Friday, December 11, 2009

strange is your language and I have no decoder

[13:41] Csteph Submariner: Hi Emilly, just thought I'd let you know that I have /finally/ managed to get moddable non-scripted items for the soldier an nurses uniforms from my supplier! [it] was a bit like pulling teeth,but got there eventually!
[13:43] Csteph Submariner: BTW, there will be a cease-fire at the sim over the holidays and until the new year. High command of course are denying such a thing could happen, but it is rumoured that the guns will fall silent from next tuesday...

This is in reference to the War Poets exhibition, by the way--I had made a comment on the blog about the prevalence of resizing scripts in all the giveaway outfits, and Csteph Submariner moved heaven and earth to change that. It should be much easier to move, which means scripted events will go more smoothly, and--if you haven't gone to see it--it really is worth your time to go.

Now, then, in other news, there seems to be some small amount of in-world panic about the new edict from the Lindens. I thought I'd step aside from the planned second Lolita entry, to concentrate a bit on this.

The new plan won't work.

...oh, you want more than that? Okay. Please, allow me to translate from Lindenspeak for you:

1. Starting today, a small group of Resident content creators may use a new online form to request that Linden Lab remove content they believe infringes their copyrighted materials.

"You'll start to see odd things in a couple weeks. This is normal and expected. Don't worry."

2. The Residents may request that Linden Lab remove the content from a single location only, or also from mutiple inworld locations where Linden Lab is able to find additional copies of the item claimed to infringe.

"Don't worry when more odd things pop up. Things are fine."

3. Content that's removed as a result of the IP complaint will be replaced with generic placeholder items as follows:

"The placeholder items are, though generic, suitable for everyday use, wear, and common avatar interaction. There is no danger."

3.1. Textures, bodyparts, and clothing will be replaced with monochrome items that are the average color of the items they replace.

"You see? They'll be the same color. Hardly anyone will notice."

3.2. Animations will be replaced with a special rotating animation by Blue Linden.

"This is simple, functional, and low-lag. You'll barely notice it."

3.3. Sounds will be replaced with a new sound recording from Torley Linden.

"It'll be like a sitcom! That wacky sitcom with the zany characters who always have funny things go wrong! In a month, you'll laugh every time you hear it."

3.4. Objects will be replaced with a plywood ball that displays an IP notice when you click on it.

"Please don't confuse these with regular plywood balls you may already have in your inventory. If you rez out your plywood balls, and you click them, and you don't get the IP notice when you click on it, it's not one we've replaced. No need to panic."

3.5. More information on, and examples of, these replacements are provided in the FAQ's located here.

"Just click the link and you'll get much more understandable information in the form of pictures. We know you like those. Also, we misused an apostrophe, but we figure you don't read this anyway, and won't notice."

Let me make this really simple for everyone. This is what is going to happen:

Jane Azalee buys a dress--let's call it Midnight Sequin. The dress was made with infringing content. The original texture maker files against the dress retailer. Linden Labs steps in and replaces the infringing texture with...let's say a solid blue.

Now Jane is standing in her skybox, having changed into the dress, and--before it rezzes in--she ports to her favorite club. She rezzes in, the club rezzes in, and she realizes she's wearing an all-blue dress, not the Midnight Sequin dress she bought.

Now, obviously, this is far more public than what will likely happen, but everyone in the club will likely be thinking one of two things:

1. She couldn't have bought a better dress?
2. I heard about that, she stole something!

In the first case, well, it's understandable--people are judgmental, think and say mean things, this happens, it's human nature. Life goes on.

But in the second...see, that's the can of worms that the Labs are deliberately inflicting on the world.

First, Jane is not the thief. Unless she made the dress--which in this example, she didn't--she didn't take anything. Second, it's possible that the dressmaker wasn't even the thief--she or he could have found a pack of textures she liked, and never realized they were lifted.

The real thief? Is off somewhere converting Lindens to dollars. Possibly even gone entirely.

And let me say this again, because I'm using their vernacular--there's no theft here. People need to understand that, and they don't, or they outright refuse to understand that. The first is just ignorance, that can be worked around; the second is willful stupidity, and that's pretty much there for life.

Let me make this simple again.

Person A puts up an original painting on the web. Person B looks at this scan of an original painting. Person B then copies that painting to their computer.

