Saturday, March 8, 2008

Content Theft in SL

Okay, so everyone else has posted their two cents. Guess I will, too. 

First of all, sorry it's been so long since I posted. I realize that of the two readers out there that actually read my blog, one of them is me. However, I'll type and do my thing. 

I've been buried in Photoshop these last months trying to get lots of nice, high-quality items for my Spring line. I thought I had done pretty well when I released my Chantilly Formal line. Sexy satin and flowing flexi. The dress turned out beautifully and I was relieved to be able to leave behind the 60 - 120 Meg, 40 layer files for awhile.

About a week after the release, one of the "major" designers in SL sent me an IM asking me if I had ripped the textures for my Chantilly line from another "prominent" SL designer. (I'm excluding names at this point). After I got over my initial shock I IM'd back and said, No and quite frankly it irritated the shit out of me that they would even ask that. I said that it seemed to me that this type of shit was becoming a witch hunt and that I'm the type of person who believed in innocent until proven guilty.

Anyway, long story short. I contacted the "prominent" designer and asked why they hadn't contacted me personally, and why, if they believed I had ripped their textures they hadn't filed a DMCA complaint. I then proceeded to offer my raw Photoshop files for them to look at. I also gave a very detailed description of my process in Photoshop and the tools that I used. Obviously I won't go into that here. I guess I feel like it's kind of a trade secret kind of thing. Anyway, "prominent" designer said that wasn't necessary and that they weren't filing a DMCA complaint, etc. In the end, I was more pissed than anything and lost a TON of respect for the two designers involved in this fiasco.

That being said, I knew enough about what "prominent" designer was getting at to know which dress she thought I had ripped from. So... I took comparative pictures of mine vs "prominent" designer's. In the end, not only were the textures not even close to the same, mine was actually better. I'm NOT going on an ego trip here, just telling it like it is.

So, what the hell is Lissa going on and on about? Well, I'm getting there. 

Content theft is a big issue. Period. You know it, I know it and it's driving designers out of SL. Good high-end designers. And it pisses me off that this is happening. It pisses me off that Linden Labs chooses to ignore this problem and continue to develop shit we don't need like "Dazzle". Get a damn clue LL, we don't need a new fucking GUI!

As a content developer in SL, I am very concerned about the current trends in content theft. I also know based on technology trends that the thieves will get better and harder to beat. However, it's also not appropriate as a designer to go on a witch hunt when something "looks" similar to yours. Don't be so fucking pretentious as to think that someone can't do something as good as you can or better than you can. There is always someone better and faster than you. Hell, I know it. But I don't get all bent out of shape about it. If you're a content designer and you think someone has ripped your texture, by all means, contact them directly. Don't go through a fellow designer. Not only is that an outright cop-out on your part, it puts the other designer into a situation that isn't fair to them. 

The next thing you do is collect as much evidence as you can. Go buy the item that they're selling and do comparisons. Photograph it from every angle, etc. Have friends look at it. You may very well be too close to the situation to make a fair decision. Once you have the evidence, contact the person you think has copied you and try again to talk to them about it. File a DMCA complaint with LL (even though this may prove fruitless). You may very well have to end up bringing attorneys into this. 

But before the theft happens there are some things you can do to protect yourself. One idea is to watermark your textures in a small area that only you know about. This is possible if you know what you're doing. 

Second, as much as it sucks to people who want to "gift" their purchases, make your items no transfer. Sell them on SLexchange and OnRez so that they can be gifted. But don't do it in world. And make sure that the copies you put in your OnRez and SLex boxes are no transfer as well.

For those who are just starting out, this may not be possible. However, it's just a fact of Second Life, if you're a small design store you probably don't have to worry about content theft. Hell, I know I don't. I'm just small potatoes. But... for you bigger designers. You may have to limit yourself to a main store and nothing more. This assures your customers that this is the ONLY place they can purchase your items and if they see your stuff somewhere else then it may very well be a copy. Advise your customers. Let them know that content theft is a huge problem in Second Life and if they truly want to buy your stuff then it will only be at your store. Period.

I want to close this out with one last thing. My good friend, Chez Nabob, has rolled out a new ad campaign to help get the word out about content theft. I think this is great and I'm behind him 100% on it. Following is a link and SLURL for those who are interested in this campaign.

Chez's OnRez Store Look for the IP Rights Campaign Kit Version 2.0.



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