Friday, March 21, 2008

Theft: A View From Within...The Aftermath

All the discussion about IP (Intellectual Property) Rights may be seem a bit abstract to some. Many would conclude that this is merely a money issue. It's not. This issue of IP theft goes well beyond the subject of profit and loss. Those of us that creat,e have an emotional investment in our work that goes well beyond monetary loss. Over the next couple of months, I will be posting interviews with creators who have been victims of IP theft. Their stories show the real damage theft can cause to the heart and soul of a creator. In this segment, I will be telling the stories of three amazing content creators and what they went through as victims of IP theft;

Arwen Eusebio, Tami McCoy and Tigerlily Koi. Thank you all for your bravery!

Arwen Eusebio owns AE Industries. She builds homes for purchase in Second Life. Her work is creative, different and inspired. Her imaginative builds have led thieves to her as well. Last year Arwen discovered that someone had copied her designs and textures and was reselling her work

Gwen Carillon: How did you find out your work was stolen?

Arwen Eusebio: A customer notified me that she saw my Elven Treehouse at someone elses store. My partner Gry Horus and I looked into it and the customer was right. Gry recognized the name of the store owner and remembered speaking to him a few weeks before at our location. So I messaged this person. He stated that he "couldn't" afford to buy mine (even though he owns 3 sims).

Gwen Carillon: So, what went through your mind when you saw your design and textures taken and used without your permission?

Arwen Eusebio: I felt sick, absolutely horrified this could happen. For many days I was too sick to work in SL or even take care of my family and home in RL. I asked him to delete all the copies he had, as well as what he sold. He admitted to the theft, agreed to my terms, then banned me and raised the price of them! Since then, he has also made copies of my smaller treehouse, "Dawg Treehouse" and is selling this as well.

Gwen Carillon: How has this theft affected your work and your outlook?
Arwen Eusebio: For a few weeks I was unable to create at all, I had no desire, no motivation. Why bother, if it could be copied complete and sold by someone else? I work too hard creating my work, for others to just copy it. ,It just shocked me so much that someone would do this, I know people can, but to know they really would, devastated me.

Gwen Carillon: What motivates you to create?

Arwen Eusebio: I love to create, I love to push myself harder to create new, unique and better quality builds each time.

Gwen Carillon: What would you say to the second life community about content theft?

Arwen Eusebio: My thoughts are to appreciate the hard work and creative minds in SL. If you want to be a creator, that's great, but do it because you want to create from your own creative mind. Creating to make money will never inspire a creator. A true creator would never steal an idea or design.

Gwen Carillon: Thank you so much, Arwen!
Tami McCoy, of Hairstyles by Tami McCoy, has been designing distinctive hair for avatars in Second life since July of 2004. Her work is both sassy and sophisticated. Thieves in Second Life seem to think so too. Unfortunately, Tami has been a victim of IP theft multiple times. This latest incident, involving a thief using a copybot type device to duplicate the prim work and textures of three of Tami's hairstyles, is unfortunately the latest of many thefts she has had to endure. I was with Tami in the thief's store that night. My heart went out to Tami, as I stood there, knowing she was probably crying. This is her story:

Gwen Carillon: Tami, how did you find out about this latest theft of your work?

Tami McCoy: I was alerted by some other hair designers. I think a notice went out in a group too but i cant remember. I just knew when I saw my emailed offlines and who they were from, it was going to be about theft.

Gwen Carillon: What went through your mind when you saw your hairstyles and textures taken, photographed and up in someone else's vendor?

Tami McCoy: My eyes teared up and I felt sick to my stomach. I said "Oh Noooo!" and October (Tami's partner) said "What is it?" I turned my laptop, so he could see the screen and he logged in right away.

Gwen Carillon: nods

Tami McCoy: We just stood there for a few minutes, then I said, "Well, here we go again". October asked. "DMCA ?" I said, "yep".

Tami McCoy: I know I just stood there like 5 minutes staring at the screen. You feel a sort of shock. Even though it's happened before and is happening every day, you're still shocked over the fact that someone would have the nerve to just steal your work, your art! -and present it as their own! Then you're angry. Bone deep angry! I'm pretty sure this is when I called you to come see.

Gwen Carillon: Ok... and I know you were there long after I had left , too.

Tami McCoy: Yes, I took pictures of all the vendor walls and close ups with my designs and with the edit window showing owner and creator. All the things you do when you file a DMCA.

