Friday, March 28, 2008

and it's not the weather, hand me my leather

NNNNNG. Replica razor? Sure. But from the prop! It's so pretty...

Also, lipsync technology for machinima. Has Professor Sputnik heard about this?

And Damen Gorilla is evil. After carefully debating my finances, and the new Clomps shoe advertisement he sent through the group, I have decided that yes, I could be conservative and buy the four pair I think I absolutely need to fill out color ranges I do not have for doll shoes...or...

*hangs her head in shame* the 'super fetish pack' of all ten colors for L$650.


...actually, no, we like Damen, we do. Okay, no damning. But EVIL, yes, evil. Him and his wicked cool-shoe-designing ways.

All right, back to serious stuph. Leapfrogging from the last entry on the topic to this one...I may indeed have to post a retraction of the "Stroker bailed" assertion.

This is going to be a lot of links at first; be patient.

First of all, September 2006's plague of sim crashes seems to have, in fact, been caused by Catteneo and a group of other hackers with the deliberate intent to clone the SexGen engine for resale. A content creator and I were just discussing this possibility last night, and bingo, they find a link for me confirming that very possibility.

Part of the new (very irritating, and very non-rational-seeming on the surface) policy LL is doing of random region restarts is, in fact, directly intended to foil such plans.

So LL cares a little about content theft. Yay.

From there we go to the SLX forums--for some back-and-forth chatter on the topic. Let me lift the relevant info from that long posting, though, if you don't want to read through all of it (and it is worth the read-through):

This I posted in comments to the last entry; it's the announcement of settlement.

But later in that forum commentary, a Fox News story is mentioned--in the context of, apparently, the Tampa Bay Online story was trimmed from that Fox News story. So the Fox News coverage--weirdly enough--is more in-depth.

(I will say there's one highly relevant comment leading back to the 'he bailed' turf in this: "The settlement does not involve money or any admission of wrongdoing, court documents show." But even with that, let me be absolutely fair--pursuing a nineteen-year-old idiot who lives with his grandmother for any financial gain whatsoever--and even, one may say, pursuing him for the finer ethical points of establishing case law--it might easily be seen as the more rational course of action to put your hand in a blender and hit "frappe"--in the long run it would cost less, cause less stress, and take less time to recover from, than a protracted law suit conducted at the speed of court.

(Let me also note that's the general tone of the other forum posters--"I know it was aggravating, but it would have been nice if you had actually pushed to establish case law for cases like yours" is the overall tone of most of the responses. However.)

And here is the Chez Nabob interview in full--for anyone who doesn't know, he's the mind behind the "parodying" (oh, how careful he is, using that word) of PETA's ad campaign in the first place.

Having read through all of that, I will now say this:

While I still believe it would have been better for Serpentine to push for establishing precedent of case law on this would have been a huge financial commitment, taken even more years off his life, and beyond all that, been a hassle of monumental proportions. So I can see, believe me, why he eventually chose the lesser of things here and went for settlement.

And let me make this also very plain--again:

I am not saying content theft is a good thing in any way. I'm saying insisting that content theft is the only reason sales are down is not understanding the issue that the SL economy faces. Moreover, I'm saying that--even though it's something that could cause harm to PETA, which I am completely for--it's still stealing someone else's intellectual property to protest stealing intellectual property.

Which has been my issue with things all along, the vast and untapped reservoir of irony behind that statement that is not being perceived.

Now, then. Before the train wreck actually catches on fire again from four posts on this one topic...I'm going to declare it reasonably closed (though comments are always allowed), and move on to lesser offenses and picture fluff.


Or, y'know, back to fishing.


Chez Nabob said...

I wish I had been aware of your issues with the IP rights campaign before now. I would have tried to explain my perspective a little sooner, but nevertheless let me attempt to do that now.

There is something called fair use in copyright law. The campaign we released in SL is a parody of the famous PETA ads which use naked celebrities to promote their cause. I thought it would be amusing/ironic/strangely funny to do something similar using the naked AVs of a few SLebrities, and so launched the IP rights campaign.

I did consider that some would see this as hypocritical, a campaign trying to create awareness of intellectual property theft using a similar concept to a RL ad campaign. However I think if you actually look at PETA's ads, there's really nothing new or truly unique about them.

Advertisers have long used naked/near naked images to push their product/service/cause. I'm sure you've heard the adage "sex sells." The design of the ads is probably the closest element to the RL campaign, but even that is debatable/subjective and again there is certainly nothing particularly unique about the execution.

As has been pointed out on at least one copyright-focused blog regarding the IP rights campaign, many who claim strong rights often ignore the fact that copyright law does allow for unauthorized use (fair use), and claim infringement at the drop of a hat. I did not want that to be the case with this campaign's not something I agree with.

