Wednesday, March 05, 2008

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Naked Pleading: Stroker Serpentine On Content Creators' IP Rights Campaign, Two Weeks In

Content_theft_protest_4

I don't know about you, but I sure wouldn't want to piss off a big naked guy with tattoos and a mullet.  (Or for that matter, upset a nude blonde.)  In recent weeks, Second Life's content creators have stepped up their protest against a rash of theft, first with a real world plea, and now with an eye-catching campaign created by Chez Nabob and featuring top entrepreneurs posing deshabille

The Lindens generally tell Residents who feel their content is being expropriated in-world to file a DMCA notice-- a time-consuming process that often leaves the dispute unresolved. This campaign, by contrast, raises consumer awareness, andSachi_3 brings a moral dimension to the issue.  (Hollywood and the record industry have attempted similar efforts to little effect. Presumably, consumers are less impressed by pleas from gargantuan media companies, than those from grassroots content creators who provide the bulwark of Second Life's economy.)  Or as Stroker Serpentine puts it, "[P]rojects a united front against the deluge of thievery. An informed consumer is our best ally."  As the owner of the phenomenally successful Strokerz Toys and the man who successfully took an alleged content thief to real life court, Stroker (he of the muscles and the mullet) is sort of an elder spokesman on the issue.  So I put this question to him: are they seeing tangible benefits to the campaign?

"It's only been two weeks so far," Stroker tells me. "It will be difficult to ascertain any definitive results at this early stage in it's release." However, he adds, "I believe any far-reaching impact on IP theft will have to come from within the design community."  Stroker commends Chez Nabob for the effort-- but wonders when the actual owners of the world will get involved.

"It would be great to see Linden Lab incorporate similar materials into welcome areas and/or default inventories," he says. "Hell, even a commiserating blog post..anything! Ambivilance assumes apathy."

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dandellion Kimban

Informed customer is the best ally, providing that it is not a noob with very limited funds. But noobs will always have their scum to sell them stolen goods. That is not the main problem.
Recently I was in need of a nice but not too expensive male skin. So, without the problem of stolen content I had to jump hell lot of the shops. After a while (it was the first time I am buying male skins, you boys are in trouble in this world!) I had a clue what is biz in a box stuff and some I could bet that are stolen. And I was not to buy one of those. I am too old for that. But my only indicator was the quality/price ratio. So, I could easily buy stolen skin if it was expensive. So I IM'ed friends, Twittered too... for an advice. You can guess... there is no way to know before you buy. Sure, I got LM's of the reputable places. Great skins (at least in quality if not in what I wanted my male avatar to be), originals for sure, but too expensive. So? Can you tell me how to know original before I pay the vendor? Or we can ask Lindens to make it possible to inspect an item before we buy it?

Takuan Daikon

Funny thing is, I'd love to put up these signs in my stores to help spread the message, but I haven't yet found any place where I can get them without copying them :)

In all seriousness, though, while I have my doubts as to the long-term effectiveness of the campaign, I do wish to support it and help get the message out.

Ann Otoole

I haven't heard word one about this "effort".

I guess i'm a nobody.

Guess thats a great way to drum up support....

Ignore the grass roots.

LL isn't going to do anything until served a court order.

Stroker Serpentine

Thanks Hamlet for helping to spread the word. The campaign is in it's infancy and we would appreciate the support of any and all.I would encourage Merchants to display the ad(s) of their choice in their shops and vendors. Feel free to contact Chez Nabob or myself for the kit.

@ Ann Otoole. Everyone in SL is a somebody. You have posted 100's of times in various blogs showing your support for better tools, Linden involvement and awareness. I for one appreciate all you have done.

@ dandellion Kimban. Skins are the #1 stolen product by far because they are textures. To date there is no SL tool to identify who the original creator of a texture is, given the fact that they can captured and reloaded under another name. As far as an item you like being too expensive, value is always a perception. If you find a product you really enjoy and have limited funds, contact the creator. Perhaps you can negotiate a better price. Or, simply save your lindens until you can afford it. Buying stolen content because it is cheaper is the crux of the issue here. I agree with you, SL men do not enjoy the selection of skins that females do. But then we dont change skins daily either.