Tami McCoy: There were a lot of people coming and going as well. Discussing what should be done. I spent a good while there, asking those whose designs weren't stolen to please let those designers who's work was stolen have the time to act on it and file DMCA's, before the thief became aware we knew.
Gwen Carillon: Nods. That's always a good idea.
Tami McCoy: And I gave some people the three hairstyles of mine that were stolen, so they could make their own comparisons. Someone actually said they thought the hair "appeared similar". Which is when I offered to give hair to anyone wanting to compare mine with the ones in the thief's vendors.It was as plain as day to me they were mine and my textures.

Gwen Carillon: Yes, to me as well. They seemed unmistakable.

Tami McCoy: But maybe not to everyone

Gwen Carillon: Your texture and style is a unique signature

Tami McCoy: As were the others there. We all have our style and it stands out. Not to mention, this *seller* had 15 or so designs with quite a few different textures. Very tell-tale, when someone has stolen work
Gwen Carillon: Yes. That's something a shopper can watch for, isn't it?

Tami McCoy: Absolutely!

Gwen Carillon: How has this theft affected your work and your outlook?

Tami McCoy:I didn't sleep the night it happened. I was so wound up, I ended up being up all night working into the middle of the next day starting on getting the scripts into the hair so I could feel safer. I've decided to use a scripting system now for the customer to edit their hair. It's slightly limiting to them unfortunately, but they can shrink or stretch the hair as well as move and re-size individual prims. For me, it allows the design to be no mod. Which will prevent these replication scripts from being dropped into the hair to copy it. My hope is that consumers will understand this is my only protection and embrace the new system.

Gwen Carillon: Tami, what drives you to create?

Tami McCoy: I really love it. It's just really amazing to take plywood shapes and make them look like hair. Seeing someone so happy with their new hair drives me.

Gwen Carillon: I know with me builds are a part of me. Do you feel that too?

Tami McCoy: I do. They're my babies so to speak.

Gwen Carillon: Yes!

Tami McCoy: Which goes back to someone taking hairstyles and calling them their own, HOW DARE YOU! This is mine, part of me. My heart and soul went into this! It felt like he came right into my home and took a part of me. It really hurts. I don't just throw some prims together and call it hair. I spend hours and hours making these designs. they're something very important to me.- my babies :)

Gwen Carillon: *big smile* What would you say to the second life community about content theft?

Tami McCoy: To the consumer I would say, be alert. Be aware of where you're shopping. Support content creators by knowing that you're buying from the original designer. There are so many obvious signs of a rip-off shop. They're usually very small, with crappy displays that look very half hearted. A designer is going to take pride in their work and they will display it well. Pretty pictures, pretty surrounding etc. I don't think you'll ever see a hair design being sold with a picture of it rezzed to the floor, as they were in this last shop. If you're not sure ask around. Join Fashion emergency for instance. There are people there who love to shop and will give you advice.

Tami McCoy: To the designers I say keep your chin up. Yes, it's like a punch to the gut when you see your work stolen. File the DMCA and let other designers know about it. Especially in the same line of designing as your specialty. We can stick together and support one another through this.And, it's my personal opinion to make NO contact with the thief. Just go stealth and file the DMCA. There's no telling what they will do if you alert them you're on to them. As much as you might want to scream and rant and rave, I feel like you are best off just getting your information for the DMCA and then get it sent out ASAP. Silent but deadly ;)

Gwen Carillon: That is what CCA advocates as well. I certainly agree. Thank you, Tami! *Smiles*
Tigerlily Koi designs hair. She is co-owner and one of the two creative minds behind Calla. (The other owner being Haedon Quine) Calla opened it's doors to the Second Life public in June 2006. Since then, they have continously raised the bar on elegance. The thieves thought so too. Tigerlily has been hit by theft multiple times.

Gwen Carillon: Let's start with what happened and how you learned of the most recent theft.
Tigerlily Koi: A customer came to me and told me they'd seen what they thought was my hair, someplace else.

Gwen Carillon: Lily, how did you feel when you saw your hair designs and textures being sold by someone else?
Tigerlily Koi: The first time I was hit by thieves was a huge blow. It was a combination of shock and devastation with a little bit of anger all mixed together with disbelief at what I was actually seeing. It was one of the first styles I was really proud of, and it really hurt to see that. Especially with my own texture. I think that part was just as bad as seeing my prims.

Gwen Carillon: Lily, how has this affected your work and your attitude overall?
Tigerlily Koi: Work? It makes me nauseous to think about making something else that I spend hours, sometimes days or weeks on, and have someone rip it out from under me in a matter of minutes. My desire to create is...pretty non-existent.

