Monday, October 19, 2009

so much muscle that you never gotta flex them, to catch you when you fall

Two stories from iReport, one on the JLU's recent activities and one on exploitative viewers.

First, the JLU. Now, I know members of the JLU in Second Life; many of us do. These are, generally to a hero, compassionate, committed people, devoted to raising money for important causes, helping newcomers to SL and protecting the grid in general with a variety of anti-griefing tools. These are laudable goals and I commend them for caring so much, about SL and the world beyond.

But this is the problem of copyright infringement, isn't it? Speaking out against "content theft" in loud voices and proclaiming that every avatar needs to look around themselves and AR everything that violates...this is where the impact is going to be felt.

Superman. Aquaman. Supergirl. The Green Lantern Corps. Batman. Wonder Woman. Hawkgirl.

More that I don't mention, nearly a hundred--if not over a hundred--members at this writing, but every one of those names links to a story about what they've done, in world and out of it, to improve Second (and First!) Life.

They're also, to a hero, infringing copyright.

Where is the line drawn? When does it stop being fans wanting to make a difference--the drag queen raising money for AIDS research dressed up as Cher in Lisbon, the man dressed as the Caped Crusader fighting for the rights of fathers in England, that fellow in New York with the lightning bolt across his chest, who carts around his own wheel-locks to protect the city from drunken drivers?

Where is the line drawn in Second Life, for that matter? Has anyone in the JLU spoken with any of the Powers that Regulate at Marvel or DC? Has anyone gained official permission to use any hero's likeness to do their good works? Should they have to before flying around the grid, helping people?

They don't get paid for this. They don't function as an officially-acknowledged police force. They don't sign autographs and show up for mall openings.

They're just people. Who want to help. They just happen to want to do it as their heroes, in tights and tight boots, golden lasso and green ring, one by one making the grid a safer place.

If you want to fight copyright infringement, you can't make exceptions. If you want to fight copyright infringement, you can't acknowledge good works as a compromise. If you want to fight copyright infringement, you have to fight ALL copyright infringement.

From Philip Linden on down.

And how long will the fight go on before hitting something like this? "But they're good people!" the cries will sound. "They don't mean any harm!"

Of course they don't. They're involved in Relay for Life, in Project Jason, in protecting welcome hubs, sandboxen, charity events, putting their avatars on the line to provide security for talks that might possibly attract griefers. They do this, hour after hour, day after day, when they could be shopping, playing, having fun, flying around doing nothing more important than roleplay.

They don't. But they infringe copyright.

What started the latest push to get the word out about copyright theft wasn't even random. It was directed, it was to hurt specific individuals--which it did--because of some stupid argument between the hacker and the shop owners. The hacker himself admitted as much, several times, as the story broke.

Do I think that's wrong? I do. Do I think it qualifies as copyright infringement, or even the more charged phrase "content theft"? I do. I'm not disputing either of those points.

But I do think it is a sad and tragic diversion of time, money, resources and personal energies that could be better spent anywhere else calling for a stop-one-stop-all halt on everything that infringes copyright.

Boxed Heroes? Would be gone. The JLU? Would be gone. Anyone who's ever designed a hero avatar in world? Out of business. Anyone who's ever been inspired by comics, movies, books or music? Gone. 98% of all gestures? Removed. At least 90%--if not more--of all music played in world? Not allowed.

What a bleak and barren landscape this leaves us with. We are creatures that copy, we are creatures that innovate new ideas based on old ones. Some of us do it directly, and on occasion, that runs into copyright issues. But all of us, each and every one of us, do this. Yearly. Monthly. Hourly. Because it is who we are.

(Though, just for the fun of it...Catfight! From the Justice League Unlimited animated series.)

And veering off seemingly in a completely different direction, Fanny Starr talks through her daughter's Second Life avatar about the horrors of the Holocaust. Why did I link that in? Beyond the fact that it's a well-written article...

But it was for this line:

She also gave a special thanks to the members of the Justice League SL group, whom stood out in the audience with their superhero costumes. She explained they were here as a precaution against possible griefers, who never came.

Kill them...kill their identity. Where is the line between fan tribute, and personal empowerment, and protection of copyright? In the virtual world, at least, we need to find out. And sooner rather than later.

Now, on the exploitative viewer angle, I just have a simple question: why is it exploitative to imitate real life? Granted, I don't have anti-gravity breasts RL, no woman does, but if I run, they move. Unless I'm in a really tight sports bra.

So where's the harm in making them bounce a little in world? I don't see the "exploitation" factor. Breasts--and butts--on occasion jiggle; it's the nature of things. In Runes of Magic there are breast physics. I think WoW has bouncing beauties, though I'm not sure, I don't play WoW.

More to the point, though, why are the breast physics what people are screaming about? What about incorporation of Restrained Life tools into the Emerald viewer? What about the change in standard buttons (which Modular has ALREADY heard avatars yelling at them over) meaning, when I like someone's outfit, and I click on their prim skirt, I can remove it for a few seconds? Why aren't we screaming about that?? All I wanted was the name of her designer, I didn't want to tear her skirt off!