Cyn Vandeverre

One thing that can be done is to sign the skin texture. Not in an area that is shown on the avatar, but in the void areas of the texture. The user can't see it, but if it ever gets to a Linden for judgement (or a RL court) then they can see the whole square skin texture and the signature or logo.

Lyra Muse

Cyn: That has been done, and people still not only rip them off and reuse them, but in the case of one of my friends, flaunt them at the creator. Lindens still will do nothing except tell her to file a DMCA.... Shocked?

If anyone is interested in helping to get the word out, as Stroker has already urged, please feel free to contact myself or any other officer of the Merchant Theft Protection Program to join us. Also, I am happy to hand out a campaign kit containing the posters that are featured in this article, and more. Thank you!

Chez Nabob

Part of the problem and one of the reasons we started this campaign is that it's difficult for content creators to actually come together as a collective. It's through groups like Stroker's Merchant Theft Protection group that we began distributing the ad campaign and encouraging people to pass the kits along to other content creators.

And there's been a huge effort to get coverage in blogs and on SL-focused sites (Thank you New World Notes) to help spread the word about the campaign.

I assure you Anne, we didn't overlook you on purpose. I will drop a kit on you in-world. If anyone else is interested in getting a kit, Please message any of the folks who commented above that are passing out kits, or go here:

http://shop.onrez.com/Chez_Nabob

and look for "IP rights campaign kit version 2.0"

We want as many content creators as we can get to support the campaign. It will take the effort of a collective for LL to step up to the plate and accept some of the responsibility for what is going on in SL. We want to open a constructive dialog with them as this issue affects us all in one way or another. That includes not only content creators, but the residents of SL and LL itself. As the ads say, theft has a cost and it's a price we all pay, whether we're aware of it or not.

Hopefully these ads will achieve their goal of educating people about the ramifications of theft. I cannot tell you how many content creators I've heard from who are participating in the campaign, who want to be involved in the next round of ads or who simply want to distribute the kits.

I think we're off to a good start, but we definitely need more support from as many creators as we can get to make this work. It will truly be a grassroots effort, and one that will hopefully reach a point of critical mass as we try to bring about real, meaningful change in securing greater protections for intellectual property rights in SL.

Ann Otoole

until LL begins deleting the ripped textures and/or objects from the asset system the problem will continue unabated.

example: skin is determined to be stolen. skin is examined by LL and the three textures are identified. The parent UUID trail is followed to it's source (directed graph query). all accounts involved are deleted from SL (moved to a forensics database) along with 100% of all textures by UUID) created/imported by these accounts. Machine bans engaged and access by those accounts is revoked permanently unless the DMCA is overturned in court. It gets a bit tougher on stolen objects (prim collections) but the process is the same and evolves around the directed graph of a parent/child UUID chain.

Now if the asset system does not support parent UUID/child UUID then it needs to be modified to support it. even if it means shuttering SL for a month and refunding tier.

If LL does not know how to write a directed graph SQL query then they need to replace their existing database staff with professionals that know what they are doing. or send them down to the bookstore with $100 for some Joe Celko books.

the point is that once a skin (for example) is stolen and sold then anyone who bought the stolen skin needs to be out the money for it. I.e.;, next time they use the skin it has been replaced with a skin made from "stolen texture" images.

This is the only way people will learn to stop buying cheap stuff from obvious criminals. you have to hit them in the pocketbook.

professional skinners can easily counter the argument that skins are too expensive for new residents by taking early work and making them free (and no transfer).

Ananda

I'd like to be behind this ad campaign as I would love to see some of the best content creators (and my friends) much more abundantly rewarded for their work. Unfortunately, I don't think calling a copy of a copy "theft" will work any better here than it has for Hollywood and the RIAA. And I would really hate to see such wonderful people get tarred with the same brush, fall into the pattern of coercing scarcity in order to make money when the real problem is this:

In a world where once something is created infinite copies can be made by anyone without much additional cost, how do we reward the truly valuable act - the initial creation?

