden Lab announced its Third-Party Viewer Policy, which sets the rules for connecting to Second Life via third-party viewers such as the Imprudence Viewer.
Although we, the Imprudence developers, agree with the stated goals of the policy, we believe the policy document itself was poorly crafted and had a number of serious problems. However, Linden Lab soon assured the developer community that the policy would be revised, so we waited to see the final version before deciding what to do about it.
This past weekend, it was revealed that the policy had been silently updated sometime in the past two weeks, and that Linden Lab has no plans to further revise it. Unfortunately, the revised Third-Party Viewer policy still has most of the problems of the original. But, because this is apparently the final version, the Imprudence team met earlier this week to discuss the matter and decide how to proceed.
Let me state clearly that we believe the policy was well-intentioned, and that its stated goals are laudable. However, as a consequence of how the policy is currently written, certain parts of it would place the Imprudence project and its developers under unacceptable constraints, obligations, and legal risks. Specifically:
- Section 2(b) requires that all content export features must verify that the creator name for all exported content is the same as the name of the user exporting it. Although that restriction is well-intentioned, it would prohibit exporting even when the user has a legitimate right or license to export the content. The content export tools in Imprudence already perform creator checks similar to those described in the policy, but we do not want to discard the possibility of finding a better way to discourage illegal copying in the future.
- Several sections require that we agree in advance to comply with various requests from Linden Lab:
- Section 4(a)(i) requires that we agree to update or delete any data received from Second Life, at Linden Lab’s request.
- Section 4(b)(iii) requires that we agree to modify our privacy practices at Linden Lab’s request.
- Section 8(c) requires that we agree to stop using or distributing the viewer at Linden Lab’s request.
- Section 8(d) requires that we agree to add, modify, or remove parts of the viewer at Linden Lab’s request, within a time frame dictated by Linden Lab.
In effect, those four sections require us to promise to obey Linden Lab’s every future whim. We are unwilling to make such broad promises, not knowing what they may request. If and when Linden Lab makes any request of us, we will use our own judgement to decide how best to handle that particular request.
- Sections 7(a) and 7(d) require that we assume all responsibility (i.e. legal liability) for everything in the viewer. That would make us responsible not only for our own work, but even for bugs that were created by Linden Lab and that are also found in the official viewer. Furthermore, agreeing to those sections would potentially nullify the legal protection granted to us under section 12 of the GNU GPL, and thus place an unacceptable amount of legal risk over our heads.
Because the parts of the policy described above are unacceptable, we cannot agree to the policy as a whole. This has several consequences for our users, ourselves, and the future of the project:
- Effective immediately, we no longer officially support using the Imprudence Viewer to connect to Second Life. The viewer is now intended to be used only with OpenSim-based services, such as OSGrid, ReactionGrid, and the 3rd Rock Grid.
- Accordingly, we will remove the Second Life main and beta grids from the viewer’s default grid list. Any individual who chooses to use the viewer to connect to Second Life anyway, does so without our knowledge or encouragement.
- Because we have not agreed to the policy, we are not allowed to connect to Second Life with any third-party viewer. Therefore, we are relocating our weekly developer meetings to a grid that does not have this restriction. The new location will be announced on the developer mailing list once arrangements have been made.
This was not an easy decision to make, nor one made lightly. We realize, and sincerely regret, that this will cause a considerable amount of inconvenience for our users, as well as ourselves. However, we believe that these steps are necessary to preserve the project’s integrity and our ability to continue developing the viewer.
We hope that Linden Lab might some day revise the policy so that we can once again support using the Imprudence Viewer to connect to Second Life. But, we must proceed now under the assumption that the policy will stand as it is currently written. We therefore encourage our users to take any steps necessary to adjust to this new state of affairs.
[April 24 update: Looking to the Future]