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A few links

Various posts on property etc. on Second Life today: Tateru Nino writes about Property, Second Life, backups and you, and Botgirl follows her Virtual Property Rights Manifesto: Consumers, Copybots and Common Sense post with a quiz on The Moral Roots Behind Our Positions on Copybots. Lots of interesting discussion amidst the comments.

I took the morality quiz and scored very similarly to Botgirl, except lower on authority and a touch higher on harm and fairness. I’m not sure how much insight these results give into our views on copybots and related issues, though, as they don’t explore what we mean by harm, or fairness. Still, I’d be curious to see if people who disagree with my views on the topic have a significantly different set of scores.

And concerning disagreement, thanks to people like Shava Nerad for the discussion on my “content theft” post. I’ll let you go read the comments there if you want to know more of my thoughts and opinions!

Someone on Twitter expressed the hope that the one hostile comment wouldn’t put me off blogging. Don’t worry, the disagreements I’ve had with people over Second Life pale to a ghost in comparison to the early days of usenet groups and mailing lists, and indeed to certain communities on LiveJournal now! I’m a newbie to SL blogging, and still a relative n00b to Second Life, but my flame retardant jacket has stood up to many years of hostile encounters on the rest of the net. 😀

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Aside from Second Life, one of my main internet activities is being a raging fangirl, mostly of the Joss Whedon variety. While shopping for a Whedon show avatar, I couldn’t resist also getting this avatar of Showtime’s Dexter (from Second Life Heroes, an excellent shop!). And given the amazing finale of the 5th season of the show, I thought this would be a good time to show it off.

Dexter comes complete with knife and syringe…
Dexter

Here, he menaces Ayesha Lytton… who seems rather unconcerned about it!

Dexter

I think this will become my avatar of choice to change into whenever I’m being hit on by some sleazy asshole on SL… replacing my previous choices of becoming a giant jello, or a green toed sloth.

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So okay, that last post hit a raw nerve with some people, so I thought I should clarify a few things that I believe about Second Life.

I believe in paying content creators for their products. I absolutely love the huge range of creativity people show on SL, from the fashions to the builds and the scripting. I believe in supporting the people whose work I like by buying their goods, and tipping their venues. I believe in recommending the best people and places to others, too; and in helping newbies; and tipping performers and hosts.

The creativity is what draws me to Second Life, along with the community. In the wider world, the arts are not sufficiently valued IMO, and it’s hard for many creative types to get by doing the kind of work that brings them fulfillment, let alone joy. If they don’t also happen to have good business and marketing skills, they’re pretty screwed. On SL it helps to have business and marketing skills too of course, but on a smaller scale you can make at least enough money for your SL life without having to put in an investment besides your skill and your time. If you do want to rent, you can find rental space that you can pay for with perhaps an hour’s work at a Second Life job – very much unlike in real life!

There’s no element of force involved in your economic activities in Second Life. You do not have to rent a home. You do not have to buy food or pay heating bills. You can wander and explore and enjoy yourself purely with freebies; or you can put some real money in to it, or you can work or create to raise your lindens. It’s entirely up to you.

It’s a great feeling when someone buys something you’ve made. It’s an affirmation of the time you’ve put in to it, and perhaps of your art. Few of my products sell for a high price, but I also make L$ hosting, and I love being able to support SL’s creators by spending my L$ at their stores.

Pointing out that copyright infringement is not legally theft should not be taken as downplaying the problem of those who infringe copyright for their personal profit by reselling items. It is pointing out a matter of correct legal terms and definitions, not defending a practise. It matters, because the confusion on the question muddies the waters of all kinds of important issues, which go far beyond copying things on SL.

I also believe that although it’s against the terms of service, it is fair use and not unethical to back up your own inventory for your own use.

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Content theft on Second Life is something everyone except the people ripping off stores is surely against, and the point of this post isn’t to defend those who make their lindens by selling copies of other people’s work without permission, but to make another point entirely:

It’s not theft.

Theft is a legal term. To be theft – a crime – it must deprive the original owner of use of the stolen item. Copying it does not do this.

