How to Avoid Ripped, Unoriginal, or "Borrowed" Second Life Content -- 5 Crucial Tips
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Stolen content is the bane of the serious SL consumer, and the reality is that almost all of us, no matter how careful we are, have probably bought some. Now I'm not just talking about ripped or copybotted SL content either. Don't forget that plenty of creators who have been stolen from aren't even in SL themselves; mesh resources purchased or taken from elsewhere and resold in SL (from game assets to 3D models) plague the SL Marketplace, and original artwork has been taken from portfolio websites and used in SL since before my time.
But that doesn't mean that we're helpless. You may not be able to prevent yourself from accidentally supporting these shady practices all the 100% of the time, but I've got five tips to share with you that will dramatically decrease your chances of getting duped by dubious goods.
5. If it looks like it's straight out of a video game, it probably is.
The awful side of mesh in Second Life is that it's made it easier than ever for people to upload assets taken right out of other programs or games into Second Life with minimal effort. It's not just virtual cosplayers looking to dress up like their favorite characters from Mass Effect or WoW who need to worry about this either; one of the biggest offenders these days is a store selling animated pet accessories that appear to be taken directly from Square Enix game assets. If both the mesh and the texturing seem unbelievably accurate compared to the source material, it's probably because it is the source material.
Some people might argue that buying these products anyway doesn't really hurt anyone, but they do a lot of harm to the legitimacy of the Second Life design community and Second Life cosplayers. Beyond that, it comes down to the simple fact that most of the time these products are sold for the same prices that a legitimate designer would sell them for, but the seller has done almost none of the work to earn it. Shop elsewhere, period.
4. Ask yourself if the skill demonstrated in the photography and ad design matches the skill required to make the item itself.
This one takes some practice and some knowledge to really pull off because it's not always as obvious as it is in the picture above (which I made for illustrative purposes), but once it "clicks" for you you'll never shop the same way again. If you don't know what it takes to make an item in Second Life, spend some time on YouTube watching tutorials, then spend a little more time using software like Photoshop, GIMP, and Blender. These are some of the most popular tools among SL content creators, and they are not easy to master. If a designer doesn't seem to understand how to use the most basic elements of Photoshop or GIMP to put together an ad that's more than just a bunch of awkward screenshots side-by-side, there's almost no chance that they'd be able to create something like a skin or a piece of clothing without relying very heavily on outside resources.
Just remember that there are lots of legal and legitimate resources that content creators of any skill level can use, so this alone is not a good reason to accuse anyone of anything. Just consider it one more tool you can use when you're feeling a bit unsure of an unfamiliar item, shop, or creator.
3. Check out the rest of the store: Is the style relatively consistent, and has quality improved at a reasonable pace?
This tip, as well as tip #4, are two of the most important things I've ever learned in SL, because they both apply to the world at large. Think of it this way: If you're a teacher and you're marking papers it should absolutely raise a red flag if a D+ student suddenly turns in A+ work. It's absolutely possible that the dramatic improvement came about naturally--maybe the subject inspired them to work harder or they just got into a rhythm or they may even have a tutor--but that's not always the case, and it should tell you to to take a closer look either way.
Use your best judgement. Once again, it's absolutely not cause to run out and tell everyone you know to boycott that store, but it is a perfectly valid reason to shop elsewhere.
2. If it has graphics, logos, or artwork, try a reverse image search before you buy
Second Life is plagued with art, fashion, and decor items not only bearing high-profile RL brand logos, but also artwork taken from all over the internet. Recently some super cute monster minidresses appeared on the scene, decorated with adorable and surreal artwork. In a matter of hours, the Plurk community had identified the original creator of the art on each of the dresses as Juan Carlos Paz, whose online presence mentions nothing about Second Life (which makes it unlikely that the dresses are his own work, work that he endorsed, or work that he was receiving any money from.) This is a story we've heard a million times before, so while I'll admit it's possible this designer and Juan Carlos have an agreement about the use of his art, it is incredibly unlikely.
These days it's easy as hell to figure out where a pic came from, thanks to Google Image Search. If you click on the camera icon on the right side of the search input field of an Image Search you'll get the option to upload a picture, and Google will look up everything visually similar. In the case of the monster dresses it was easy to crop the ad and fill in the edges to get a fairly clear image to search with, and the results (which took less than a second to be returned) pointed right to Juan Carlos Paz's work.
If there's any doubt in your mind where the artwork came from, pop it into a Reverse Google Image Search yourself and find out. Most artists (especially artists making adorable indie shit on the internet) aren't exactly rolling in money, so profiting from their work without their consent is incredibly uncool. Don't support people who do this, they're jerks.
1. Go with your gut.
If you have a bad feeling about a store, a designer, or an item, but you can't find any hard evidence of theft, just walk away. It doesn't cost you anything, and you can always change your mind and come back later. Don't start a crusade against them or blacklist them or report them on a hunch, just take your money somewhere you're comfortable spending it.
Please share this post with people you like:Tweet
Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.