Once in a while there comes a moment.  A defining moment.  A moment perhaps marked by a line in the sand.  A boundary that will not be crossed.

A moment where men and woman stand up and say, simply, “Enough.”

This is such a moment.

Today some of the most talented creators on the grid have had their entire sims stolen.   They include Rebel Hope and RH Engel, Susan Ramos and Nonna Hedges.

For years content creators have endured the steady drip, drip, drip of losing an item here and there.  A creation that may have taken days if not weeks of work suddenly appearing across the grid, priced cheaply (sometimes priced expensively) or given away for free.  Venial people without morality making small profits.  Stealing for the LOLZ or the small bits of cash.  Stealing because … hey, information should be free.  Stealing because it can be done, so why not do it?  Stealing because the creation of the tools for theft was an intellectual challenge to someone somewhere – although they, of course, are certainly not responsible for the pernicious uses their tools are put to, oh dear me, no.

Quite.  And so, in Robert Gittings’ words*, the mushroom cloud begins to grow.

What is the response?  The convolutions of the DCMA process (which, among other things, demands the sending of faxes … I suppose we should be grateful the information is not required inscribed on vellum).  After so long, a tentatively proposed Linden Lab road map for content management.  And then, against that, the bleats that information should be free … how DARE content creators actually expect to earn money, to earn a way of supporting their lives, their families by the producction of their hands, their brains, their imaginations?

The facile advice to those content creators who’ve suffered theft that they should just make something else, something newer.  So that it can happen again?  But creation is a well that never dries up, after all.  People never get so heartsick, so defeated, so burnt out that they lose the will to create and slip bitterly away.

Or so we are supposed to believe.

And now an action so outrageous, so appalling, so egregious that it must sure mark a turning point.  For if not, why pretend there is a will to support content creators at all?

Whole sims have been copied.  The content ripped and stripped and scattered across the grid.

Five years of work, lost.  Families’ income, stolen.

This must be it. This must be the moment when enough is … enough.  When Linden Lab, the behemoth itself, focuses its attention – its core attention – on protecting the people who have made, are making and who will make Second Life the leading virtual world.  When a team from the Lab sits down with  content creators and as a matter of urgency devises and puts in place a strategy that will end this for once and for all.

That strategy may be painful in some aspects.  It will, very obviously, not please everyone.  And it will equally clearly not cover every aspect of eventuality.

But a start must be made now.

One way could be a symbolic protest.  No sales for twenty-four hours.  No uploads.  Content creators standing together and saying, “Enough.”

But another is saying here – “Meet us.  Come and talk here on the blogs.  Come and talk to us in world.  We need to make this right.  We need to sort this – now.”


* Robert Gittings’ poem – The Fox

Further Reading:
Rebel Hope’s Plurk – http://www.plurk.com/p/1zwuku
Shopping Cart Disco – http://shoppingcartdisco.com/?p=4734

Other blogs:
Content Theft and You in the SL Community
Andrew Sempere’s personal weblog – Reflections on SLCC Part II


  1. The only solution will involve men with badges, guns, and nightsticks followed by convict justice. These people will not stop until their lives are at stake. So use the police or publish identities and let them have to hire body guards. Until then they will not stop. Don’t be expecting a west coast technology company to care about it at all. The ideology of content theft being OK runs too deep there. If LL has not reported the crime to police then LL is potentially guilty of Misprison themselves. Again let the police do what we pay them for.

  2. is that a true verified story? omg, i hope it is rumor. you know when the US did a boycott on tuna in the 1970’s, it changed the fising industry

    your idea of the “no uploads” is huge. Linden Lab makes about $90,000 USD a month on just those $10L transactions, so a week boycott would be noticed

  3. Well, I have to agree with Anne. Thieves need to be caught, tried, and punished. But meanwhile …

    Hopefully everyone will familiarize themselves with the Woodshed style of furnishings (they are very distinctive and easily spotted) and REPORT every item they see for sale or that they see on someone’s property that is suspected to be an illegal copy.

    The orginal furniture all say they were CREATED by RH ENGEL. Any other creator is false.