Downloading pirated music, copying something without permission on Second Life, neither of them are theft. Neither of them are criminal offenses (though redistribution on a large scale may be). They are breach of copyright, which is in most cases a civil offense.

Why does this matter, and why does it bug me so much every time I read people talking about “content theft” on Second Life?

Every time I watch a DVD that begins with one of those “piracy is theft” trailers, I want to scream and smash the screen. No, it’s not. Even the screens that come up before a film in the cinema warning us of the dire consequences if we should do a bootleg recording of the movie are lies. The movie and music recording industry want us to equate breach of copyright with theft. We should resist this insidious notion. Because it’s just not the same thing at all.

I am not saying it’s okay. I am absolutely not defending anyone who rips off creators on Second Life – I’m just saying we should call it what it is. Infringement of copyright – the right to copy and distribute a work.

We need to get away from this idea of equating intellectual property and ideas with physical property. Copyright is a right granted to creators, at the expense some would say of the public; in the US constitution it’s specified that the purpose of copyright is to encourage innovation and creation (in the arts and sciences) by guaranteeing that creators can make some money from their creations. Second Life content creators are perfectly justified in going after people who infringe their copyright and profit from their hard work – it’s just not theft.

A couple of articles on the topic:

– Legal blooger Jack of Kent on why Copyright Infringement Is NOT Theft

– Editor Russell McOrmond also says Copyright Infringement Does Not Equal Theft

– See also Copying is Theft – and other legal myths.

– And Second Life resident Emily Orr explains how Linden Lab’s new solution to copyright infringing materials on SL screws over the innocent user.

And to quote a case from US law, here’s Dowling v. US:

The infringer invades a statutorily defined province guaranteed to the copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over the copyright; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use.

Dowling v. US specfically rejects the concept that infringement of copyright is in any legal sense the same as theft.

There’s another aspect to “property” when it comes to Second Life, which illustrates how different it is to physical property, and that involves permissions. An item can be set not to be copied but to allow transfer between owners, mirroring real life, but it can also be set not to be transferrable. This means that if I buy an expensive item, and later want to replace it with a newer, better model, I can’t sell my old item second-hand.

If I buy a car in real life, I know that if I want a better, newer one in a few years, I can sell this one to help pay for it. If I buy a horse on Second Life, and a few years later find a better horse, I can’t necessarily sell my old horse to help cover the cost. I cannot treat my SL property like real property. Similarly, if I buy clothes IRL I can chop them up, restitch them, and generally do whatever the heck I want with them. RL content producers don’t have any rights to set things no modify, no transfer!

Finally, and along similar lines, in real life wherever I go, I can take my belongings with me. I think there’s a legitimate use for things like Copybot for those who want to take their avatars and SL inventories to other grids. This does not mean they should be able to sell infringing copies of what they’ve copied over, but as the person who bought the items, they should be able to use them.

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I love boots. I love boots IRL too, but I can’t and wouldn’t want to walk in the kind of heels people have in Second Life, and find Doc Martens rip my feet to pieces so much they bleed, so they’re kinda out too.

So what else to do but indulge in my love for boots on Second Life?

I have three particular favourites right now. Here they are.

Santa Baby boots, a group gift from Heart and Soul.
Heart & Sole Santa Baby boots

I got Heart and Soul’s Santa Baby boots because they’re ideal for Christmas, but they’re also scripted to come in a number of colours, including purple and hunter green. They also have a resizing script, something I find vital! The group costs L$75 to join, and I believe the boots are also sold for L$100… and I’m looking forward to their future group gifts!

Next, the best Doc Marten style boots I’ve found anywhere – Slade and Humby’s Dr Slade’s.
Dr Slades from Slade & Humby

I got my Slade and Humby’s Dr Slade’s in dark red, but other colours, including of course black, are available. They come with a resize script, and are in fact the only boots I’ve ever had to make smaller to fit me rather than larger! I forget how much they cost because I wasn’t thinking of blog posts at the time… they weren’t cheap, but they were definitely worth it!

Can anyone tell me where I can find a pair of short DM sculpty boots that are as good as these?

And perhaps the pinnacle of Second Life boots, the Prestige boot from Bax Coen.

