01 January, 2010

what does tomorrow want with me? what does it matter what I see, if it can't be my design?

The Poets of the Fall remastered their original video for Carnival of Rust, voted by viewers the best Finnish video of all time.

I adore the original, and likely will long after the new shiny version wears away, but it must be said--post-production background details and additional camera angles make the piece have much more depth and integration, and yes, it adds to the pathos of the original.

How'ver, I didn't want to discuss that. I wanted to talk a bit about Portal:


Meet Chell. Chell is you in Portal. Chell, when you first catch a glimpse of her--aka "you"--through one of the space-crossing portals the Aperture Science-designed gun creates--does not look well. In point of fact, she looks distinctly on the unhappy side. Chell is a worker for Aperture Science--or a test subject--or a kidnapped slave; it's really never made clear. It's not really important, either, and believe me, Portal has been well and truly covered in many, many places--so that's not what I'm curious about, either. (Note: all three of those links likely contain heavy spoilers for the game. If you don't want 'em, don't click 'em.)

This is what I am curious about: what is with the heelsprings:


Seriously. Heelsprings. They're not shoes. In fact, Chell has, for all intents and purposes, bare feet. But she's got these little things attached to the back of her calves that seem, for all intents and purposes, to be actually attached to her legs. (Commentary on the game apparently indicates that the heelsprings cushion Chell's legs and ankles from taking impact damage when landing from a great height with high momentum. Right.)

Who comes up with this nonsense?

(By the way, virtuoso soprano and vocal actress Ellen McLain won an award for her work on Portal; in addition, she's well known as the overvoice from Team Fortress 2.)

From Portal to copyright violations: forced renaming isn't new on the grid in the least. It doesn't happen as obviously as in City of Heroes, for instance, but it does happen. Back in September Shopping Cart Disco caught the first really obvious one, but apparently, it's gotten worse since then.

In October, SCD posted another note about the problem--according to those in the know, they were making it harder, not easier, to file DMCA cease-and-desist notices, while turning a blind eye to egregious copyright violations right under their nose (on XStreet).

If there's any doubt, try this on for size:

::BBD:: Gucci Hoody Romper
IPOD : Mariah Carey Feat. Gucci Mane - Obsessed (Remix)
Gucci handbags box3 NEW COLORS
JUVI Gucci Jean Bundle With Accessories

Vera Wang "Black Elegance"
{{BB}} Chanel Black&Silver
*New Chanel sunglasses
chanel inspired earrings (ad)

Hilfiger "Babygirl" Fit
Adidas Business Box
BulletProof DKNY Rock
Gracie... Ralph
1920s - Great Gatsby-Myrtle's Flapper

Rare Nike Sneakers!!
Thugline - Black Green Nike Dunks
sac bag nike NEW

...and I'm not even trying hard here--very, very few of these products feature "inspired by" lines in the ads, most of the copyright infringement is right in the product names. And it is no longer October of 2009, so they've had three whole months since the SCD mention to remove infringing content. What are they doing that they can't track this crap down and bounce it off their systems?

Me, personally, do I care if these products evaporate? No. I didn't have stock invested in Boxed Heroes pulling their infringing content either. But it's wildly hypocritical of the Labs to accuse other people of having infringing content if a five-minute search turns up over fifty products that are infringing!

Plus, they're going about it all wrong. Case in point, the next bit of Linden hypocrisy I want to mention, Icing's latest tussle with the Lindens. When "Listings Linden" (and I'd love to know who's behind that Linden nomme d'imbécile) essentially ganked Miko Omegamu's account, did a broadband search for "Marilyn", and god-level transferred everything with that name to "Listings"--where, we all assume, it was subsequently deleted. (Even though other cases mentioned in that article say that on occasion, "infringing" content found was simply trashed, and left in the trash folder, rather than being transferred away.) Guess they're learning from earlier patches of extraordinary stupidity by being only moderately less stupid. We learn as we are taught, I suppose...but still.

Fish evolved. Why can't the Lindens?