    Also, ALL RH Engel furnishings are NO COPY, NO MODIFY, Transfer ONLY. If any pieces are seen that are Copy/Modify they are most likely illegal ripoffs and should be reported.

    The best method is to go into EDIT mode on the item and open the General Tab. If the item is a ripoff then take a screenshot of the edit window. Then take down the location by opening the Main Map and copying the SLurl to the clipboard. Put the SLurl and the screenshot image into a notecard and send one to RH Engel and to Rebel Hope.

    And don’t buy ripoffs. If you purchase stolen property you are just as guilty as the thieves. Worse, in my view, since you make their illegal activities worthwhile.

  4. You have to call on the Lindens to put an end to the opensource viewer, and stop living in a world of thuggery and criminality that is the opensource movement around Second Life.

    If they won’t do that, due to ideological reasons (not technical reasons — they are unwilling to use at least partly-successful technology to stop theft, and are unwilling to use at least tracking of thieves for purely ideological reasons) — then let them at least force all the viewer-hackers to register.

    It’s insane that people are supposed to register to create content in a new program envisioned in the Road Map; they are supposed to age-verify/register in order to view porn; they are supposed to register to serve as a Solutions Provider, but they the precious little darlings of the geek set can’t be forced to register/verify *to code a viewer hooking up to SL*.

    I don’t *care* that they can endlessly get around it. At least then you have a trail, and you can attempt to prosecute, when you get the political will.

    Forcing people to endlessly file thousands of DMCA takedown notices against people who should themselves before forced to register if they are going to hack the viewers is just cruel.

    Shutter your stores for a day and refuse to use the LindEx, that was done in the copybot protest and I think it had an effect.

    Oops, people can get around your closed inworld store on XStreet where the Lindens keep getting their cut. Ok, put your XStreet box in inventory for a day and don’t make sales.

    See, that’s what you have to be willing to do. When you can get thousands of people doing that, you will force the Lindens to act. Until then, the factions in their midst will just argue and ignore JIRAs and keep letting their code kiddie friends steal your stuff.

  5. @Ener – Yes, sadly, it’s true. You can follow the links I’ve given at the bottom of the article.

    But I’m not suggesting a week’s boycott. This is not about financially punishing the Lindens. It’s about getting the message out.

    @ Caliburn – This is about more than just what happened to Rebel, RH, Susan and Nonna. RH’s furniture may be distinctive – but there are other people whose furniture is less well known who are putting up with this all the time. And we HAVE to put a stop to that.

    Education is important. But when people first come on the grid, they have an awful lot to learn anyway – it takes time before people have the understanding and confidence to know how they can check things. It takes even longer before they can assert with confidence that they know something is stolen. I’ve been around two and a half years now, and it would still be hard for me to spot a stolen skin unless it was one of my ultra-favourites.

    Education is important and should be ongoing. We’ve had Designing Worlds shows on this in every season of the show, and we have a regular column on it in the Prim Perfect magazine (and you should read Gwen Carillon’s article on Page 120 of the current magazine – believe me, it’s powerful stuff). And I’ve written about this again and again on the blog.

    But this is not enough. We have to do more. And we have to do it in collaboration with the Lab.

    @ Prok – Totally. You are ticking all the boxes here. And I think I might go further, and say that free accounts should have no right to upload or to take money out of the system. If you want to be a serious player, you make a serious commitment.

    And the XStreet boycott occurred to me overnight too – not least because one content creator pointed out that she could spend twenty-four hours taking all her inworld vendors offline. No texture uploads. No XStreet. That should concentrate minds on both sides of the grid.

    This is not about punishing the Lindens. This is about sounding a wake-up call to the Lindens, to the people who unknowingly buy rip-offs.

    And it lets the bruised and battered content creators around the grid know that they are NOT alone.

  6. Yes, of course I know that. RH told me himself just last night “…this not only hurts Rebel and I, it hurts all resellers and all furniture makers, because people will stop buying furniture if they can get it for free…so this effects not only us, but every content creator in all truth.”

    But when people are upset they need to feel like they can *do* something and staying alert about ripped off content (and reporting it when you find it) seems better than a passive “that’s just terrible” and moving on. That’s all. Thanks. 🙂

  7. I’m in for helping spur action.

    I say let’s pick a day, and then follow the recommendations Prokofy and Saffia have put forth about a boycott.

