Wednesday, August 12, 2009

and the punchline points at you

One day after the announcement on what's appropriate for XStreetSL listings regarding copyright infringement, people on the grid are getting hit with Abuse Reports on violating copyright. One of those people? Winter Ventura, who also responded to the blog posting:

Aug 11, 2009 6:36 PM in response to: Blue Linden
What about Fandom?

Interesting set of rules, with an interesting lack of tolerance for fandom.


* Star Trek Uniforms
* Batman Costume
* Homer Simpson Avatar
* Gorean... anything.

These types of items have formed the backbone of Secondlife's avatar economy. A new movie comes out, and the content creators spring into action. Transformers, Iron Man, Robocop, Lara Croft... Now you tell us that these items are expressly forbidden.

What does this change mean for the thousands of content creators making items from the "GOR" universe? (will you be removing your "gorean" categories?) Can we assume also that your Anime Avatars and [Fairy] Tale categories will be going away too?

Gone will be the Barbies and Cinderellas and Alice in Wonderland avatars. No more outfits from the Matrix, no more Captain Jack Sparrows.. no more Mechwarrior mecha, no more Batmobiles, no more Cylons or [Battle] Droids, or Jedi robes. No Lightsabers, Portal Guns, no more Halo gear, and no more Stargates.

What an interesting world of imagination you're building here.

Pink Linden responded back:


The imaginative world of Second Life is still available--items that no one has ever dreamed of can be made by anyone with imagination, talent, and desire. In addition, there are business opportunities to obtain rights to produce real world branded items in Second Life--with permission from the rights owners.

So essentially: it has to be original, OR you have to be involved in a small enough fandom/roleplay community to get effective permission, OR you have to so substantially alter the item in question that it looks like a completely original which point you might as well give up and make original things.

But none of that is the point, because--nothing applies to the grid yet. It's just on XStreetSL--for now, at least.

But as expected, the Lindens hand down a policy with any vague content whatsoever, and people misunderstand it to the best of their ability. So people are having grand fun currently tossing around Abuse Reports and screaming in IM at each other for assumed "violations".

Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun for the next few months.

Pursuant to the above...maybe, if only sidewise...oddity found out researching the summer stamp rally run:


This is, uh, available at Anuenue's 'brother' business, NoaR. Sculpted and everything.

I guess...if you're that much of an RHCP fan??

I suppose, were this listed on XStreet, you could just handily remove the references to the band, and pictures of Anthony Kiedis and Flea...and it'd likely still fly,'s still baffling.


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

I know Boxed Heroes redid all the names of their AVs last year so that you're not buying an "Iron Man" AV you're buying an "Iron Warrior" or something. Still looks like Iron Man or Selene from Underworld, or Neo, but they renamed them all.

But the Trek and Wars thing will be interesting to see. Lucasfilm happily allows fandom and Paramount grudgingly allows it (I remember the shitstorm when they tried to close down any non-official clubs). Since the owners of such trademarks allow their content to be used by fans then LL shouldn't object to it.

Emilly Orr said...

Ah, you're not fully comprehending, Edward. While there need to be policies in place--which, to date, don't exist--on dealing with approved and authorized content, with or without "branding"...Linden Labs doesn't have to prove anything now. They can just ban, and it's gone. (Well, until someone copies the content and resells it.)

The laws for fandom in RL get odd; the laws of digital content regarding fandom get odder. Where does SL fall? It's not "real". But it's not purely two-dimensional, either.

We're in completely uncharted waters, I think.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry I have to disagree with your rant. This is actually sound business. The rule is you can reproduce copyrighted material for very limited uses (personnal - "fair use" -, educational, etc.) but not *profit from it*. Any seller who reproduces someone else's work and ask money (and since L$ can be transferred into sound money...) for it is actually pirating the intellectual property of the original creator. So either they keep it for themselves, or they get permissions.

SL should be no different than RL on that count. If the Linden didn't say anything against it, they could be in the same position than the Pirate Bay: guilty of encouraging piracy.

Amateurishly legally yours,

Stereo Nacht

Emilly Orr said...

Well, the post before this was more the rant, Mr. Nacht, this is more following up--but I'm not arguing the point of the copyright infringement itself. If Coca-Cola wanted to come back, say (having not learned from the staggering failure of the sim they bought earlier), they'd want to know that no one was profiting from their logo or using their name in any way. Linden Labs wants to be able to tell them that the way is clear and their rights to their product are preserved.

