Oh no

Creator Beware

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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.

When you submit a design to Threadless.com, the artist keeps full copyright on their designs, but grants permission to Threadless.com to use the design for the creation of t-shirts and their website. For the full  text, please read for yourself under art. 5 of the Terms of Use. Since you can never really know who is behind the avatars in world, the two different artists who’s designs were found at Plastik were contacted, to ask whether they are in SL and design pixel clothes, because that would be the most logical explanation. One of the designers had heard about SL, but has no account. The other one was totally unfamiliar with our metaverse. Both stated that they have not sold, nor granted permissions to others to use or reproduce their designs, other than as featured on Threadless.com.

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.

0 thoughts on “Creator Beware

  1. It’s late so I may not do your post justice but I just wanted to leave a quick word of appreciation. I’m glad that you have blogged about this situation and made an obvious effort to present it in as balanced and neutral a light as possible. I personally am reserving my judgment of this person and will adjust according to their future actions. I really hope that other bloggers and activists follow your example in the future. Gather information from all parties involved, do your research, present the information, and let the public decide for themselves.

  2. .. so far i know the files must be print high quallity to get over the TL to be used.. 300 dpi .. and that stuff. so i wondering where, the one who upload it to TL, got the images in such high resolution if its not the creator him-/herself… ? i really wondering .. x.x brought a printing (e.g. art prints can be brought on DA of some digital artits) and than scanned it.. ?

    about the votes, i just thought its just for the text quotes which can be voted in.

    about all the stolen content, look around in sl fashion magazines, flickr and so on .. there were everywhere! images which are used for backgrounds which are not stock pictures (!) .. or stock pictures from DA with the rule for ‘no outside’ permission – everywhere (honestly i dont think that the most ppl asking, cause they dont owning a da account). and nobody saying a word! its already accepted from the ocmmunity!

    or last time i found DA stock images stolen and sold on the xstreet side .. still getting sold for 200 – 500 linden each pack. i wrote a DA mail to a stock photo collection side admin to find out about the originial creators .. cause i dont remember the names of them. i already saw this background used – does somebody care about it? no!

    how many reading the stock rules and keep them in mind after used a stock picture .. less people. how many ppl give a credit back to the stock creator (which is the most given and easierst rule? less again. is it fair ? no!

    its the same… always the same: ppl dont care until somebody using their own art/work. its a shame.

    nedeko

  3. @Nedeko: the TL artists ARE the original creators. Their work has been used w/o their permission in SL… that’s the infringement. Not the other way around.

  4. There’s been previous rumors about this person stealing content on the teen grid…my judgement isn’t so reserved and i find it highly doubtful someone who is so anti-content theft wouldn’t check something given to them.

    As they say..make a noise in one direction – do the deed in the other.

  5. The Plastik seems an insignificant incident with two tees. As long as shops like Emery, which admitting-ly base their entire creations on copy/pasting ‘cut-out’ clothing displays onto templates from online fashion shops, are featured in sl-fashion blogs the message will be “It’s ok to do that” (or even: “That’s how you start a successful business in sl”).

  6. I agree with pixeldunst. What about stores like Emery or Reek?

    Also, Is this the same person that was rumored to steal from the main grid and sell the items on the teen grid?

  7. pixel, i’m assuming you also think dj’s or artists like beck or collage artists are ‘scammers’ because they copy/paste stuff right?

    you’re quite bright.

  8. @undo
    Beck & Co. pay a LOT in royalty fees for the right to use these samples, jfyi.
    And i wouldn’t call someone a collage artist who copy/paste ONE Armani tee on a SL clothing-template.
    wtg to brightness.

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