Posts Tagged ‘copyright’

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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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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