But bouncing breasts...I don't see the harm. Is it a feature that will likely appeal to more men than women? Sure. But it's not like we don't have breasts now, women--and men stare at them, in and out of world. That hasn't stopped yet, it's not GOING to stop! Just get over it!


Dale Innis said...

Who was calling the EBAP (Enhanced Physics for Avatar Breasts) exploitative? The link that you have up there doesn't seem to point anywhere in particular, and Google is not being revealing...

Emilly Orr said...

I went back and corrected the link; just so it's down here, too, it was another random entry on iReport again. Dunno how the first link got there, they're not similar at all...

Apparently, the complaint seems to be two-fold:

1. Emerald viewer LIEZ TO US ZOMG they're not a green-friendly viewer at ALL I was in it for the ENVIRONMENTAL FRIENDLINESS they are TEH EBIL!!1!


2. ZOMG they want all women to be SEX TOYS they are TEH EBIL!!!11!

As evidenced by this quote: "In the Emerald viewer, you can secretly adjust the physics settings to make another avatar in your view appear more real, specifically make the buttocks jiggle, the breasts react to movement or gravity, or the belly to move to and fro in a jolly fashion."

It's that "secretly" bit, repeated over and over, that galls. If I change my Windlight settings to be more shadowed and dim, am I "secretly" making everyone play in red-tinged gloom? If I change my Emerald settings so I have target look-at crosshairs on people, am I "secretly" mapping where avatars look?

There have always been settings I can change, in ANY viewer, that do not force behavior on everyone else in the world. This is not new; the Linden viewers, officially approved, have some of these features. But apparently, the breast jiggle means we're all exploiting poor innocent females into ungodly porn.

She--or he, but I'm assuming she--is on crack. Frankly.

Sphynx Soleil said...

Amen on the boobies comment. Moar.... wait, what was I saying? Sorry, I was distracted. :)

Emilly Orr said...

See, part of this is a very personal irk with myself...I'd be fine to at least consider a protest, if absolutely needed, if I could see what the bouncing boobies look like! I have used their tips and I can't get mine in world to move a single centimeter!

It's frustrating. It's part of why I downloaded the new version of Emerald, as opposed to staying with Snowglobe--and I can't get the damned things to budge!

Magdalena Kamenev said...

It's late/early and I'm tired, and thus likely to get something wrong or just be confusing. Please forgive me.

Strictly speaking, are fan tributes of copyrighted characters copyright infringement? Yes. Are such personal and non-commercial activities the sort that should be subject to injunctions and penalties based on copyright infringement? Please, for heaven's sake, no.

Technically, all fair use is copyright infringement, too ... fair use is a defense that merely excuses the infringement to promote a different set of values. Criticism, newsgathering, education, control of personal property, etc. And while fan interaction with popular culture can fall on either side of the fair use line, I think at least my world would be much poorer if there was no fanfic, no cosplay, no pastiches to Buffy or BSG or what have you.

Along this vein, there is a wonderful professor at Georgetown named Rebecca Tushnet ... specializes in IP, and manages to combine her knowledge and passion for copyright law with her passion for geek and media culture, which is why she writes about fan-created works and copyright.

As for the breast physics thing, I can almost get the exploitative angle. When it comes to avatars, just about everything is designed so that each person decides how they want to look to the world ... it's in their control and anything that messes with that is either a bug or a menace. Now here comes something that other people can turn on that can alter how I look to them and I have no control over that (if I understand it correctly). That, and the whole 12-y.o. boyness (Boobies!) of it all, is probably what are setting some people off. Just a theory.

Emilly Orr said...

Thank you for the blog link--I think that's going to end up on the sidebar, somewhere. Maybe it a new section.

And, as far as the breast bouncing angle, maybe it's just me: since I joined Runes of Magic, I've dealt with breast physics (and believe me, someone who's maxed out the breast sliders looks RIDICULOUS with breast physics), and it's extraordinarily common with any fantasy-based computer game (and most fantasy films) to dress female characters in skimpy attire with great cleavage.

Is it exploitative? Sure, but no more exploitative than anything else on the net. And I wouldn't be too sure about changing things on other avatars being a new concept--even in Snowglobe, I can turn off prims on what I look at, which means no one has skirts, hair, flexi sleeves, shoes, belts, wings, ears, tails....whatever. This is just a refinement of that.

And I fail to see the difference, when looking at a woman with a fixed chest who's in a mesh miniskirt, and looking at a woman with a bouncing chest in a mesh miniskirt. It's the same avatar, just one has a little more...give.

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

Miss Kamanev beat me to the punch, but it's worth repeating.

You ask repeatedly where the line is drawn but you seem to be falling into the same trap and mentality as that of RIAA - that there is no such thing as Fair Use.

The key point here is Copyright INFRINGEMENT. It's not whether someone uses an image or a likeness without permission, it's about whether that use is infringing.