The big problem, however? Dear "Listings" transferred everything named "Marilyn" in her inventory. Including things she hadn't made. Including things she'd bought from other people. Things that had nothing to do with Marilyn Monroe or the film The Seven-Year Itch. In point of fact, the dress Miss Omegamu made that mentioned Marilyn Monroe by name wasn't a copy of the dress in the film; and thus, not copyright infringing. But, she did mention the skirt was scripted to blow up "like in the movie"--so, there it was, Linden Labs had to do something.

Which involved stripping away lots of content she paid for--hair, skins, other makers' clothing, to mention only a few of the items--that were not based around any conception of "Marilyn Monroe". And "Marilyn" as a name alone is not copyrighted.

Or Marilyn Manson would be making even more money than he already does.

I'll be following this story, and I'm grateful to Miss Dio for mentioning it to me; oddly, I'd only gotten to the first two cases mentioned, and hadn't hit on Icing's dilemma. Glad I did, but still--it bodes ill for us on the grid. If someone complains against us, even if we've never sold anything under that name, even if we didn't make it--if supposedly "infringing" content is found in one of these generic searches of our virtual lockers, everything with that name could go down.

What's next? Virtual 'pat-downs' for infringing content when we log in? Inventory limits so we can't "hide" infringing content away? User creation removed from the grid?

It sounds implausible, from a to no user creations, but then, I never envisioned a world where a five-year-old boy would be branded a sexual predator for kissing a girl in his preschool. That entire young life, snuffed, because everywhere he moves, his name and information will be listed on the sex offenders registry. When he's seven, it's laughable, but when he's twenty, and his "victim" is still listed as five? It'll be a miracle if he sees thirty.

And so with this--not in the sense of RL severity and consequences, but in the sense of oppression and restriction. I already create with textures I either have made, or have bought, from creators that issue a 'rights use statement' for the use of said textures. I evaluate: is the name potentially infringing? Is the style? Does it match anything I can remember offhand? Does it match anything I can research in an hour? Am I using any symbols which might be copyrighted, fonts that are not royalty free to use?

After thinking through all that? Most of the time I give up and go off to kill things in Diablo or Team Fortress 2. It's killed a lot of my creativity.

So what's it doing for those folks for whom content creation means rent? What products are they pulling? What frocks will never see the light of day? What devices won't be created because that creation just might, somehow violate someone's idea?

We're moving towards a grim and joyless, hindered, blinkered world, people. And apparently, we're doing the very best we can to get there as quickly as possible. There's nothing worse for creativity in any world than to be told, "You're not allowed to do that." The more we hear it, the more we wonder--why create at all? And another bit of art and magic slips away from the grid, never to be seen again.

Is it worth it, in the long run? Or is it just to "sanitize" things for the corporate accounts they hope to fund the grid, anyway? After all, once user content is disallowed, how long will it be before users are gone, replaced with young, shiny, perfectly human avatars that never cause trouble, never misbehave, never want anything embarrassing?

Just smoothly perfect Barbie and Ken dolls, ready to be injected and informed with the "right" content. Oh wait--I can't say that. Barbie and Ken are copyrighted.


Magdalena Kamenev said...

Oh, such muddy waters. And several sinkholes.

Looking over the list of items in XStreet, several things come to mind:

In the US, fashion design is not copyrightable (although textiles are) ... I can look at a Vera Wang dress, create an exacting copy and sell it ... no infringement. However, I cannot call it a Vera Wang - that's trademark infringement. I can't use her logos or anything that she has trademarked to indicate her design - I'd be violated trademark AS well as anti-counterfeiting statutes in some states.

If LL is trying to clean up XSL from all intellectual property infringement, fine, well, they should be consistent. But since the DMCA doesn't apply to trademark claims, a DMCA takedown won't work for the Vera Wang, Chanel or Nike items.

For those reading who wonder what makes a difference between a Superman bodysuit and a Vera Wang dress - fashion is not copyrightable, but fictional characters are, and the blue bodysuit with the red cape and the stylized S is part of what makes Superman a distinct character as opposed to a generic superhero.

And the whole Marilyn thing is giving me hives. I COULD be wrong, but there's no such thing as a copyright in Marilyn Monroe ... you cannot copyright a name [http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html]. However, Marilyn Monroe, and her estate, have a "right of publicity" in her name and image - it's a legal right of exclusive use and licensing cobbled together from bits of copyright and contract law, combined with the common law tort of appropriation of image for commercial purpose (a privacy tort).