    Once there is a day selected, and there are clearly defined things to boycott (for example no uploads and no Xstreet purchases), I will create a PSA and run the hell out of it on all three Radio Riel channels.

    We all blog, tweet, plurk etc and get the word out. Prok simply giving it a mention on his blog will reach about a bazillion people. 🙂

    We send copy for a Group Notice to as many Estate Owners that we can, so they can in turn send it to their communities.

    No, we won’t be able to cease uploads and Xstreet purchases, too mant people in SL live in their own bubbles, but I do think we could have an effect on Linden Lab’s revenue for that day.

    I am at your disposal, as is Radio Riel.

  8. @primperfect:

    “And I think I might go further, and say that free accounts should have no right to upload or to take money out of the system. If you want to be a serious player, you make a serious commitment.”

    I am, despite being an evil West Coast technophile, hugely sympathetic to the plight of content creators being exploited and ripped off, and I’m all for reasonable efforts to get tools and policies in place that effectively deal with this egregious and growing problem. However, I do not agree with the idea of hobbling or limiting the abilities of free accounts.

    Part of it is self-serving – despite the fact that I have payment information on file, I have a free account. And while I have not yet taken money out of SL, I have and plan to continue uploading content onto the grid – some of it for content creation, much of it for sharing knowledge (or just silliness for laughs) with friends and acquaintances. In over 3 years in SL, I’ve tried to be a responsible and respectful content creator (what limited items I have made) and I try to contribute to the SL community.

    Moreover, I know denizens of the grids who AREN’T payment-verified, but they are established content creators, good customers and valuable citizens. Those of us who cannot afford to pay for SL should not be assumed to have no commitment to the SL community.

    1. I have a free account. I don’t buy anything. My commitment to SL is to simply enjoy what is available. Stuff that others provide at no cost to me, entirely at their expense.

      If this means that in future, I on my free account:

      a) am restricted in how many items I may have in my Inventory at any one time,
      b) cannot transfer items to others, and
      c) am unable to have a dollar balance (linden or real)

      then I’m cool with this. I don’t need:

      a) a zillion free items in my Inventory.
      b) the ability to give stuff I don’t make to others
      c) any money to pay for things with a $0 price tag.

      If the cost to me of obtaining any of the above abilities is the requirement that I must provide real-world verifiable account details then I will be happy to pay this price, should I ever need these things.

      I’m a freetard for sure. A blingtard even at times 🙂 But I’m not a thieving little fecker. And if it means that I’m asked to give up things I currently GET FOR FREE, to make it more difficult for thieves to operate in SecondLife then I’m happy and willing to NOT HAVE them FOR FREE.

  9. Hold up.


    “And I think I might go further, and say that free accounts should have no right to upload or to take money out of the system. If you want to be a serious player, you make a serious commitment.”

    I *made* a serious commitment, the first few months after I started the game. I owned land, I was a contributing player, I was part of the economy. I lost the RL financial resources to do that for more than two years. What you–and others–are suggesting here would ban anyone not from the correct tax bracket from being involved in the life of the game!

    More than that, I don’t think opensource is the problem. While yes, I do believe that the tools to hook viewers to the grid should be moderated, in some form, to restrict them only to those “verified” in some sense to SL–beyond the usual avatar verifications already in place–it seems overly restrictive.

    As a (small) content creator, *and* photographer, I have uploaded hundreds, if not thousands, of textures, photographs, as well as sounds and animations, each at L$10 per; I have more than made up for what the Labs might conceivably have lost from my giving up my premium account. Remove the ability for free accounts to upload and create objects, you remove the ability of many accounts to play the game at all.

  10. @primperfect:

    “And I think I might go further, and say that free accounts should have no right to upload or to take money out of the system. If you want to be a serious player, you make a serious commitment.”

    I think there should be a more logical approach. People have different reasons for having a free account (chief among them being the current state of the economy). I was on a free account for awhile when I first tried Second Life. Currently, my brother is trying SL out, and at present, due to other financial commitments, I don’t think he’ll be on a paid account anytime, soon.

