I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Threadless.com. I wasn’t, till it was shown to me a couple of weeks ago in relation to a possible case of copyright infringement. People submit their designs to Threadless.com, and when they get enough votes, their work will be printed on t-shirts or as posters and put up for sale. Cute, huh?
I was informed on that occasion that a couple of shirts in Aikea Rieko’s shop, The Plastik, looked very familiar to a RL artist who is in SL, and she could swear she had seen the designs before, but couldn’t remember where. A search through creative sites ended when on Threadless.com, 3 of the designs which are on sale at The Plastik were found.
I have contacted Aikea Rieko about this matter, because I think that, if you post about stuff like this, you better present a well rounded and investigated case. And I really wanted to know Aikea’s side of the story, since she is pretty adamant about copyright issues in SL, as can be read in her profile, and in the note cards which you get when you buy products at The Plastik.
Aikea was shocked when I confronted her and excused herself profusely and pulled the shirts we were talking about immediately. The images were sent to her by friends she trust and she admits to not having been as thorough as usual when checking her sources.
And that is what I really want this blog post to be about. Not about this specific content creator making a faux pas, because, as far as I can tell, she handled that in the best possible way (pulled the items, and tracking down the RL artists to write them an excuse mail), but about content creators in general and using sources which you have not created yourself.
Because it’s easy to get entangled in gray areas of IP infringement. We’ve seen it before.. differences in EULA interpretations, people ignorantly buying templates of Xstreetsl.com, believing (or wanting to believe) it’s legitimate stuff. On Flickr and in world, the use of Deviantart.com sources without giving credit to the artist, when that artist specifically requests so on their site… not to mention the awful morphs up to the use of photo material which may or may not be be in the public domain, but which uses the faces of people who earn their RL living with their looks (portrait rights, people!) to recreate those very looks in SL (and using the celebrities’ names too, so that we may not mistake the intended identity of the skin/avatar). Oh and lately of course the explosion of n’avis on the grid, which in itself may not be illegal or even unethical (personally I’m not too sure about it…but it’s a really blurry area), but it surely is just that when the skins are based on rips of existing creations of other content creators….. or sourced off stills from the movie.
Ignorance, laziness, innocence, naivety, a one time slip in carefulness… using sources which you have not created yourself, or legitimately bought with a crystal clear EULA is tricky stuff. Because sooner or later, chances are someone is going to recognize it and it will burn you, it may damage your reputation, and, like in some cases, be dragged up for ages on every possible occasion. And lets face it… with all the creativity which we have here in SL, and the pride may creators take in their products, isn’t it way nicer to be 100% sure about the authenticity of your creation because you really created it from scratch and that the appreciation shown is all for YOUR work instead of taking the risk of damaging your business?
There are a lot of initiatives among content creators and consumers alike for IP protection and to raise awareness on authenticity of products… But before consumers get involved, wouldn’t it be a good thing if creators themselves would make absolutely sure they protect the IP rights of others as well as they want to protect their own?
I have turned comment moderation on for this post, since I want to avoid this post to turn in the hysterical drama fests we all know too well. If you have a contribution to make to this topic, you’re more than welcome. But I reserve the right to not publish deliberately hurtful or bashing comments.