Believe me, I do get that, and there is an astonishing amount of copyright infringement on XStreet as well as on the grid.

My point, though, is how they're doing it. First, there are freebies still running around the grid--and, since there are people who lack any shred of ethics whatsoever, up on XStreet--which are media-based and Linden-created. The irony is thick, there. Second, though, and I think the more telling one of the two, what's the line between fandom and tribute, and pure violation?

An example from the real world, for comparison: Lucasfilm is notoriously set against any use of their products/names/designs in unauthorized ways. They've gone after fan sites on the web, they've gone after people who write fiction (Paramount has the same tendency). Yet, you go to any Star Wars convention on the planet--nearly all of them, due to Lucasfilm being so restrictive, licensed by Lucasfilm--and what will you find in the dealer's room?

Reproductions of Queen Amidala's headdress. Twi'lek lekkus, jeweled and plain. Signed and autographed photos and posters featuring the casts of the films. Reproduction lightsabers.

And, very very often, none of this is specifically authorized--it's all fan business, made by fans for fans, bought by fans.

Is this copyright violation? In a pure sense, yes. Is Lucasfilm authorizing the use of their name or intellectual property rights on their creations? Not that often. But they're at the conventions, and the conventions are authorized by Lucasfilm.

Where's the line?

The closest thing I have to a copyright violation anywhere in my store is the clockwork orange, and even that's just hinting sidewise at the book of the same name. But let's say I had an Alice avatar from the American McGee's Alice computer game (and admittedly, I have been tempted): am I infringing copyright if I recreate that for personal use? No. Am I infringing copyright if I sell it? Likely. But it's still in that grey area of fandom creation.

Many times even large companies (Disney, Universal, Lucasfilm, Paramount) will turn their heads at fan business, whereas they will aggressively gun after unlicensed authors, artists and creators in other venues. Can I reproduce the mouse ears and call it a Disney product? Not without litigation, no.

But can I make a black and white mouse avatar with white gloves, white shoes with yellow bows, wearing a red dress with yellow polka-dots? If I didn't call it Minnie Mouse, likely, I could do that.

Fandom. Grey area. For the most part, this has been the area musicians like "Weird Al" Yankovic have been traversing for years. And it's murky, in this area, and not precisely cut and dried.

The Lindens are trying to make something vague and nebulous, crystal-clear...Though, at the end of the day, I suppose it's much better than making something crystal-clear, murky and vague.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your further explanation of your point, Miss Orr.

All I can add to this is, fandom is a grey area because when faced with a lawsuit from the more aggressive authors, many fans will just "ceise and desist" rather than fight back for their "fair use" rights, either by lack of will or of money.

In the actual case, the only option I see is to take a wait and see position. If the Lindens get threatened by so and so, they may require that particular content to be banned from the grid, or may ban every and anything and an overly preemptive approach.

As a fan, one must comply, and hope that the lack of extra visibility those fandom gave the original work _will_ hurt the creators some way or another, enough to teach them better. But I worry this is wishfull thinking.

Respectfully yours,

Stereo Nacht

Emilly Orr said...

And as we both know, the whole point of "fair use"/parody rulings is to protect fans of the medium who do not sell their work. Fans that do, move beyond the cosplayers, the costumers, the roleplay groups into commercial domains.

And once 'fan' goes 'pro', the rules change.

Even so, I see this as yet another thicket of poisonous thorns the Lindens want to prune back; first, there's the sense of entitlement ("You didn't ban X before now, and it was fine then!"), but paired with that, is how much of what we do is free from all potential copyright claims? Both I and Textures-R-Us have a set of tin ceilings (imported separately) that came from the same maker's site; should we both contact that maker and ask for permission? What about texture artists who use photographic storefronts in their work, or reproduce art from the 1800s--who do they contact? The original building architects? The museums who may now have legal claim to that artwork? Sotheby's?

Then what we build with such textures becomes suspect...For entirely separate reasons, I've been culling back on my vast array of textures, but barring what I make and import, everything else I own to build with was made by someone else, so I don't have sole original rights to it. Do I need to, to build houses, tables, dresses? And what about animations to put in those houses, or on chairs? Who do I ask then?

I know what they're trying to do, which still doesn't put a single stop in the reselling of stolen content on SL, that was stolen in SL; but the impacts from this one stone tossed in the river are going to cause a tsunami somewhere, later on. It's a huge issue.