    Education, yes. Getting the Lindens off their keisters and doing something about this, yes. Discriminating against non-paying residents, no. Sorry, but no.

  11. @Caliburn – I agree with the need to “do” something – and I’ve been talking with other people about how this could best be organised. We’ll be making some proposals soon – I hope people will want to become involved!

    @Emily Orr: Open source is not the problem; the dishonesty of the thieves (and the amorality of griefers) is the problem. But where tools exist that can be used for theft, then their presence on the grid should, at the very least, be restricted by a system of licensing. And where those tools are created for or used primarily against the Terms of Service then they should be banned altogether.

    I like the shinies as much as the next person, and Open Source viewers have been a Godsend or more than one occasion when there was no way I could function on the regular viewer. But it isn’t the viewers that keep me immersed me in the game – it’s the content. And protecting that should be paramount.

    You said, “While yes, I do believe that the tools to hook viewers to the grid should be moderated, in some form, to restrict them only to those “verified” in some sense to SL–beyond the usual avatar verifications already in place–it seems overly restrictive.”

    But to me it doesn’t seem overly restrictive, because at the moment, what we have is DEFINITELY not working!

    @Emily Orr, Magdalena Kamenev, Fuzzball Ortega: I agree that limiting the game by pocketbook is the crudest of limitations. But we need some alternative to allowing thieves to create a plethora of alt accounts to enable them to steal easily (and the problem of alt accounts is also behind some of the griefer attacks too).

    One way is the Lab holding verifiable information on all accounts (and yes, I know that people can rig that, but it’s a start!).

    Another way is restricting what free accounts can do – to encourage them to become paid (and verified) accounts as soon as possible. Most people agree now that you get a very small bang for your buck for being a Premium Member.

    A final way would be to ban free accounts altogether. Despite the fact that few other games offer entirely free accounts, I would not want to go down this route.

    There may be other ways of addressing the alt account problem. But doing nothing and letting the thieves exploit it is not, to my mind, an answer.

    @ Fuzzball: demanding the Lindens do something about this is good, yes. But what do we want them to do? If we are not clear and specific in – at the very least – the areas we believe they should be looking at, with all our combined knowledge and experience of the grid, then they are likely to do something that just irritates everyone, that is seen as too little too late or – alternatively – too draconian.

    I think the Lindens are listening. I think they’re listening very hard at the moment. The key point is … are we saying anything that they can hear?

  12. I’ve been in SL for just shy of three years and have never had, and have no intention of having, a paid account. The only benefit it gives (other than the slowly diminishing stipend) is the ability to own land on the mainland. Since I can’t foresee a time when I’ll be that desperate it’s a moot point. I’ve bought lindens as needed previously and my credit card details have been verified.

    To the best of my knowledge most of the griefer tools (like cage guns) are freebies anyway so banning free accounts or restricting them to not have any uploads will not stop griefing, any more than passing laws and having a police force in RL will stop crime. I know it’s a pessimistic outlook but griefing can only be dealt with, it can’t be stopped.

    Copying of another’s work is bad enough. Giving it away as freebies to all and sundry like this little sh*thead did is just juvenile and malicious. I hope the little rodent gets the karma that’s due.

  13. When I was very new to SL, I saw one of Rebel Hope’s designs pictured in a blog. At the time, I prided myself on never paying for anything on SL.

    That outfit changed everything. I wanted to look as good as the model in that photo, to wear nice clothes like those. I figured out how to buy some Lindens and braved the intricacies of shopping at a large store. Later I fell in love with one of RH Engle’s gypsy caravans, and it became my first home when I moved to Steelhead.

    I was a member of the store group for nearly a year, until library business forced me to drop all shopping groups. It was more like a family than a shopping group — it was obvious that these people really care about their customers. The way they do business has become one of my mental models for how a SL business should be run.

    If businesses are to continue in SL, it’s obvious that something has to be done to make it safe to do business here. The present system of playing whack-a-mole with griefers certainly isn’t working.

  14. Your anger is understandable, but nobody here except Prokofy has offered anything that looks like a workable solution to the issue. Just raging at Linden Labs doesn’t fix anything; boycotting them may make them aware that people are really hurt and angry, but won’t magically give them a tool to fix the issue.

