Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recent Events

The past few weeks have been eventful ones. We've had both victories and challenges. The subject of IP theft is an emotional one to those who create. We can, at times have a hard time seeing through that emotion, to the facts of a situation. That is where the CCA comes in. We are first and foremost a group that provides information to creators on how to deal with theft. We are also the ears and support for one another. It is easy to fall prey to paranoia, from all of the content theft we've been seeing. Let's not overreact and worry about each and every avatar that spends too much time in a shop. Above all, let 's not become suspicious of each other! We are not and have never been a group based on drama and witch hunts. CCA = Reasonable & Calm. OK?

It is not our job as a group to confront thieves and take on the role of a vigilantes. This can really do a great deal of harm. It not only leaves us open to being abuse reported, it can help warn the thieves. A few weeks back, we had a member that had three of her hair designs copied via copybot. Those hair designs were being resold by a Second Life resident without the permission of the original creator. I sent a notice about the copy issue to the group, as per the wishes of the hair designer in question, as a courtesy to the other members. The creator felt that others may need to check for their work at the site where her creations were found. One of our members, offered to gather information on the alleged thief. I told them that this was fine, but to remain quiet and careful since the creator still needed time to file her DMCA paperwork. This member decided, against the express wishes of the creator in question, to take it upon herself to confront the sim owner that housed the site where the copied hair was being sold. When I learned of this, I again asked the member acting on this, to stop. I stated again that this was ill advised, since the creator needed time to file her paperwork and any confrontation or dialog would warn the alleged thief, causing him to go to ground and disappear into an alternate account.
The member disregarded my request and the request of the injured party. She instead went ahead to confront the alleged thief and his acquaintances. The alleged thief, thus warned, disappeared along with the copied hair, leaving the creator with a practically useless DMCA report. All of the work that the creator had gone through to file, was wasted because another member felt she knew what was best for all parties concerned. The creator is now left with a cold trail. It was my decision at that point to remove the member that acted without the permission of the injured party, from the group. I knew at the time that this member meant well. I know that her heart was in the right place and that she wanted to help. However, the group cannot afford a security risk to its members. What she did, carried a high cost to the victim of this alleged theft. We cannot and should not confront these copiers without the permission of the injured parties. We should NOT take it upon ourselves to petition to close the stores of alleged thieves without giving the creators who's work is being sold without permission in those stores, a chance to file their DMCA paperwork! This type of action looks great on a photo blog, but hurts the very people that the action was meant to help.

The situation that cropped up this past week was even uglier. It is not our job to get involved with disputes between creators. It is not our job to decide what IP theft is. The courts have covered what constitutes copyright infringement. This information is clearly stated in the many government links posted. Juris Amat, a member of CCA and a real life attorney, has kindly created a notecard outlining what constitutes copyright infringement. I have distributed this notecard to all CCA members and have included it in the CCA Info Pack. I have given this a great deal of thought over the past week, since one of our members decided to present a dispute between herself and another creator, to the group and make public accusations. The drama and hurt that ensued from these allegations could have easily been avoided by both parties meeting and discussing the matter. Sadly, only one of those parties was willing to do so. Although I'm happy that the group weathered the storm well and reaffirmed our initial goals, I cannot help but feel saddened at seeing the aftermath of these events. I remained neutral at the meeting, offering instead to moderate instead of taking part in the debate. I would not have even called the meeting if the accusing member hadn't involved the group via notices. I want to thank all the members who attended that meeting, for their unbiased and honest efforts to resolve a difficult situation. By the end of that meeting, I was proud to be a member of this organization!
I feel, however that I need to be clear on something. I am not an attorney, I am a creator like every other member of this group. I hold no special training in law. If questions arise, I will do my best with the help of others to point those inquiring , in the direction of where they can find answers. I am also a person with a mind of my own. I cannot and will not go against my conscience and principals to avoid conflict. Over the past three months I have put more time into the CCA than into my own business. I don't regret this. I willingly will do what I can to help this group achieve its goals. I believe, as does Arwen Eusebio (Co -Owner of the CCA), that this group can and will be of service to our community. I am, however, only one person. One member in a group of over 100. I'm not in the employ of CCA, I am a volunteer. lol We all contribute. We all help. Look to each other. Share and support one another. If you have a dispute with another member, talk to that person and try to resolve it calmly and privately. If you feel that another creator has infringed on your copyrighted work, contact VIPO (Virtual Intellectual Property Organization) for help, or file a DMCA. Do not involve the entire group. That will only serve to create strife. This group is a source of support for creators, not a weapon to be wielded in anger. We cannot afford to become a forum for gripes and witch hunts. The day this group ceases to be helpful and supportive and becomes a vehicle for drama and strife, is the day I close it.