Bax Coen Prestige boots

Bax Coen boots are legendary, and for good reason. The detail and soft, leathery texture are just perfect, and they come with a range of options. On the Prestige boot you can wear them with flap down, up, or off entirely, and change it to denim. You can also change the colour of the zip, heel, and sole.

The Bax Coen service lived up to its reputation for me too – fitted remotely by a trained fitter in under a minute, so no fiddling with getting them perfect, it’s all done for you. Again I forget the exact price, but it was around L$900. A luxury item perhaps, but with luxury quality.

I am uselessly failing to provide slurls, but search on the shoe store titles inworld and you’ll have no problem finding them.

Next boot update, Western boots and purple slouchy boots from Maitreya.

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Hearing Tuna Oddfellow’s Odd Balls described as getting people high over the internet”, I knew it was something I had to check out, so that’s how I’ve spent the evening, until SL crashed on me and refused to let me log back in (grrrr).

An Odd Ball is indeed a psychedelic experience, an audio visual trip that pulls you in and slips up on your brain with a dose of SLSD. If that sounds like it could be fun, you need to check Oddfellow Studios out.

My pictures really don’t do the event justice, as I can’t run my graphics up high when there’s lots of people around. The old graphics card just isn’t up to it. But still, here is a taste of the atmosphere in store for you, created by Tuna Oddfellow’s magic.

Dancers at an Odd Ball
Dancers at an Odd Ball

Odd Balls at the Odd Ball
Odd Balls at the Odd Ball

Tripping at the Odd Ball
Tripping at the Odd Ball

Aliens and Odd Balls
Aliens and Odd Balls

You can also see the images larger on Snapzilla.

SLURL to Oddfellow Studios.

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Child avatars – one of those controversial Second Life issues, which I think was summed up very well by The Candid Camelid’s post on child avs. But hey, now I have a blog, I may as well add my thoughts on the topic!

Myself, I’ve never been able to see the big deal. People go around as animals, as dragons, as demons, as dancing eggplants, why should having a child avatar be such a big deal?

There seems to be a very strong gut instinct in many people that says child avatars are inherently creepy. I suppose I just don’t share it. I’ve never felt the wish to have a child av myself, but don’t see what’s so bad about it if someone else wants to. Second Life is an adults only arena (at least, it’s supposed to be). Why the need to police what avatars people choose to use?

A big part of the argument, of course, comes down to sex. People might use child avs for age play, acting out sex (consensual or otherwise) with an adult av. It’s natural enough that this should make most of us feel at best uneasy, if not outright revolted. But is this a logical reaction? Do we fear that people who fly around as owls or explore SL as a wolf are going to have simulated beastiality sex; and, indeed, would it really matter if they did?

I’ve mostly seen child avs in two situations – playing as part of a family, and as part of groups like New Babbage’s street urchins. Nothing creepy about either of those. The idea that they shouldn’t be allowed because some people might do something distasteful with a child av just strikes me as absurd, and absurdly unfair.

People also protest that a child av might see a sexual situation or be present in some way during one, to which I’m also inclined to say “so what?”, because hello, it’s a collection of pixels, not an actual child.

According to Camelid, Linden Labs has a “zero-tolerance stance regarding child pornography, simulated or otherwise, in Second Life”. So really, this issue shouldn’t even arise. Why, then, is it so compelling?

I wonder if some of it is because we’re so used to seeing children sexualized by our culture, in advertising and shops selling “sexy” panties to young girls, the ever earlier age kids seem to start wearing make-up, the pressures particularly on girls to be sexy younger and younger. We know this is fucked up. Perhaps we find it hard to imagine there are people who’d want a child avatar for a purely innocent reason?

Or maybe it’s to do with how we assess and react to the people we meet in Second Life. Our avs are virtual projections of ourselves – they say how we’d like to look or what we’d like to be, or at least what we find fun (being a dragon, for instance). What is someone playing a child av saying about themselves? Are they “in character”? How are we supposed to react to them?