This happens every day. Every single one of us has done this. If you are reading this, you have done this, no matter WHO YOU ARE.

It doesn't matter how much you swear you've never lifted any image; if you've seen it on your computer, to see that image your computer has downloaded it, and stored it in a temporary file. Every single image you see on the net has been downloaded and stored this way. (This is also why it's a good idea to dump your temporary files now and again.)

But let's say Person B is a bad person, or maybe, just doesn't understand copyright law. Person B downloads the image to their computer deliberately. Then that person uploads it to Second Life.

Person C is a friend of Person A. They email them saying, hey, this avatar is selling your stuph! So Person C logs in to SL (let's say, for convenience, Person C already has an account. Go them) and visits Person B's shop. Person C then reports Person B for copyright infringement.

And thus the image is protected, right? DMCA was filed, the image was taken down, in the parlance of the Lindens now, "replaced with a plywood ball"--it's gone.

Save for anyone who bought it, rezzed it out, and, for whatever reason, cammed in and photographed the picture, to download off-world.

Save for anyone who saw the original picture, and downloaded it to their computers.

Save for anyone--to take this to full ludicrous extreme--who saw it in the original gallery, say, in RL, and copied it to a sketchbook, to paint out later.

Copyright infringement happens. The only way to stop copyright infringement from happening, to protect implicitly your art and ideas, is to never show them to anyone else.

So never paint.

Never photograph.

Never design.

Never write.

Never pen music.

Never sing.

Never play an instrument.

Never dance.

Never sculpt.

Never cast.

Never invent.

What a boring, senseless, tedious world that would be, virtual or not.

So what's the alternative?

Education. And part of that educational effort is, has to be, centered on the fact that "theft" will happen, will never stop, will never slow down, will never cease entirely. Part of that educational effort has to be the injunction to keep creating regardless; to never stop creating. Never give up. Never surrender.

(To use a catchphrase from a media production I do not own rights to. For example.)

"Where I steal an idea, I leave my knife." Michaelangelo said that, about sculpting. Everyone is influenced by everyone else. We are in a fluid system, we inspire each other, we dream, we invent, we share, we come up with new ideas. This is what's supposed to happen.

And yes, some people don't get it. Some people see "sharing" and hear "free". Some people hear "sample" and think "fine to resell". These people are not the majority, and they never will be.

The majority of people want to share, want to dream, want to invent along with you. The majority of people want to support art and artists, whatever realm they're in. The majority of people are not, to be blunt, dicks about the creative process.

But no one stands alone. There is no idea so shatteringly unique, that arose completely on its own, never shared, never influenced, by anyone else on the planet. If we know a language, we have shared with others. If we see anything, we have shared with others. If we hear anything, we have shared with others. If we touch anything, we have shared with others. If we taste anything, we have shared with others. If we smell anything, we have shared with others. It really is that simple.

What the Lindens propose? Will make instant community scapegoats of anyone who owns an animation, a gesture, an item of attire, a skin, a tattoo that uses textures, sounds, or animations that infringed on someone's copyright. Because people won't see Jane Azalee on the dance floor in her solid blue frock and think, "Damn, she got cheated."

They'll see her and think "Thief." They'll see her and think "Bad person." They'll see her and they'll withdraw.

Social pressure, man. It's instantaneous and frightening. And it won't be applied to the original infringer of copyright. It will be applied to Jane.

And all the other Janes out there. And that's why the new plan won't work.


Blade, said...

Brilliantly put. Thanks, Miss Em!

Rhianon Jameson said...

Because you're an Amanda Palmer fan, I thought you'd find this both amusing and on topic. In The Dresden Dolls Companion, which includes the sheet music to the Dolls' first full album (I keep promising myself to get back to the piano; damn that Second Life anyway), but also includes Amanda's comments on each of the songs, she says more than once something like, "I ripped off the melody from [fill in the blank - once it was a Rolling Stones song]. Sue me."

Nothing is entirely new.

Emilly Orr said...


Thank you. I feel like I keep saying the same things in a vacuum, but hey, eventually I'm hoping people will hear.

Miss Jameson,

Billy Joel once notably commented that if you liked any of his songs, it was because you liked the songs he ripped them from first. Nothing is entirely new, no; and nothing happens by itself.

