The Stolen Village – and other copyright infringement problems

The Stolen Village Poster
The Stolen Village Poster

An important exhibition is opening today, on the lovely sim of Verdigris.

Normally, that in itself would be recommendation – this is an enchanting place which has featured on the opening screen of Second Life – a lovely re-creation of a medieval village with a great bridge reaching out towards … nowhere.  For many people, it’s iconic of Second Life.

Now, however, the whole amazing creation has been stolen – that is replicated and rebuilt on another sim.  Oriolus Oliva, owner of Verdigris, says:

A comparison of the original and the copy
A comparison of the original and the copy

Let me tell you a few words about this exhibition. In Second Life (not too far away) there is a sim: IsolaCheNonCe. When you visit that place, you may find it very familiar – if you know our old Vintage Village here, at Verdigris – the ever-changing world of its creator, Oriolus Oliva.

But the other sim, IsolaCheNonCe is a bit different. That place is only a copybotted replica of Verdigris. Yes, the whole sim(!). Dozens of buildings… Hundreds of objects and 1000’s of prims. Every single item is stolen from us and from other great creators such as Jenne Dibou of the Forgotten City …

Our purpose with this exhibition is raising the awarness of Linden Labs and the community of the content creators of SL:  the content theft has enormously increased and we must protect our intellectual property in every possible way. The law is by our side – but our sharpest weapon in this fight is the publicity. And we will use it, without mercy.

The exhibition details the copied objects – it is possible to trace how individual prims have been duplicated in detail.  It’s a fascinating – and horrific – glimpse into the way in which copybotting replicates the stolen object.

Stolen Verdigris (as I found it this morning)
Stolen Verdigris (as I found it this morning)

Linden Lab have now begun the painstaking job of removing the stolen prims so if you visit, you may find most of them gone.  I took this picture this morning – and was then joined by the person whose name was on the copybotted prims – ucika Aichi – who promptly started deleting them. The sim is here – you may come in on the platform and need to tp down – although I suspect there will be precious little left to see.

But the exhibition remains open – you really should pay a visit.

However, although this infringement is now being removed, I am hearing of an associated – and worrying – problem.

You know, I don’t want to keep complaining about Linden Lab.  I like a lot of what the Lab is currently doing – although I have pointed out areas for improvement: support and Second Names for Second Lives!  But on the whole, things have been running rather well recently and – as soon as I find a viewer that seems stable enough to cope with mesh without posting Dire Warnings for any rash enough to try it, then I’ll take a look at that too.

Copybotted gaslamp from Verdigris - click to see magnified version
Copybotted gaslamp from Verdigris) original created by Oriolus Oliva) - click to see magnified version

But when I hear the same problem in the space of two days from four very different people, I am a little concerned.

Each has discovered material that has infringed their intellectual property rights.  For those of you who may be new to all this, let me explain – what this means is that they have discovered their own material being sold under another’s name, or richly detailed builds (like Verdigris) having been taken wholsesale and replicated (copybotted) without permission of the copyright holders, and certainly without payment.

The correct process in such circumstances, as laid down by Linden Lab, is to file what is called a DMCA.  It is definitely not a perfect tool – it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Designed for the big boys of the media industry to take action against copyright infringements, it is cumbersome for acting in the case of the smaller activities of Second Life where the payments are, essentially, micro-transactions by and large.  But … it’s the best we have.  When a DMCA is filed, the Lab is meant to take down the infringing material and then give the accused chance to respond. If they challenge the DMCA, the content is replaced pending legal action by the accuser.

DMCAs are not easy to file.  They are legal doicuments and it is important to get them right – if you don’t, the Lab is not obliged to take action.  Groups like the Content Creators Association help by supplying information packs, and will also assist members who need to file DMCAs – this is a very important service where the filer may not be a native English speaker (and is generally in a state of shock at seeing their good effectively stolen, no matter what their native language).

DMCAs are also open to abuse.  They can be maliciously filed – although this is rarer than you might think; creators need to prove they have the prior design date which is usually possible to do – most copybotters are more interested in grab and sell rather than elaborate fraud.  But they can be overturned on appeal and generally many creators can’t afford the time and energy to take offenders to court.