Despite US copyright law becoming longer and longer and stricter and stricter it still retains the provision of Fair Use. Now what exactly this is is a multi-shaded sea of grey and contradiction that it makes lawyers just rub their hands at the prospect of it. The biggest problem is proving your use is fair. Case in point, Gone With The Wind, is in the Public Domain in Australia. Gutenberg Australia hosted a text copy of the novel on their Australian servers and were hit with a Cease & Desist by the lawyers from Mitchell's Estate. But because GA is a volunteer group and not with endless pockets to fight a legal battle, they complied and took it down, despite having a perfectly legal right to host it.

Technically Mickey Mouse is Public Domain here too but I'm sure I'd have a shit fight on my hands if I started creating stuff with the Mouse on it.

As a general rule of thumb if you're not selling it it's probably Fair Use. If you make a Superman costume for your friend or yourself it's OK. If you start selling them retail you're probably infringing. Though that said BBC was quite aware of and happy for Doctor Who fans to create Tardises in SL - but then the Brits don't have quite the same ravenous corporate lawyers that they breed in the US.

Based on what I've read from past cases, JLU would be in the clear. JLU aren't selling anything (that I know of). Boxed Heroes might be one of those that couldn't be resolved until you took it to court. I can't tell you where the line is between Fair Use and Infringement simply because the legal profession can't either. That doesn't mean that someone dressing up as Superman, Batman or The Shadow is automatically infringing copyright. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Emilly Orr said...

See, and you're falling into something of the same trap. Just because someone makes money on it doesn't automatically mean it's infringing, either. I could pull out Doctor Who again--the BBC was perfectly fine with many British and American companies making 4th Doctor scarves and selling them--but they wanted a cut of book and media rights.

I'm not saying there's no place for fair use, I think there *is* a place for fair use--but we either need less restrictions on copyright, overall, or much less vague explanations on existing law. At least in the U.S., we're going on a case by case basis, and there's a lot of folks who simply won't stand up to it--for reasons of not wanting to let their personal information out, all the way up to they just don't know the law, or how it applies in their case.

Or take a case I heard about on SL tonight--the maker of a very popular product in SL sold one of their products to a customer on the grid. The customer then tried everything she could to get the scripts out to put in a product of her own. When that failed--and the product broke--she came back raving to the maker of the product, threatening to sue her and pull her into small claims court.

For a product that cost L$495, all told.

"She's a nutter," was the maker's reply, "that's two dollars."

"Well, it is a small claim," I replied.

Right now, we have the system that's too vague to apply used to stop infringing and non-infringing cases alike, with only the most doggedly devoted cases ever reaching a reasonably high court who can make a standing decision--and even then, it only applies in that single case. And by the time all the lawyers have been paid and the court costs tabulated up, only the deepest pockets can afford it anyway.

Chilling effects, indeed.

Dale Innis said...

Haha, wow. That is a truly clueless "iReport". I didn't realize that CNN was actually providing a way for anyone in the world to get their personal rant posted as "news". Pretty funny. :) I left a dissenting comment on the page.

(If they had limited themselves to complaining that this is just one more way for people to oogle and objectify women, I wouldn't have dissented nearly as hard.)

The Enhanced Physics seems sort of wonky, as to who is applies to and whether it works at all. Relogging seems to help sometimes if it's not appearing at all. Emerald 950 may be a bit better than 904 was that way. Initial word was that (contra the "ireport") you could only see jiggle if the other person was also using Emerald and had turned it on, but there is considerable anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Can't help you with your own anatomy :) but if you want to see some sample bounces:


Sphynx Soleil said...

It's a fact of life, people wanna stare at boobies or asses or any other sexually interesting body part. Heck, I oogle both genders, I don't see what the big deal is, meself.

But, you know, I'm strange like that... :)

Emilly Orr said...

Dale. I'll try 950, that's the more recent release, but in 904, that's precisely what I don't get, no matter how often I relog or tweak settings. Pffft.

And Sphynx: Hells, I ogle builds on occasion in SL. Gender at that point has left the building. So, what, now I'm exploiting defenseless fountains? Get real.

Rhianon Jameson said...

The thing about the jiggling is that there are so many other things I'd think everyone would like to see implemented first. Like moving among a dozen others without swimming through molassas.

Apples and oranges, I know. The jiggling is on the client side, the lag on the server side. Ah well. But I think that's part of what eats at people.

Sphynx Soleil said...

So, what, now I'm exploiting defenseless fountains? Get real.

*laughs* 3 years in SL, I'm getting jaded by the sheer quantity of types of kinds found within. Rule 34, anyone?

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson: Yes, but think this through.

I don't know if my boobs are jiggling for someone else--they could be bouncing for any guy looking at me!

This is true. And in Snowglobe, should I want--the official approved Linden viewer--I can have everyone walk by sans skirts. Sans sleeves, collars, hair, whatever--anything that's prim, it's my choice to remove. I can drop my preferences all the way down to zero on flexi, too--so that no hair moves naturally, all skirts are frozen in time and space, all fluttery sleeves cease to flutter.

Is watching women without skirts considered exploitative? No one seems to care. But give 'em natural boobs and suddenly, all the victim feminists start screaming. It's insane.


I don't know if it's precisely Rule 34, Sphynx, but that made me giggle nonetheless.