Candy said...

As a novice shopkeeper and builder, I find these proposals very disquieting... I am already having daydreams of customers angrily IMing and NCing me when things go berserk.


Emilly Orr said...


Because that's the other hidden edge, innit? Only it's not that hidden.

You make something, gorgeous brooch, takes you two weeks to get everything right. You're using gem textures you found in this wee little shop, they were wonderful, and perfect for this line.

Someone upline from them reports that set for copyright infringement. That set goes pink. Your customers now see pink wherever those gem textures were used.

Soon, they'll see red and march to your store, send you those notecards, angrily demanding their money back.

They won't blame the Lindens: they'll blame you.

Disquieting? Yes. But I'd also upgrade to freakish and unfair. People now have to know the sources for everything on the grid? And where they got them? And where they got them?

It's like trying to keep track of every possible food additive you might possible run into. If I'm in the supermarket, scanning labels, I don't always remember whether polydimethylsiloxane is bad, or what other names it's listed under; hells, I have enough problems keeping up with the various forms of MSG!

Mako Magellan said...

I don't subscribe to your 'totally black' view of this development. I am willing to have it tested before making a judgement. I can think of several cases where this would clearly identify and thereafter deter someone who was infringing copyright. I can see that this makes reporting of infringements considerably easier. I can see that it is a process that can be abused but that the consequences of abusing it are far more serious than most pranksters would tolerate. Therefore, as a test, I welcome it.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Magellan,

I am fine with it if it doesn't end up demonizing a) customers or b) merchants. There are a lot of ways infringing content can be introduced to the grid, and I, as many others, truly believe that most people do not deliberately set out to defraud other people.

If it results in a "Aww, that's too bad" reaction, and people shrug off the Linden loss (which, black or not, will not happen), then okay. Fine. The system works.

But, as I'm fairly sure it's going to, if it's going to result in people seeing anything that's Linden-designated as an obvious infringement, and thinking that avatar stole content; or if the end user finds an object or clothing file so changed in their inventory and thinks the merchant who sold them that item defrauded them; it will not be pretty.

Customers are going to yell at merchants. Merchants are going to yell at texture makers. Texture makers are going to yell at the Lindens. And in the meantime, while lots of folks are yelling at other folks, no one's addressing the base issue of Lindens lost that can't be regained, further developing distrust on the grid, and further weakening of the Linden economy.

I hope it works out. I do. But I think the Lindens are shooting themselves in the collective foot on this one.

For all the bullets are packaged by 'name Lindens' before being loaded into the gun.

Mako Magellan said...

Given that numerous people worry they are already losing money through copyright infringement, and given that tempers are fraying already over it, and given that copyright infringement is illegal, whether deliberate or not, and given that your argument is constrained to false positive cases, and a presumption of net economic damage and net increased distrust, which have yet to be seen and are by no means guaranteed, I still think your alarm is unwarranted. Time will tell.

Lalo Telling said...

I just Tweeted a link to this post, 'cause it's brilliant.

Before there was a Web, there were literature and art. Theft meant you stole a book or a painting; plagiarism meant passing off someone else's work as your own; forgery meant passing off your own work as someone else's. The printed word was "virtualized" even before there was a Web, but those terms for unauthorized use remained. Pictorial art was next -- no change then, either.

Why the change now -- always delivered in panicked tones -- for virtual "3D" content (which is 3D only in the mathematical abstract, and remains 2D when we see it)? I think it comes from the tenuous nature of the virtual economy as a microcosm of the real world. People who have swallowed the idea that "you can make money doing this" feel threatened and demand protection when, in actuality, they are denying that their venture was a risk.

Or maybe I'm just lamenting the death of Ars gratia artis; art for it's own sake...

You invoked Michelangelo, and I wonder, if he lived in these litigious times, he'd be filing DMCAs against souvenir reproductions of his "David", or the hundreds of ways "The Creation of Adam" from the Sistine Chapel ceiling has been used.

Autumn said...

I don't agree with your totally black view here also.

A merchant if using third party tools (e.g. textures) should be doing their research and making pretty damn sure they are legit.

In your example, the creator whom made Jane's dress has used infringing materials. You cannot compare that to your computer caching images from the internet, how ludicrous.