What creators do expect – and need – is for the Lab to uphold its end of the bargain, and to act on DMCAs.  But recently, there seems to be longer and longer delays in having the Lab act – and this is very worrying.

LagNMoor
LagNMoor

This is not entirely new – Maxwell Graf closed his sim LagNMoor when he lost patience with the Lab’s failure to act on repeated DMCA notices; they seemed to clear material they found on a platform without checking the ground level, where the bulk of the infringements were, and took mo action against the copybotter.

Copybotted clock found at the Stolen Village (original created by Jenne Dibou)
Copybotted clock found at the Stolen Village (original created by Jenne Dibou) - click to see magnified version

One recent complaint (and the complainer, known to me, chooses to remain anonymous because of what they feel is a threat made against them) is that the Lab, even given the UUIDs of the objects, declared that they could not find them in the inventory of the person accused of copybotting, and there was no further way they could trace them – that the complainant would have to supply a region name and co-ordinates, or the name of the Resident whose inventory now held the content.  So the game of whack-a-mole that creators have to play when reporting infringing opyright just went several degrees more surreal.  Now the creator must discover not only the name of the copybotter, but also whatever alt the thief is using to sell the copybotted goods … and discover where on the grid they are located.

It’s a shame that the Pathway (as I think it was called) for protecting creator’s rights was abandoned.  It was not perfect, but there were some good solid ideas there which could have been developed.  But that’s over two years old now and, like many other good ideas, was seemingly abandoned. I’d love to see it revived – or, even better, the whole issue freshly examined and solutions found.

Let’s hope that we could, one day, see an end to stolen villages!

The Real Verdigris
The Real Verdigris

Images for this post by Saffia Widdershins and Oriolus Oliva

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11 comments

  1. Great article, thank you for your support, Saffia!
    Good news: the copybotted sim is now free of stolen content. After the start of the removal by LL, the thief has quickly deleted the rest. BTW, it is hard to understand, how can he log in and act freely after this…

  2. I am sad hearing when this happens, and also pissed that LL does not have a better stragegy in order to combat this. I get sick of hearing LL tout their viewers or introducing mesh to the grid, when more pressing problems are out there. It’s like they are fixing the windows of a house to make it pretty, but ignoring the fact that the foundation of the house is crumbling.

  3. it is sad to see this happen, but worse that the thief is allowed to move on to his next target. It still surprises me (maybe it shouldn’t) that even after high profile closures like LagNMoor, the Lab still seems to treat these cases lightly. The loss of business should light a fire under them.

  4. What an interesting discussion for students vis a vis intellectual property, Creative Commons, and plain old ethics!
    Thank you for this amazing article by the dear & esteemed Miss Widdershins and I’m so glad that it has been (temporarily) resolved. I’ve had an avid eye on the Copernicus tower for my land in New Babbage- just must make sure no one else has it…
    Cheers!
    ~Gwyneth Jones – The Daring Librarian
    aka Capt. Red Llewellyn of New Babbage, SL

  5. It is really a very good article and exhibition i linked. I didn’t know about CCA and i applied to join. Many thanks !

  6. As a creator and artist myself..your article sent shivers down my spine..thinking someone could copy so easiily and only get a slap on the wrist. i hope they come up with a salution near in the future to treat these theives as the criminals they are. And btw..your sim still looks alot better…hard to repeat a masterpiece.

  7. These are photos of some Italian lands who have stolen stuff using copybot.
    Owners say they know nothing, but we see fine that the objects are created from them.

    ALCUNI OGGETTI COPIATI DAGLI OWNER DI VALINOR ED I LORO ALT

    Posted by Valinor Bottaroli on Thursday, February 2, 2012

    come dice una persona saggia "copybot is a cancer…"

    Posted by Demetrio Demetrii on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Posted by Valinor Bottaroli on Sunday, February 12, 2012

  8. Pingback: Copybot et DMCA |

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