    The copybot issue is analogous to stealing images from a website. In order for your computer to show a picture, it must have the picture in memory. There is no way around this. You can make it a little tougher on them by asking the web browser to please not save the image to disk, but you can never take away their ability to simply take a screenshot of the image.

    Copybotters need to be sued and/or thrown in jail; they are thieves of peoples’ creativity and hard work. Rage is an appropriate emotion.

    However, please use it constructively; offer a solution. Brainstorm an anti-copybot system. Read up on the technical aspects of the issue and figure out what they’re up against.

    Sitting around and demanding that someone do something is a waste of time.

  15. @primperfect: One month into the game, I had payment info verified on my account–it was required for my first job in world. I have for three *years* now been payment verified. I have *had* a paid account, and under that account, I owned land and took funds off the grid (one-third of what I’d been paid, before the banking disaster wiped out the rest of the funds paid to me for that job). I needed income space (I had been released from my position RL at that time), so gave up my land and my premium account (but I kept renting, on the sim I was renting, and contributing funds to the game in the form of upload fees).

    “Most people agree now that you get a very small bang for your buck for being a Premium Member.”

    It all depends on when one joined, doesn’t it? And that’s another thing–if I go premium again (it’s a possibility, as my financial resources recoup), I *make* money, at least in Linden terms; my staying an “unpaid” account actually *saves* the Labs money by not paying me that stipend per week!

    I would be *fine* with a system wherein I had one account ‘name’ and verifiable information, and alts that tied directly *to* that account. I know many people want, and even need, the anonymity of alt accounts, but even so–I would be fine with tying my personal information (the Labs already have it, after all) to my account and the account of the shop alt, for instance. What I *strenuously* object to is the crippling of unpaid accounts–most of whom have full profile information, pictures, web pages, credit card info, tied to those accounts–because of a few alt-churners who never bother with pictures, profiles, or payment information!

  16. @Victor: I’ve been thinking along those lines, actually. I do not have the technical expertise, but I know people do, and I also know the Lindens’ average on stopping ills on the grid–why not come up with a true anti-Copybot client? Because, regardless of the inherent programming flaws of the Cryolife viewer, for instance, this egregious theft was accomplished sheerly with the Copybot program.

    There should be a better way to defeat Copybot than !quit notices everywhere. And SL residents have the technical know-how, or at least, *some* of them do, to develop it, advertise it, and put it out on the grid.

    *That* sounds like a closer constructive solution than urging the Labs to hobble unpaid accounts, or to finally *recognize* that there’s a larger problem, grid-wide, than they want to admit.

  17. You are never going to get enough people to buy into a boycott. Why do you all forget that the majority of people on the gird actually couldn’t care less about any of this, let alone are even aware of it. It’s just one group of people.

    No free accounts is a ridiculous notion. I am a free account, I am also a contributing content creator. I rent land, I am also a consumer, I have spent THOUSANDS in SL. I have zero need to be a paid account, I don’t want mainland, I hate it. It’s not free accounts that are the problem, the problem is the endless amount of free accounts one can create.

    ID verification is a far more viable means of prevention than abolishing free accounts.

  18. Linden Labs has a perfectly good client that doesn’t allow copying of content. It’s available at http://www.secondlife.com under the Downloads section.

    The problem is, without closing the protocol and making it invincible to reverse engineering (if they manage to do this latter part, they will get a Turing prize for computer science, which is roughly equivalent to a Nobel prize in other disciplines.)

    Closing the protocol kills Opensim, kills some of the research IBM and others have been doing with the grid, kills RestrictedLife, AjaxLife, and the Emerald clients. It doesn’t just make life hard for them, it completely destroys the projects, game over.

    I think you missed my point really that no amount of technical know-how will solve this problem. The best you can do is make it into an arms race, and kill all the open development of alternative clients in the process. You’d kill the contribution of open source bug patches which have closed quite a few problems in the viewer. You’d kill the ability for residents to really learn much about the technical guts of SL at all. Furthermore, you might have to move from the OpenGL graphics library, which is the weakpoint used by texture ripping programs, into more proprietary and less well-known libraries.

