Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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Top Skyrim Mods Being Ripped and Sold in Second Life

Mod mesh masks

Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Not all of the ripped content in Second Life comes from 3D marketplaces, game files, and victimized Second Life designers. At this point it shouldn't be surprising that some "enterprising" residents with serious ethical shortcomings are using mods made by passionate members of other gaming communities to stock their SL stores with mesh goods, much like they may use the original resources from a game. One affected member of the Skyrim community is straight up quitting the scene after a frustrating ordeal trying to get his work removed from the SL Marketplace. Here's how it went down:

It started in 2012 with a very beautiful set of masks and robes, made by DoctorPepper for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and shared on The Nexus (a modding hotspot.) The items and the pictures of them are beautiful (and I've subsequently installed them in my own game) but in the grand scheme of Skyrim modding they might easily get lost in the shuffle.

Zairaam post 1

At some point, DoctorPepper became aware that some of his work was apparently being sold on the SL Marketplace (alongside several other items which appear to be taken directly from Skyrim's own resources) by someone who was definitely not him. It had been retextured (terribly) but look closely and the similarities seem unmistakable. DoctorPepper put development of his mod on hiatus, filed a DMCA and even tweeted at Second Life's official Twitter account. He seemed pretty optimistic at that point, claiming that he would continue working on the mod once it was all sorted out.

Zairaam post 2

DoctorPepper posted an update on Monday, and things have apparently gone south. The issue of his content allegedly being taken and resold was enough to push someone already frustrated with the often demanding nature of the modding community out altogether. It might feel a bit like an internet "flounce" (when someone storms off dramatically to make a point only to quietly return later) but he absolutely has a right to be pissed off, to feel betrayed, and even to leave.

For anyone who knows how to make a game mod, breaking one open to access its contents is essentially child's play, and the unfortunate side-effect of mesh has been that now it's easier than ever to import ready-made models with less-than-honest origins, from games and game mods alike. There are tons of stores in Second Life that make a habit out of ripping off custom content. The most popular targets are easily The Sims games, like this store which appears to be reselling content from dozens of different Sims 2 & 3 modders that can all easily be traced with a reverse image search (a technique I've mentioned previously.) Here's an example of what the reverse image search results look like for one of that store's necklaces:

Reverse Image Search

Like many of their items, most of the results seem to point back to popular Sims 2 & 3 modder RoseSims2.

Designers beware: These kinds of ripped items are often sold as full-perm merchant resources, which could land you in trouble if the original creator sees your work before they see the ripper's.

Now, it should be said that modders are not always the original creators of a piece of content, and it's common to see models from one game modded into another by fans. I can't say for sure that DoctorPepper made his masks and robes himself just like I can't say for sure that RoseSims2 made that necklace herself, however it's important to remember that for every person just swapping models around between games there's someone making their own content as a hobby, essentially working for free for the love of a game and its community and delivering amazing original content to both. Stealing from creators like these just to make some pocket change in Second Life is pathetic, and it's a problem that is currently plaguing the SL Marketplace, and it makes us all look bad by association.

Remember: If something looks like it's taken from a game, or if the pictures look like something other than SL... They probably are. Don't reward that kind of deceitful bullshit, and if you can contact the original creator so they can take the appropriate legal action. You can read my tips on how to avoid stolen content here, as well as some advice on what to do when you've already bought it.

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris 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.

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Adeon Writer

This type of behavior needs to be ban worthy.

Cube Republic

This doesn't surprise me.

Cicadetta

I wish I could say I was shocked, but... nope. Why isn't the Marketplace more closely regulated?

Kelly Bintilona

This has gone on for years before Mesh in those days it was just SL members being ripped off or textures from places like Deviant Art. Now with Mesh it has opened the floodgates to rips from other designers both professional and amateur alike.

Linden Lab does not (EVER) do anything but the requirement by law which is act upon a DMCA notification.

However, what they FAIL to do is deal with Red Flag behavior which is also defined under the DMCA. This is where they fall short.

There is certainly enough red flag activity where they can act on their marketplace for example. It does not have to be a closed content platform or review process like Blue Mars had but creating a simple method to monitor content that is simple and not too open for abuse must be a feasible step to mitigate their risk.

Also they have a known history with never banning the accounts even after multiple DMCA takedown notifications thus leaving that individual access to the inventory and ability to use the account as it gets older and the alts they create. Whilst bans can be got around, deleting the account at least cuts off the assets they had and enforces them to pay again for upload.

The only positive for the individual infringed upon is that account would have had payment information on file as mesh requires this. If I was him I would get a lawyer to get a quick court order for disclosure of real life information so if they falsely counterfile on the DMCA he can take it to court. That's if he can afford it, most of us creators can't afford it and write off rips as a simple cost of business.

Arcadia Codesmith

It'd be nice to have a copyright system that's more beneficial to artists than to the parasites that suck the money, vitality and life from artists.

Shockwave Yareach

I think the best way to deal with this mess is not by involving the law. A better way is to have an internal Copyright court in SL itself.

A linden gets the complaint. The Linden then looks at the texture/mesh/whatever and compares it with the one the complaintant shows as an example. If the items are identical, then the person who has the EARLIEST version of it is the winner.

Then the Linden temporarily closes the offender's marketplace until such time the offender gives a good explanation for why/how they copied said IP.

On the third proven offense, the offender is Credit Card banned from SL, meaning the card they use to cash out with will no longer be permitted to be used in SL.

And oddly enough, doing this simple thing not only stops most of the copybotting and mesh theft, but also means LL is following the DCMA too. Once you make it so thieves know they can't get rich quick copying other's work, they'll find easier targets elsewhere.

SkyRimer


From a Modder at the Nexus Mod Forum:
"they dont own any rights nor are they affiliated in any form to Bethesda etc. People make the wrong assumptions about a mod uploaded here. I upload my mod to a public place to be downloaded with the risk of being redistributed and resold, modified etc. Most modders work is based on material licenced only - the game itself. Without the games engine all that is left are lines of code or models of art. If people are afraid of losing control about these then they shouldnt make their work public but hand it out to individual persons in a controlled environment.

Mods usually come without any copyright remarks as its hard to define if it is even capable of being copyrighted at all. people have to be really careful about cLaiming a design pattern etc as it might backfire very fast when your idea/model is actually inspired by other already existing models/patterns. And even if you think you should have a copyright then you should go the entire road and get your patterns/models etc registered at the approriate agencies for that - all that costs money , time etc which most people dont want to invest - so theft is kind of programmed to happen and enforcing personal copyrights without all that is kind of very naive thinking. "

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