Friday, September 26, 2008

Content theft

I have had to file my first DMCA. Honestly, I would have been more than happy to never have to deal with this process, as, I'm sure, would anyone who has ever been forced to file one.

One of the most frustrating parts of the entire process has been that the other party still does not seem to actually grasp what the problem is, although said party is respecting my cease and desist after I outlined my case. No, I shall not be naming names. We have reached a solution outside of court, and that is, I hope, the end of it.

This seems to be something that many people do not fully grasp (on both sides, both those doing the "stealing" and the victims): Theft of actual textures is not the only form that content theft can take. While one cannot copyright an idea, your implementation of that idea is another story. You cannot just sit looking at something someone else has done and reproduce it without their permission. This is, for instance, why shoppingcartdisco occasionally brings up the problems of reproducing real life items without permission. The actual copyright holder (or their representative) is the one who has to choose to file, the fact they have not does not mean that this practice is protected by law. In my mind, some of this is also a question of ethics, and an example that our world has become too large (in the way in which our brains are wired, we simply aren't constructed to handle the ability to care about this many people as people): would you do the same thing to a friend? Or is it "ok" because it's a stranger?

There are Fair Use allowances, and there is a muddy line between "stealing" and "inspiration" in some cases. However, there are many cases in which neither of these rules apply.

On a personal note, this is the sort of thing that can make one take a step back and say "Is this really worth it, or would my efforts be better directed elsewhere?" This is aggravation that I definitely do not need, and is not good for my well being; were it not for the fact that I have made a number of good friends in Second Life, as well as responsibilities and people who depend upon me, I very well might take all my toys and go home. There are a vast number of other things I could be doing with my time instead, in which I would not have to deal with this sort of thing. As it is, throughout this process I have had far less desire to log in, or to work on things (which is unfortunate, as I have a large number of projects that need to be done on a relatively quick timetable). At least it has been offset by some good (mostly unrelated, thank you, as getting my mind off of it is something required) conversations with people, and have had some nice positive surprises in the time.


Nissa Nightfire said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you, Allegory :( -- and will hope for a good resolution. You raise a very important point about copyright violation -- it is not just about ripping textures [maybe it isn't even mostly about that]. I continuously am frustrated by seeing use of images that I'm sure are not licensed -- Disney, Curious George, hello kitty, etc. -- yet little comment is made about that. I'm not sure if it is continued misunderstanding of copyright, or, as you suggest, a big corporation, or a stranger, is too impersonal to care much about. Again -- I'm so very sorry about the effect this has on your creativity, as you are one of my very favorite content creators in SL!

Sakuradawn Lei said...

Oh Allegory, I'm so sorry. I have had this happen to me too. I was shocked and hurt and almost completely gave up. We tried to talk to the person and ended up banned from their land so we filed the DMCA. They had copied some boots prim for prim and the textured them very ugly and sold them for more! Make sure you check onrez and slx to be sure they haven't listed the items on there do. If they have you will have to notifiy onrez and slx about the dmca. I was lucky enough to have people encourage me through that hellish time and I came out stronger and better. This is the reason I went out and bought resizer scripts and all my prim items are No Mod now. It might be frustrating for people who are honest and just want to make mods to their items, but thanks to the dishonest people out there I have to protect myself the best I can.

Allegory Malaprop said...

Nissa- That's the thing, see. The copyright holder, or their representative, has to be the one to file. So lots of this is tacitly accepted simply because "they won't notice." And because of this, it's seen as alright, and people may not understand that it is _not_ actually allowed. Some companies intentionally turn a blind eye to some of this, as it is free advertising, and they don't want to alienate their fanbase; others are very rabid about protection, and SL may just be currently beneath their notice. That doesn't mean it will stay that way.

Sakura- I'm so sorry it happened to you too! In some ways, I'm kind of happy I didn't make all that many boots pre sculpty, as regular prims are far too easy to duplicate with means that don't involve much effort (or intelligence) on the part of the thief, with tools like copybot (not that sculpts are unstealable, but I believe it takes a degree more of effort/knowing what you are doing. I'm not an expert in copybot though, so this is just a guess by how I understand the whole system to work. It certainly is more difficult than copying mod enabled regular prims, I am unfamiliar with how/if it deals with no mod). Footwear seems to be a very popular target.

I assume you know the alpha "trick" for sculpts, which makes them harder to steal. I had been using it inconsistently, as it takes another step, but I'm going to start trying to do it all the time, even on insignificant things. And hope that there's a mechanism in place if that is how they choose to implement flexi with sculpts, that doesn't destroy them all (besides, that's how knows how long off anyway).

I was able to get them removed from SLX and OnRez with my DMCA filing to LL- I included the links to the items in my notice including the urls. It has been substantially faster than pursuing it through OnRez, as I filed a ticket about it there first (immediately upon discovery; versus consulting my lawyer, writing up the paperwork, faxing, and waiting until the next business day for LL to address), and it hadn't even been looked at by anyone there until a day or two after LL had removed the items. (And it's still a "work in progress". Obviously it's not going to "progress" much at this point, as it has been removed by LL.) I believe OnRez has discontinued much of their support (and, from the sound of it, interest in SL in particular and is considering diversifying in some manner) after the whole CSI fiasco. If there is a way to get an immediate contact with an actual person, I haven't found it; and I know they discontinued live support to the viewer.

As, last I heard, SLX passes along all the DMCA information automatically, including real name and contact information, I'm happy I didn't have to file with them. It's murky as to whether LL is doing the correct thing by _not_ passing on this information (and they definitely aren't by passing on NO information, as you have no idea whether you have a case to counterfile or not if not contacted by the other party, as we have seen in the Fresh Baked Goods fiasco. LL also did not go as overboard in removal with my case, the SLX and OnRez boxes were in place and functional without the items in question, only that particular one has been removed). However, I'd still rather keep as much perceived anonymnity as I can, especially in a case when it could lead to harassment, like any DMCA filing.

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