I don't know the answer, but I would love if SL could find a truly positive path in this regard to backing the value up the supply chain. Imagine a world where content creators are amply rewarded for the act of creation instead of how well they can coerce sales, where once the object is out there no one tries to control its free spread, because the creator has already been "paid" by some means.

One idea would be to have a content futures market. In this scheme investors would see the products a content creator previously made and gave to the overall community, and examine the extent to which this raised the overall wealth of the community. Then a content creator would post a new potential product they were working on and see if anyone gives them enough patronage to make it worth their time and expense in doing so. This would take a massive rethinking of our mindsets in buying the creativity rather than a copy of the end product, but more and more we are facing this prospect in the real world, not just SL. Here's a few recent links examining that trend by fellow SL'ers:

http://futurememes.blogspot.com/

http://gwynethllewelyn.net/2007/12/05/snowcrashing-into-the-diamond-age-2-part-one-by-extropia-dasilva/

I guess what I'm saying is trying to coerce scarcity in an inherently abundant sphere of activity seems doomed to failure in the long run, so content creators need to start thinking in new directions, abandon the old industrial models. For all our sakes.

Kit Meredith

Great post, Hamlet! As an IP attorney by day (and SL addict by night), this has touched on something that I've spent quite a bit puzzling about. I think you're spot-on, the key for the designers will be making sure they don't fall into a "creators vs. users" standoff like you see with the RIAA. If you ask me, they're off to a good start with this well-designed ad campaign.

The real issue is, and one that I haven't seen discussed much to this point, is the one that your commenters have begun to touch on - what exactly are we asking the Lindens to do about this, assuming we get their ear? I've posted my thoughts, and would love to hear what other folks have to say.

Chez Nabob

@Ananda

Read through the links you provided, and after considering what you said, I'd like to make an observation.

I think that by identifying the ability to produce a limitless supply of an original creation as the problem misses the point.

What you pay for when you buy someone's content isn't the reproduction of that creation (the manufacturing of the copy). What you are paying for is that individual's skill, talent, time, energy and yes costs of doing business from advertising to lease and tier payments, texture upload fees, etc.

It's true that the supply of copies is limitless and doesn't cost the creator anything, but that's not what you are paying for. Talent, skill, time, and more importantly, ideas, have value, a point I know you agree with.

I'm all for exploring new ideas about how best to reward content creators for their efforts, but with all due respect, it seems to me that the easiest way to do that is to go into someone's store, plunk down your money and buy a product of theirs that you love. If it speaks to you and you appreciate the effort it took to create it, why not show that appreciation in the simplest way possible?

And in truth, what is the true cost of the vast majority of content available to the average SL resident in terms of actual RL currency? $1? $2? Maybe $3?

A system that allows its users to pay relatively little for the goods and services provided by other users seems a pretty good model. The cost is practically nothing and yet it allows content creators to be rewarded for their, time, talent, skill, ideas, etc. through the micropayments of many, many fans who appreciate their creations.

And if those creations have value, aren't they worth protecting? Isn't it worth the time and energy to try to ensure that some level of safeguards are put into place to try to minimize the exploitation of those creations?

There are many ideas floating around out there about what those safeguards might be, and to be quite honest, I'm not certain which are the best options, but it's time we started talking about them and trying to get everyone to come to the table with the mindset that the system is breaking down and there needs to be real, concrete solutions put into place that will help improve the situation.

I don't believe the issue is about coercing sales or creating scarcity. I have always believed that if you make a good product, you don't hav to coerce anyone. The idea behind it speaks for itself. And as I said above, if I like something, I'm going to buy it. I get something I love, and I show the person who created it that I appreciate their ability.

I dunno, seems to me that sometimes the simplest solutions are often the best, but also easily overlooked.

My apologies if I misinterpreted the point you were trying to make.