Is any dress called "Marilyn" and "inspired by" any of Ms. Monroe's roles or look and sold to the public possibly infringing of any rights? Perhaps, but I wouldn't think it definitive. Should the presumption be that such a dress is infringing and should thus be removed via godmode without a review and appeal? I'd say no, definitively.

Now to see, when I'm next in-world, if any of my "Marilyn"-named dresses that I've purchased have been mysteriously removed.

Emilly Orr said...

See, and that's the thing. It wasn't "Marilyn" items across the grid, it was items from Miss Omegamu's inventory directly.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say shoes that call themselves Nike, with advertising that uses the trademarked "swoosh"--that seems infringing to me. But it may move into trademark issues, not copyright ones. Obviously anything that uses Coco Chanel's logo is infringing.

"Inspired by" or just named by designer labels? You're right, that's iffier.

And that's the big problem with the godmode-level transfers--there's no review, no appeal. Miss Omegamu can complain--and is, and her story's circulating--but in the end, a Linden went in, a Linden removed items, a Linden left--the items are now gone, and cannot, with ease, be restored. And since it was Linden-level access, it's not using the DMCA takedown procedures that the Labs have developed (mainly, blocking via UUID code, so that the item may still exist in inventory, but cannot be worn or rezzed out).

Aunt Foggy said...

Magz is the closest to a legal opinion here, I just have to fall back on an underused strategy I like to call "Are you a freaking dumbass?!"
IF you have chosen, whether since 2005 or last week, to sell a product for money that is labeled as a product of a well known celebrity, designer, entertainment conglomerate or whatever and you are not said celebrity, designer or a licensed user of that name, then you are in fact a Dumbass. If you decide to see if you can get away with selling Paris Hilton's Coco Chanel bag that plays Metallica when clicked on - you are a Dumbass. If you decide that stealing someone else's design work, either by using their name or copybotting is a legtitmate business strategy- you are a dumbass.
If the Lab Which Cannot Be Named chooses to send MyBitch Linden in to burn your village and steal your cattle, or delete your inventory and close your account, I have not a single problem with that. Better that than having Vera Wang's lawyers sue your worthless butt and Paris Hilton's people send you a bill for licensing fees. And don't get me started on what Nils would do to you *shudder*
And if you choose to see how close you can skate to copyright/trademark/good-freaking-sense infringement, then do NOT whine about the consequences.
Here's a thought - make something original and put your own damn name on it.
And yes - I know there are gray areas. But I get so pissed seeing the breast beating and whining from folks who knew damn well they had no right to use the names they were using and then start a drama when they get bitchsmacked for it after YEARS.

Miko Omegamu said...

Hi Fogwoman- I'm not sure if you're comment was direct at me, but if it was, I'd like to clarify a few things.

I did not name the item 'Marilyn Monroe', in fact the item in question was simply named 'Marilyn Periwinkle' and the dress was not a copy of anything she wore.

I HAD inadvertently left in the description saying that the skirt blew up like Marilyn Monroe's did, and I admit that is totally my fault. I had put it in there about a year before LL changed the Xstreet policy and then completely forgot about it.

In this case, I totally understand deleting the Xstreet listing. Policy is policy and they did say they would do that. However, they made no mention whatsoever about deleting all my inworld content, which never made any mention of "Marilyn Monroe", never used anything approaching her likeness, and again, was NOT a copy of her dress.

My main pet peeve was that happened with no warning, and sloppily, as well. I lost many things named "Marilyn" (that first name is NOT trademarked) that I did not make as well.

Emilly Orr said...

I could have sworn I responded to Lady Fogwoman yesterday...

But, taking it from now, that's my main problem with this. Using a description that mentions a celebrity is iffy on XStreet; LL owns XStreet, and they can err on the side of caution all they want--there's no guarantee given that they will host your items without interference in the least.

It's the inventory issue. It wasn't just the Marilyn dress, that she made, that they deleted. It was everything else named Marilyn in her inventory. Including items that weren't dresses. Including items that weren't made by her.