I deal with copyright issues in my RL job on a daily basis. It's how I make my living. Unlike many copyright holders, I do believe that once someone has purchased something I have created, it's theirs, and they should be allowed to do with it what they please so long as the original creator, and the value of their intellectual property rights, are not negatively impacted.

I wanted to do something lighthearted and fun and didn't want people to feel we were beating them over the head with the message.

Are we riding PETA's coat tails in terms of recognition? Yes, and I have acknowledged that from the beginning, but without that recognition in the mind of the person seeing the ads, you don't have parody. Recognition between the two campaigns is one of the elements of parody, at least from where I sit.

If anyone involved in the effort was going to receive a direct financial benefit, if PETA's message would have been harmed or their cause had been cast in a negative light and their organization's finances impacted in a negative way, or if their concept (using naked people to push their cause) had been truly unique, I absolutely would not have produced the campaign.

In the interview with The Seventh Sun, I mentioned that I also drew some inspiration from the "Got Milk?" campaign. This was primarily due to the fact that again, they use RL celebrities to further their cause (though there were also other aspects of the campaign that appealed to me as well). Again, not a unique concept. If the celebrities in the "Got Milk?" ads were naked would that infringe the intellectual property of PETA?

My point basically is that copyright law is incredibly broad and in many instances incredibly vague, purposefully so. But there are also many instance where it is not.

In SL the issue of content theft is one of someone taking the creation of someone else...directly ripping it and making an EXACT duplicate...and selling that for a purpose of nothing more than lining their pockets with the profits (and it's PURE profit as it took them ZERO effort to make an exact copy. They invested no time in the creation of the product).

If I felt that I was taking the EXACT unique concept of PETA with no changes or modifications and no original thought of my own and was directly benefiting financially, and harming them or their message/business, then I would have absolutely not moved ahead with this idea.

So when the issue is someone taking the exact creation, selling it for profit (or distributing it freely as in the case of P2P music sharing) and hurting the original creator's business in that process, I don't think there's much question about whether or not copyright has been violated.

The whole point of the IP rights campaign is to create awareness. I think we would be remiss if we looked to enforce only one part of the law (creator intellectual property rights) and not address the other (fair use) even if only giving it an admittedly subtle nod.

I hope that at the very least this sheds some light on where I stand as far as copyright issues go. It is something I do believe it with a passion as it does affect my RL job/income, but I also recognize the fact that there are instances where fair use comes into play and that means that people are allowed to take a concept of something I've done, and project their own ideas onto it. As long as I am not impacted in a negative manner as a result of that...well, no harm, no foul.

Emilly Orr said...

Thank you for your comment; I'm not saying I'm shutting down debate on the topic, just that I didn't want it to take over the blog, the way the 'steampunk music' debate seems to be.

I do think it's a complicated issue, I don't think it will be resolved by any one action, and I do agree that raising awareness with the end consumer of goods and services provided is a good thing. But I have severe ethical problems with some of the suggestions that are being tossed around on how best to achieve this.

For example, Miss Tigerlily Koi wants violators of copyright law to be banned (which is in LL's power, yes) and their inventories erased. But she wants that done from the moment such violators are named, with no further investigation. Say--just for example--I am found to be repainting one of Eloh Eliot's skins and reselling it. Someone sees it, recognizes it, and claims I violated copyright law. LL acts and kills my avatar, and strips my inventory.

But Miss Eliot released all her skin files as open source. I then have the right--and note, just hers, I'm not claiming this of any other creator!--to do whatever I want with them--including repaint and resell them. But if Miss Koi's argument prevails, my avatar would be dead and gone and it would be impossible to get anything I 'owned' back.

Or take a twitchier case for me personally, since I consider sachi a friend--sachi Vixen had left an issue on JIRA which I can't, for the life of me, track down now--the closest is this one that Eristic Strangelove proposed--which states, in essence, unverified users getting a drastically limited access to SL until they verified--no build, rez, load/upload, or script facilities.

Leaving aside the issue of people with perfectly understandable reasons why they don't want to be verified account holders--everything from 'I do not own a credit card' to 'I never give my real name away online'--this would, effectively, kill new users to the game. Because they'd come in crippled, and some few hours later--if even that long--they'd leave, bored, never to return. And that's the end of things. While we don't, the Lindens don't, want SL to grow explosively (we want, they want the game to grow gradually), we and they need the game to grow, because new users bring in new funds, which bring in more ability to purchase servers, upgrade aging technology, finance new development. None of which are bad things.

But if sachi and Miss Koi prevail, we move from the 'Wild West' concept of SL to a tyranny by empowered few, and that's worse.

Is content theft a good thing? No. Is it happening in SL? Yes. Is content theft rising? Yes. All these things are true. But again, I think there are better ways to move towards solving the problem than restricting new users from full game access.

