Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Consumer Rights... How Can We Protect Them?

What would you do if you bought a product, only used it once, and was then banned from using the product further because the creator didn’t like a group that you belonged to? Based on what is being reported by Aine Flanagan, that’s exactly what happened to her and others recently in Second Life. She had purchased an in-world mesh creation tool for L$3995. After the creator shut down his own group forum and seemed less than helpful, she joined an independent group so that she and other buyers would have a way to discuss the product and provide each other with support. After she had used it a single time, she says that the creator shut down her ability to continue using the product. Apparently the same thing happened to others who had purchased it and were a part of the discussion group. Now she says they are all being accused of violating TOS and are being threatened with retribution for nothing more than belonging to a group that the creator did not approve of, and while there will most likely be no consequences for the purchasers if the story is true, the fact is that it may be difficult for any of them to recover any money already paid in. You can read more about this bizarre story at http://macmoraghsmuse.blogspot.com/2012/01/lumberjack-experience-in-paranoia-and.html.
What a mess. Regardless of whether the seller or the consumer is at fault, situations like this only stifle creativity and cause problems for everyone involved.

This is exactly why SpotON3D created the community-driven resolution panel, where volunteers are called out whenever there is a dispute. The company picks 3 to 5 out of the available volunteers to hear the complaint, making sure they are not the same people over and over and that they are not all from one group or another of the community. The volunteers are charged with listening, reading and viewing all matters of the details of the complaint/dispute and coming up with a reasonable solution.

The volunteers have access to a lawyer to ensure their solution has real legal legs, because if either party doesn't like the solution they can take it to a real world online arbitration service, http://virtualcourthouse.com, a community of retired and active judges and lawyers whose services start at just $150 USD. Of course, if you ask for a one-on-one meeting with the retired/active judge or lawyer or want to present additional documents as evidence, then the costs go up for that person.

All parties named in the disputes are bound by the SpotON3D Terms of Service to participate. Virtual Courthouse uses all the information gathered through the resolution panel process to review the solution, and either say it is a valid legal response or come up with their own judgment that is legally recognized in over 150 countries.

In other words, the fact that a business person is using a character-driven persona to represent their real identity, whether in business or in play, does not provide them with the perfect cover to defraud, harass, violate the SpotON3D TOS and the many other things we have seen go down in the past. It doesn't always have to involve digital retail content to add up to a dispute either. We've all seen that truth in not only Second Life, but in many other platforms that provide the means to replicate real world interactions and business actions in an online web space.

The bottom line though is this. It is illegal, unethical and in bad faith to take all the profit of a product offering, and deny any of the responsibility for its outcome and security. That's why many creators are choosing to make SpotON3D the place through which they create and sell their products. Even sales to Second Life avatars are covered by this if they are made through SpotONSynergy's Double Dutch Delivery (DDD) system. DDD makes it possible for users to shop through a web-based marketplace that can deliver any DDD item they buy to their SpotON3D avatar AND to their Second Life avatar simultaneously at the point of purchase, This means their inventory is being legally replicated at the purchase point FOR FREE. Every sale is bound to the SpotON3D community resolution/arbitration system, both for the creator's and the consumer's protection.

We have said this before, but it is worth repeating. It’s not about LEAVING ... it’s about EXPANDING, and creating a Metaverse connection that is not only fun and community spirited, but that values everyone's reasonable needs. We must get beyond the gilded cage without sacrificing the careers of so many talented folks. It is possible, and is being built right now. If you believe in the 3D Web and these ideals and are serious about wanting real value for your time and efforts, then maybe it’s time for you to expand your horizons. Drop in to SpotON3D and check it out!


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