Listings Linden just waltzed in, typed in "MARILYN" in the top field, and transferred over anything that showed up. Likely without reading, verifying, or caring in the least.

That is not a company proactively protecting IP rights of Marilyn Monroe's estate. That is a company sending a low-level flunky who haphazardly searched a user inventory, didn't want to spend more than five minutes doing it, got in, got out, and went back to life as he or she knows it.

If I'm being unclear, this was a BAD CORPORATE DECISION. This was a decision which will further impact trust in the Lindens down the line. This was a decision that was not supported by their current--and entirely legal--established precedent for dealing with issues of IP violation.

This was a dumb move, frankly. Deleting the dress from XStreet? Fine. Deleting all copies from her inventory? Okay, it's not what they usually do, but--still fine.

Deleting X maker's hair and Y maker's skin and Z maker's pantset and A maker's cute little skybox and B maker's retro coffeepot (I'm not saying these things were deleted, just that other things beyond the dress, that she didn't make, were)? STUPID.

Aunt Foggy said...

No, not at all Miss Omegamu, you are in that gray area I was not addressing. What I was addressing is exactly what Emily was pointing out in folks making a dress and slapping a designers or company name and logo on it. No different than the crap you find at your local flea market.
There is a world of difference between noting your dress swirls up like Marilyn's and calling your bag a Chanel bag and slapping a Coco Chanel logo on it!

Aunt Foggy said...

And yeah, I figured that the Lab behaving like the usual ham-handed clueless morons that they are was pretty much taken as read.
The terms I reserve for the lab would make Dio Kuhr blush.

Emilly Orr said...


Wau. Make Miss Dio blush? That would take a LOT of foul language. I'm impressed.

I will agree, though, that making reference to celebrity is a grey area; same as "Shakira hair" if it's blonde and curly, or those few shops that purport to give you shapes that match certain actresses--but won't look like them, because the skin changes the appearance.

Still, if the description on XStreet lists a name, and none of the other advertising in-world lists that name, they seem to be controlling a termite problem with tactical nukes.

Icterus Dagger said...

From orbit. It's the only way to be sure.


Icterus Dagger said...

Of course, all this has ME guessing. I hadn't noticed any "Listing Linden" messages, but recently I have had a few items disappear from my inventory. Asset server glitch? Probably. Items I know are missing to date:

>Pratt & Whitney radial engine texture
>Pan Am DC-3 fuselage texture
>Lockheed Electra Earhart tribute mock-up

The textures, I have off-line. The plane mock-up wasn't very good anyway.

Coincidence? Perhaps. I'm not much of an aircraft builder, so this doesn't hurt me much.. but still.

Could be paranoia, too.


Emilly Orr said...

Could be, sure, but there's a few reasons inventory disappears.

First, make sure it's completely loading. If the number at the top doesn't match the numbers you've seen previously, clear your cache, and restart using another browser, or just restart. If it still doesn't match the numbers you're sure you have in there, clear cache and restart again.

If that's not what's happening, it may be a Linden pull, especially considering they all seemed to be commercial-brand-name specific. But, to date, I haven't heard any big mechanical pulls, just celebrity ones. Curious.

Icterus Dagger said...

Oh, I did the count and clear. Twice. But I realize, missing inventory isn't anything new. But I am forever now going to be suspicious.


Emilly Orr said...

You ever wonder if the Labs are, in actuality, playing a very long-form version of Paranoia with us?

Icterus Dagger said...

I should access Emote in my Mysti Tool so I can keep smiling.


Emilly Orr said...

Easier to just get a random smiler attachment. The Emotes on the Mystitool are static, for the most part.

Icterus Dagger said...

Ah, but I wouldn't want to get caught in between smiles, now, would I? ;-)


Emilly Orr said...

I don't think they go far enough, though. I mean, there's "Happy" and "Laugh", but no "Maniacal Cackle" or "Cheerleader"...

Emilly Orr said...

He puts on a fantastic show.

Who the hell are you, and why are you commenting on this entry and nothing else?

I've got a three day headache and it's all in my head

It's the 30th of March. One day before Ostara. And there's been a lot of...well. Conversations like the one below. [18:43] Emil...