    You cannot prevent theft in SL any more than a radio station can prevent you from recording songs from their broadcast with a tape recorder.

    You can make it harder, as Prokofy’s suggestion would, but that will only make thieves and bored teenagers try harder. Restricting free accounts is a laughable solution; anonymous Visa gift cards are easily obtainable and not traceable to any person. Real credit card fraud is rampant. Paypal is difficult to trace. If I wanted revenge on someone and wanted to rip their entire sim to cause damage, I’d likely be willing to pay $9.99 to do it.

    My point is, the solution to this problem isn’t technology and never will be.

  19. You’re right, Victor, the solution will never be purely technology. It has to do with a social change – and the core of that is education.

    Forty years ago, no-one thought much about having a few drinks before you drove home. And when the breathalyzer was introduced, people in the UK were appalled on the restriction of liberty it represented – and the fact that it criminalised the innocent for ‘just a few drinks’.

    But, in the intervening period, a social change has happened. It’s not just the criminality of drink driving that has made it unacceptable, but a change in wocial attitudes to the problem. The person who drinks water because s/he is driving home is not mocked or encouraged to have ‘just a little one’.

    We need a similar change in social attitude with content theft. And it won’t be easy – but the core of it is education and information (which is at the heart of the Step Up! Day). And it won’t be easy, it won’t happen all at once. But it needs to happen. It needs to start now.

    Because, for one thing, when the attitude is hard against it, the thieves become exposed and easier to target.

  20. Saffia said, “Because, for one thing, when the attitude is hard against it, the thieves become exposed and easier to target.”

    And that is the thing, isn’t it? Attitude. Social mores. Peer pressure.

    When cultural acceptance about smoking changed, the number of smokers decreased & smoking in public places was banned.

    As long as it is culturally acceptable to text or feed the baby in the back seat as you drive, people will continue to do it & continue to collide with one another. Changing public opion is what’s necessary.

    And that’s true in our world here as well. As long as content theft is just a peripheral issue that ‘only content creators care about’, vermin will continue to steal & distribute their ill-gotten gains amongst their pals & the wider community.

    Let’s talk it up. Let’s step up & make a difference (See Prim Perfect’s new ning, http://step-up-sl.ning.com/ ).

    And on a smaller everyday scale, when you see stolen content, say so. Remark on it in your community. Boycott stores or sites or sims that carry stolen goods or offer them for free. Mention the names of the purveyours. Make sure people know who they are. Make negative noises & sounds of distaste. I’m not kidding.

    We’re primates. We respond to peer pressure. And if we see that our group & our community frown on such things, we’ll pile onto the wagon & frown & tsk-tsk ourselves & it will spread.

    It’s time the creators of our world were acknowledged for what they do & the destroyers were villified.

  21. Or you can all do what I did. Leave. Oh I stop in once in a while, but I got tired of all the carp and complaining and lack of response from LL. I miss some of the friends I made in SL, but only because they would not cross the threshold into RL.

    I got tired of all the promises LL makes and doesn’t keep.

    I got over the addiction to the silly place and left.

    Join me and make a statement. Visit once in a while, check out the pretty places, but stop creating, stop shopping and stop spending your money on it.

  22. Saffia, in my explanation to my customers about why La Galleria will be restricted to PIOF, I will include a link to your post.

    It is heartbreaking what happened to these creators.

  23. Spreaded the word as well. Got private emails saying that had to be done a long time ago… the mammoth’s moving very slow, even it’s a fire under his belly…
    So… Remember remember the 5th of November!

    As one that honor your creators hard work,

  24. http://raphaellanightfire.blogspot.com/2009/11/content-creators-in-sl-commence-action.html

    Web designers, content and games creators are ‘fair game’ for what is more and more appearing to be organised groups of content thieves who use virtual grids to rip off, copy and resell content created by others.

    This is not a ‘virtual crime’ it is a very real, real world based crime as some of those adults AND juveniles charged in real courts and have received all too real sentences have found when they have stolen from other virtual grids.

    Content creators are urged to raise awareness of the costs of this form of theft.

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