Gwen Carillon: nods, I can empathize.
Tigerlily Koi: Having to change everything from here forward to no-mod is a lot of extra work, and not really something I want to do. But I feel like I've been forced into it in order to protect myself. It's depressing, it hurts. I've cried, not only for myself, but for every one of the creators who have this happen to them. Not long ago, I was standing in some underground shop with half a dozen or so other hair designers. My friend who was there said, "Lily, I'm glad none of these are yours." I couldn't take any joy at all in that. I said, "Yeah, but this doesn't feel any different than if it were mine." Maybe I'm too empathic, but every time I hear the frustration and the devastation and the hurt in these situations, I can't help but feel physically ill for them.

Tigerlily Koi: The people who do this have no idea what this means to so many of us who create things. This is my job. I came here *for* this to be my job. This pays my bills. This is income for so many families here, and we moms who struggle with kids all day and stay up all hours of the night to learn new techniques or make something new, we're so invested emotionally and mentally in it all. It's not just a 9-5 where we can walk out of the office and forget about it all. It's every moment, all hours of the day and night.

Gwen Carillon: What motivates you to create in Second Life?

Tigerlily Koi: My customers. Haedon and I have *the* best customers. They are always so sweet. (good lord now I'm crying) It seems like just when I hit rock bottom and feel like I can't do it anymore, one of them drops us a notecard with just a little thank you. It really makes it hit home again. I love to create. My motto since I walked into SL has been "Creativity, unleashed." I'm a creative, artistic person, and this can be such a fabulous place. Anything is possible.

Gwen Carillon: What would you say to the second life community about content theft?

Tigerlily Koi: Think. Think before you copy something that's not yours. Think before you rip someone else's texture. Think before you purchase something from a questionable source just because it's cheaper. Think about the men and women who put their time, effort and hearts into everything that's created in this world. We're not just pixels, we're real people and our spirits can be broken.

Gwen Carillon: hugs! Thank you, Lily!

I want to thank these three creators for allowing me to interview them and post there private feelings on a public blog. Their courage and determination is inspiring. I am proud to know them.

Thank you also, to all of the members of the CCA, for your bravery and sheer stubborn will to make a dent in this wave of crime. You have stood by your collegues and community and helped.
Support Second Life's content creators by not patronizing the stores of thieves who rip textures and steal intellectual property.
Stand with us!
Don't buy stolen content.
Many "Dollar" stores and free markets are filled to the brim with stolen items.
-Check to see if a shop is selling mixed styles that look to be made by more than one creator.
-If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you recognize an item that you suspect may be stolen property, please take a snap shot of the item, save a Landmark to the location and include these in a notecard to the creator you believe originated the item.
Please DO NOT confront the alleged thief. We so appreciate your suppoprt and your loyalty, but this will only put you at risk for being Abuse Reported and cause the thief to switch locations and accounts making him / her more difficult for the victim of the theft to track. Creators need that time to investigate and gather information to file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
Thank you again for your help and support!
Gwen Carillon
Content Creators Association


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm new to SL so any advice on which are reputable vendors? I've wandered into a few big stores with lots of freebies and now I'm worried that I may be wearing stolen goods.

Paeoti Pomeray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paeoti Pomeray said...

Leaving this comment under the NYMPHETAMINE name of Paeoti Pomeray as I am her Business Manager, but author of this comment is Stacy Maracas should anyone have a problem with it :)

This is a response for workthelanjones: Having been in Second Life for over 5 years now, Id like to offer some advice: There are a number of ways to use common sense about thieves in Second Life. One way is that when your in a store, is everything around you organized, looks nice, displayed easily, etc. Do they have a group you can change for updates? Are they on networking sharing sites? Ie, myspace, facebook, twitter, blogs etc. Normally true content creators are not afriad to allow you to find them easily :) Another way to look, go to Google, type in SECOND LIFE FASHION. You will be able to find feeds, blogs etc to many GREAT content creators and find things that OTHER people say about them as well. One more little hint, when using the in worls SEARCH tool, lets say you type in "Womens Clothing"; any stores traffic that is over lets say 35 thousand traffic numbers, are not necessarily content thieves, but they are most likely cheating the system in one way or another, by using bots to cheat their traffic numbers to get shoppers to their stores (usually new residents), to buy their less than average products.

Feel free to message me anytime in world (Stacy Maracas), and I will be happy to drop some landmarks of some excellent, honest and ethical content creators on you simply from experience and not on a biased standpoint, simply by opinion.

Also, WELCOME to Second Life! :)
Thank you!

Stacy Maracas