And let's not be blind, here--another part of the problem is that new users are entering the game with precious little understanding of any of this--I live in a section of the mainland that sees a lot of new users, and when I speak with them, invariably they tell me they spent only a few minutes in various orientation spaces before they came in world. Why? Because many of the new orientation platforms are broken.

Emilly Orr said...

(I was afraid I was hitting the comment length limit; thus, I split this into two replies.)

Lastly, I'd say that there's also a problem with the campaign itself--not in terms of content, per se (I think everyone who's reading by now knows my specific grievance with the campaign personally) but it's also one of placement.

At Solange, for example, there are four of these ads, one for each corner of her store. Okay, that's her right, to oversaturate, if that's what she truly wants to do. But is she also choosing to place the ads in 'freebie' spaces, to publicize the campaign there? I don't think so. So the issue then becomes, 'awareness' is being 'raised' among a group of consumers who, by and large, already know--leaving aside potential end users who have no clue. So who is the campaign truly benefiting?

I'm not trying to diminish the issue of copyright theft; I know it goes on. What I'm trying to get across is the idea that there needs to be a better way to educate people than strip them of full game use, or the whole 'guilty until proven innocent' variant of bang-you're-dead followed by, oh, you didn't do it? Gosh,'re still dead.

Maybe it's me; maybe I'm not seeing what needs to happen, or should be happening. I know the DMCA (I don't agree with it, but I know it), I know the concept of 'fair use' (I've used it myself); but I think the problem goes much deeper, and much farther beyond simple theft of IP than people realize. And I think ultimately, it comes back to the Lindens' doorstep, because unless they implement something, things will not change.

I just don't want them to implement the wrong thing, as they seem so apt to do (see earlier rants on everything from killing certain search terms for clothing, to the death of gambling). Because in the end, that's what's going to affect us more--how the Lindens choose to respond, and how much worse it could get if they pick the wrong thing to change.

And frankly? They're known for picking the wrong thing to change.

Chez Nabob said...

Wow! You've got a lot of issues with all of this issue...heh.

My comment was really more about the problems you seemed to have with the campaign itself in terms of the concept. To quote you, "it's still stealing someone else's intellectual property to protest stealing intellectual property." So my reason for posting was to try to perhaps shed some light on my process and perspective in arriving where I did with the campaign.

Is it perfect, and does it answer every question out their? No, but it's a start. I do want to get it in front of a greater number of new residents, and I'm hopeful we'll be able to do that in subsequent rounds of the campaign. There are so many more things I'd like to see the campaign address, but if I waited until it addressed them all it would never get launched.

I'm taking a step by step approach with this effort, and trying to get it to do a little more with every new round of ads we release. The important thing with the first round of ads was to get started, to get people to take notice and hopefully start to support it.

I can't speak for Tigerlily or Sachi, and I wouldn't try to do so. I'm guessing you are getting their thoughts on what should happen in regard to IP theft from the Seventh Sun article. I wasn't their when they were interviewed, so I don't know the ins and outs of what she was saying apart from what the article quotes her as saying.

I can say that, again, I do support fair use. In the example you mention (Eloh's skins), clearly you are well within your rights to mod those skins, and I want to see all concerned approach this issue in a level-headed manner. A rush to judgment is never a good thing.

I do support the JIRA item you mentioned. I don't think disabling the build, rez and upload texture features cripples the experience for new, unverified users. Part of the problem in SL is the perceived anonymity that content rippers operate under. If people wanted the build, rez and texture upload capabilities, why shouldn't they have to provide some basic information about their identity to get access to those features? I'm not saying pay money to access those features, just tie a little RL information to the account and take away some of the perceived anonymity that makes the willingness to violate IP rights a little more tempting.

If they decide they don't want to provide that information, the game functions just like it would for anyone else. They can buy and wear clothes, go to clubs and dance, take in the many beautiful sims and by and large experience the vast majority of what SL has to offer. In fact, I could see entirely new service industries that spring up to cater to these avatars (things like furnished rental housing for example).

Is that a perfect solution? No. Will it prevent IP rights violations? No. But it's a step that makes it at least a little more difficult. I think a series of steps that put some roadblocks in the way is a good thing, but it's not just one thing and every action considered has to weigh the pros and cons. Again, a reasoned approach is always best.

I share your sentiments in wanting to see SL grow, but I think the unfettered access LL has allowed is a huge part of what is allowing content theft to flourish. I think if we can get take a level-headed approach to the issue, we can balance the concerns for everyone involved.

Of course I understand the track record of LL in these kinds of matters isn't the greatest, and so I can see where you would have reason to be concerned. My goal for this campaign is to try to get the ball rolling, help people understand the issue, get behind the effort and support content creators and bring LL to the table to iron out some policies that help content creators better defend their IP rights without sacrificing the rights of the other residents of SL.

I think you and I are by and large on the same page here. I agree with about 90 percent of what you are saying. I think there are just a few minor differences in the solutions we see as viable options.