21 October 2010

Belial Foulsbane is a bully

Once upon a time, a programmer added the ability to change the viewer's draw distance from the Emerald command line. Then someone realized that that made it possible to use a gesture in SL to do it automatically from a keypress.

Then someone - maybe the same person, maybe not (there are accounts of the programmer who added the function to Emerald blogging about it, but I haven't been able to locate the post), but he uses the SL name of Belial Foulsbane - decided to turn it into a product. He sold it, eventually, for L$212 on XStreetSL but only L$200 inworld, itself a violation of the XStreetSL terms of service. He apparently made a lot of Lindens from it.

This was all well and good until other folks started passing around freebie gestures. I got one many months ago, thought it was neat, and promptly forgot about using it when it was explained that using it caused a load on the server that made everyone else lag. Unfortunately, Foulsbane took this as people stealing his content, and started sending DMCA takedown notices and even filing a lawsuit. (Edit: I'm now told that Foulsbane's DMCA notices even targeted freebies that existed before he began selling his products.)

Free clue: DMCA is about copyright. Copyright does not protect ideas. Copyright protects expression of ideas. A DMCA complaint about someone giving away something that does the same thing as someone's product is frivolous.

By doing this, Foulsbane earned the enmity of many folks. This includes the developers of the various third party viewers around SL, including (at the time, back in May or so) the Emerald team. A change was coded to disable the use of the draw distance command from a gesture back then, but never made it into the codebase.

Not long ago, the subject came up again. We discussed it, and after we realized that the "speed rezzer" Foulsbane was selling did indeed cause problems, not only did we disable it, we also provided a superior alternative. The problem with "speed rezzers" has to do with how Second Life sends data to the viewer. Normally, it doesn't prioritize sending the closer data to the viewer first. When a "speed rezzer" is used, the data that's already been sent to the viewer is discarded, and then re-sent by the server. This causes lag for everyone else on the same sim. Phoenix now has a function called progressive draw distance stepping. Like the "speed rezzer", it forces the server to send closer data to the viewer first. The crucial distance is that the Phoenix PDD stepper doesn't cause the data to be sent to the viewer in the first place, and so doesn't add load on the server.

Foulsbane's response to this was to post a big red-text rant to his item listing accusing the Phoenix development team of being in league with content thieves and asking his users to demand that we remove the code from the viewer. His approach was, to say the least, guaranteed to make the development team unsympathetic to his demands. We talked about it briefly, and we decided that we weren't going to change things to accommodate a real litigious asshole of a bully.

After his attack on the Phoenix development team, there's no way in hell Phoenix will go back to letting him sell his lag-inducing piece of software as long as I have the slightest bit to say about it. I'm a content creator. I do not condone, much less assist in or perpetrate, content theft. I do not consider removing the ability of Foulsbane's product to work with the Phoenix viewer - a product that existed only because third party viewer developers added a feature, to begin with - to be a problem. Foulsbane's reign of DMCA-misusing terror is at an end.


  1. Lots of "we" in here, referring to Phoenix and Emerald devs...

    Just wanted to say that I do not really see the events in the same way that you do.

  2. Just to make crystal clear: I am not explicitly attributing the opinions in my post to anyone but myself. While I believe I got the sense of the discussions among the Phoenix team right, individual Phoenix developers and support team members may or may not agree with the opinions I've expressed here.

  3. I agree, Foulsbane IS a bully, and not only with his "rezzer"...he has quite the history of bullying people around in certain groups.