I think I can understand this. It’s a pre-conscious reaction that could easily make us discomforted by the presence of a child av even if we don’t really know why. And in fact it’s probably a good thing that when we meet even a pixel representation of a child, who we know is played by an adult, our instinctive “this is a child” reaction the visual representation creates causes us to consider modifying our behaviour in some way.

I still find it curious that the topic of child avatars brings up so much passionate disagreement. Even to those to whom they’re objectionable, SL is full of objectionable things. The whole vastly popular area of Gorean roleplay is based on a world in which women are inferior objects for the sexual use of men. Sexism and sexual violence affect huge numbers of real women in the real world, but we accept Gorean roleplay as a legitimate choice of consenting adults, much as we accept bondage and BDSM. Now personally I feel the whole idea of Gor goes far beyond BDSM as it posits a whole society based on deeply vile misogynistic ideals. I find the popularity of Gorean areas vastly more disturbing than the idea of child avatars. And I’d really like to find someone who’s against child avatars but perfectly okay with Gorean RP to explain their thinking to me!

I’m also curious to hear from anyone who regularly uses a child av on SL. What makes you choose a child avatar? Do you feel differently about yourself when you’re using it? Has anyone ever solicited your child av for SL sex, and how would it make you feel if they did?

Well, there are my musings on the topic. If anyone’s reading this, your comments are welcomed!

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Reading SL blogs recently, I’ve come across a little contention about the term “photography” as applied to Second Life snapshots. It’s not really photography, say some, it’s just taking screen captures.

Photography is one of my favourite RL hobbies. I love the challenge of film, but I can’t afford to shoot it often, so mostly I’m using a digital SLR. I used to think it was cheating to Photoshop things afterwards, until I realized Photoshop was just replicating things people used to do in darkrooms. Now I love to play with a bit of imitation cross processing before I post my pics!

How much is photography in Second Life like RL photography? Well, you find your scene. You follow the same rules of composition as you would in real life. You make sure your graphics settings are up high, and then if you’re like me, you play around with the Windlight settings to control the colour and light. You can’t precisely achieve variations of depth of field as you would by changing the size of the aperture, but SL offers other things you can play around with – like haze density, and moving the time of day or the sun.

No, it’s not the same as “real photography”, but it’s still basically using composition and light. And in my opinion, the best SL photographers are true artists.

I’m not counting myself amongst them, but I still love taking pictures in Second Life. My early SL snapshots were crap, and it still makes me crash when I turn my settings up high for good pictures, but it’s worth it! Vint Falken has some excellent SL photography tutorials which are very much worth checking out if you want to improve your SL pics.

Here are a couple of my shots that I feel particularly proud of:

Empty Valley at Error; Product of ROT Dev.
Empty Valley

Evening Peace at Tranquility Lake; rentals available from Solace Beach.
Empty Valley

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One of the things I love doing on Second Life is simply exploring, and taking snapshots of places I find.

The town of Innsmouth is based on the works of H P Lovecraft, and has a suitably moody, spooky look.

The way in…

Arkham cinema:
Arkham

Opera House interior:
Opera

Innsmouth Lighthouse:
Lighthouse

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Second Life Looks

Two really interesting posts on how real world beauty standards are enforced on Second Life:

Real world physical beauty pressures in Second Life, at Cuppycake, and Un-idealistic avatars considered “griefing”? at Border House.

I’ve often noticed how amazingly skinny a lot of avatars on SL are, though thankfully have never witnessed any bullying of larger avs myself (and if it was my land, I’d be ejecting and banning people for it if I did!). Still, I’ve noticed my own av getting a little thinner over the last year, mostly for the simple reason of getting clothes to fit right.

Yes, as with RL fashion designers and their size 0 models, a lot of SL’s most beautiful clothing is made to fit people without noticable hips, or muscles on their legs. Tops are usually fine for me, but rarely do I buy a skirt that doesn’t require some stretching and moving around and fiddling with to make it look right on me, and rare are the boots that don’t demand I reduce the muscle tone on my legs. And my av is far from large. I’d just rather look healthy than eating disordered!

Here’s an embarrassing look at the evolution of my av from n00b to now… glad I invested in some better skins, though of course I also learned how to take better pictures!
Sapphire, n00b and now

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