Of course, people still get caught despite research. Those I believe are the minority. The majority haven't done the due diligence and therefore the absolute right act by Linden is to remove the infringing content upon DMCA receipt.

That's nothing to do with Linden Lab, that's the DMCA process.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Magellan,

I hope you're right. I really do. I see us marching, in quick formation, towards a very paranoid and suspicious place, where all acts of creation must be instantly verified and branded, to prevent theft of any kind.

When did we start worrying so much about the financial protections, over the social ones?

Emilly Orr said...


No, I think you're right. Which is part of the problem, I think--while I don't deny it takes a great deal of money, most of it out of pocket, to maintain a sim "for the fun of it", for art's sake, for education's sake...if we don't have these ventures, if it's all subsidized, where's the creative force behind the dreams?

And yes, I know, the value of branding is in the brand--for every "Dorito's Presidential Tour", we have a "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade", the very tacky mixed with the joyous celebration. Commerce, itself, is not the danger, I think; greed and fear are.

Emilly Orr said...


A merchant if using third party tools (e.g. textures) should be doing their research and making pretty damn sure they are legit.

While I agree, that makes the broad--and bold--assumption that every single person on the grid knows about copyright infringement, what is infringing content, and how it impacts the grid as a whole. I am not the only one who's designed an outfit--whether or not I sold the textures thereafter--based on textures I did not, start to finish, create.

What's more, there are people out there who are no dab hand at content creation, who can't follow it another step and create their own textures. If they're not using their own textures, then they only have a limited selection of options.

What's more, you're assuming most people think before they decide they like a texture--or a texture pack--and you're assuming most people just don't buy blindly textures from wherever they happen to be at the moment. (I know I'm a lot pickier these days, when I don't create my own textures from scratch; some people aren't. Or just don't know.)

In your example, the creator whom made Jane's dress has used infringing materials.

Yes, but it's the how I thought was important. How do we know whom to trust? I know TRU makes several statements on how precisely to use their textures; and it does sound spiffily legal in their notecards. But I also know they haven't created everything they have for sale on their own. They've downloaded images found on the internet in more than a few cases, that they may not have absolute right to. I know this because I've downloaded textures from the same sources--and I may not have absolute right to those textures. (I could make a strong claim to fair use and public domain images--but did I personally photograph or design all my textures? No. And I'm not alone there.)

You cannot compare that to your computer caching images from the internet, how ludicrous.

I can. I do. And I have. Perceive--someone with copybot gets a copy of X texture of the same quality and the same dimensions as the original, that's copybotting. That's copyright infringement. Okay.

What if I took a picture of an item of furniture, because I wanted that item of furniture, uploaded my own textures to create that item of furniture, and built it on my own? Is that copying? There's influence, yes; is it copybotting? If I'm not using the same textures? A prim's a prim, after all; there's only so many shapes they can be twisted into.

Take this one step further. What if I'm an artist? I see a dress, I don't own the texture, but I have a sketchbook by my keyboard. I sketch out the dress form, add an embellishment or two on my own, go into PhotoShop, and create the texture. Is that copying? There's influence, again, but if I'm not using their textures, is it still infringement?

Yes, the Lindens have certain rights and responsibilities that come into play when DMCA claims are filed. They must abide by them; to date, there's no other way to claim infringement. But this goes above and beyond, and it impacts the consumer far more than it impacts the merchants, the makers, the creators.

Sapphire Weatherwax said...

What bothers me is the constant misuse of the term "theft" for what is infringement of copyright.

As Lalo says, theft means you steal a book or a painting. If you photocopy the book or painting you are not stealing it, you are breaching the copyright of the copyright holder. They are not the same thing. For one thing, one is a crime and the other a civil offense.

A side point to the issues you're talking about, just one that always bugs me!

Emilly Orr said...

I've been saying that all along.

It's a more cumbersome phrase, but I do my best to stick to "copyright infringement" or at least "infringing content" over "content theft" or "content stealing".

It is a legal difference, and an important one--it's only theft of a good, even a virtual one, if you no longer have that good. In the age of instant perfect copies, unless someone shoots your hard drive, it's very, very difficult to steal content.

Violating copyright, or at least intellectual property? That happens every day.