Ananda

Chez-

I think we are for the most part on the same page here... that what we need to do is find a way to keep rewarding creativity and encouraging content creators to keep putting in the time and effort to bring out new products. We may differ though in beliefs about how effective it is to spend time on IP rights enforcement efforts and DRM versus encouraging a change in the cultural mindset.

The problem as I see it is that most people don't have a good awareness of the interelationships in play - that the money you spend on a product is what keeps the creators able to continue making more and better products. Instead they just look for the cheapest way of getting something without considering that if the originator isn't getting the money then eventually there will be no more new products to buy.

So I floated one idea which is the content futures - essentially a modern version of patronage. Other important areas to focus on would be customized services, reputation networks and markets, and finally I think if this ad campaign goes in the direction of "Know your Creators" or just the general message that it's creativity that deserves your support, not theft... this would have a genuine positive effect on attitudes.

I think this would be the right direction to go, rather than getting tangled in an endless arms race of enforcement efforts and piracy.

Randal

You guys are all making the same mistake as the RIAA/MPAA etc. Worse SL is a totally digital world so I'd expect SL residents would have gotten it by now but I guess not.

Well I'll repeat the obvious. Once an idea/creation can become digitized it is no longer scarce. No scarcity! None! Stop trying to sell something that costs nothing to reproduce and distribute. That's a business model for the physical world.

Enough with the whining content creators and their IP Lawyer / DMCA bullshit. Aren't people sick of it. Isn't it obvious that this destructive path leads nowhere?

How about people accept reality. Ideas have always been copied. It's the foundation upon which progress is based. We've now perfected a method to disseminate ideas. Instead of constantly trying to smother this huge leap forward we should be using it as an opportunity for accelerated advancement.

So how about SL looks forward and uses it's energy to find new models that embrace reality rather than litigation and dubious attempts at moral coercion to slow down progress. Let's experiment with new models. See what happens when there is another motivation besides greed. Let's find different ways to encourage and reward content creators.

And yes, if that means the guy who scripted a dildo that shoots spunk doesn't become a lindenaire, then so be it.

Ann Otoole

better yet how about the deranged leftist "information wants to be free" kooks leave SL?

there is no business model in the suggestions that everything should be free. no revenue stream? no business. nothing. not taken seriously. dead as a doornail.

clue: no revenue stream = no money = no interest.

read this:
http://www.xs4all.nl/~elout/sculptpaint/

maybe a total boycott of SL is in order. close all the private islands and all the businesses and all the clubs. halt all L$ transactions. reverse charges on all CC transactions with LL. would that get LL's attention? basically shut their revenue stream down? sure the criminal operations would never quit running but they are all crammed with bots anyway.

if SL was known as a place where nothing but criminals operate would rosedale still be proud?

There is no solution. LL will do nothing until forced to by court order. its all a noble effort but basically the crooked nerds have managed to kill another thing because they are not capable of being creative so they kill anything that is.

and the track record of LL on DMCA CLEARLY indicates collusion with the criminals. Basically LL is making money off of theft.
Prove it isn't so. (sim sales, sim tier, Lindex transactions, etc.)

Randal

Ann, maybe you should have read the page you linked to more carefully:
"I wont stop, I will continue to create, have fun."
She doesn't seem to have lost her incentive to create. That's what creative people do. Doesn't really support your argument now does it.

Actually besides some moaning and groaning you don't really have an argument.

Oh, and if it wasn't for "nerds" there wouldn't be a SL.

Diana Hooper

Yes, but they also get extremely depressed if they are used. Like every other sane human being.(Of course if they don't mind, then they aren't really being used)


I have no business in Sl. I find it rather troublesome. So therefore I live on camping and generous residents.

However, I like to create. And I often give away to help or to just share. But i'd immediately stop sharing if I found out someone was using my creation, selling my work. While claiming they made it.

Perhaps that's just me, but I'd get extremely depressed if I found out I was being used. I don't particularly care about profit. I want my damn credit.

Ryven

"deranged leftist information wants to be free kooks"

Teehee. Sounds like me. =D

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