August 18th, 2011

broken egg

No, you CAN'T use that famous logo!

IP rights. We hear a lot about them in virtual worlds, most of the time concerning protection of items that virtual world creators make.

What you DON'T hear a lot about is the use of logos, sayings, music, textures, and other materials available on the Internet.

Just because you can copy it, does not mean it is not copyrighted.

Pretty much anything you recognize as a name brand has every bit of their material copyrighted. That means it is illegal for you to use their slogans, icons, logos, etc. in your creations. No, they won't give you permission, either.

Music bands have their logos and artwork copyrighted, as well as their music. Again, you cannot use their stuff in your creations.

Museum sites which display artwork on their websites have copyrighted the photos and other materials. You cannot use them in your creations.

Most scrapbooking sites will not allow you to use their materials, purchased or otherwise, in virtual world creations. Check the site's copyright, EULA, or IP rights information.

Some photographic sites will allow you to use their materials in your creations - but will NOT allow you to sell their work as textures or artwork in virtual worlds. Again, check the information on the website.

Famous paintings cannot be used. User-generated art may be used, depending on their copyright provisions. Always check before use.

If you want to use a person's photo off Flickr or another site - always ask for permission before using. Same goes for photos in blogs and other such sites.

If you self-generate something anywhere on the Internet - as in, from scratch - it becomes copyrighted from the day you publish it.

You may think you won't get caught, but that right there is a fallacy. Not only is it possible that the copyright owner could file a DMCA against you - those who are hosting you and your creations may "catch" you and demand you stop selling the items.

A grid has to stay neutral until approached by a copyright holder. Their staff may in fact recognize the illegal use of something, but by law, they have to wait for a DMCA takedown notice to be filed.

Landowners within a grid do not have to remain neutral, and here is where some good can be done. If you rent or sell land to businesses, take the time to "walk your sims" now and then (and if your holdings are too large, have your estate managers do it). Make it clear that you will not tolerate the misuse of materials copyrighted by others. Take action, should you find someone who is clearly violating someone else's copyright - even if the other person is represented on the greater Internet, rather than on your grid.

You might even go so far as to attempt to educate others, though common sense would tell most people that "recognized entities" such as a band, brand name, or otherwise, will not allow you to legally use their stuff.

Sorry, you can't justify the use by "but we're giving them free advertising". I'm sure if they wanted to advertise on a grid, they'd have a presence there, and be doing it themselves.

It's simply not right to try to profit, in any way, shape, or form, off another's copyrighted work.


Randomness of a sadder note

I must admit I'm feeling a little down about the direction the two virtual worlds I inhabit are taking - Second Life and Inworldz.

Some of that has to do with the late summer "slump", where club attendance is down, and so are many sales.

The thing that is really getting me down the most, however, is what I see of people abandoning all appearance of common courtesy.

Today, on SL, I had to ban some guy from our private parcel. He wasn't on the ground - that's an easy mistake to make. No, he found his way to our skybox which is thousands of meters in the air. WTF was he doing up there in our home? What ever possessed him to enter it in the first place?

WTF possesses anyone to invade someone's home, whether it be on the ground or way up in the air? Would they do that in real life? What makes them think it's ok in virtual life?

Even when I'm on a sim where I've been told that "everything on the ground is free to explore", I won't go into a person's home. If I stray into a building that doesn't appear to be a home, and I find it is, I leave quickly. If I follow a landmark expecting a store, and I turn up on someone's residence, I leave quickly.


A lot of people scream and holler about protection of their IP rights - and just how many of them are trampling the copyrights of others? Not very long ago I kicked and banned a merchant from one of my Inworldz rental sims because he was flagrantly and blatantly selling copyrighted art images and items containing trademarked names and logos. Now just how much thought does it take to realize that it's just as wrong for them to be using that stuff as it would be for another virtual world merchant to use theirs without permission? Why are some people so determined to make money in virtual worlds that they'll deliberately trample all over the established copyrights of well-known brands and names to do it? Quite frankly, the practice makes my stomach turn, especially after having skewed visions of what IP rights really ARE shoved down my throat all these years.

It's very rude and very inconsiderate, and I'm sorry, but when I see someone doing that, I can't help but think they're being more than a little greedy, trying to capitalize on someone else's fame and fortune.

Misuse of copyrighted items from the Internet is no different than if you tried to do it with a fellow merchant's materials inworld.

I eschew the purchase of textures from most texture merchants, simply because I've cruised web images enough to know that a goodly share of them are stealing images right off the Internet without any regard for the copyright protecting them. They either don't realize - or just don't care - that an edited version of a copyrighted work is still copyrighted by the first creator. Just because you changed a pixel here and there does not make it your own.

I've seen "famous" texture artists from SL do what I just described - snagging images off the Internet, changing them, then selling them as their own. One site in particular is a BIG victim of this despite it saying in its Terms of Service that the photos are NOT to be sold as textures, original OR edited. Now, if these texture artists have gotten some notoriety, you would think they would be up on the latest and greatest about copyrights - and some of them claim they are, and yet, they think nothing of trampling the copyright of another artist just to make some funny money.

How sick is that? What makes it worse is when they try to restrict how their purloined textures are used - when they really don't own them. What makes it incredibly sad is that they are charging for them at all, and in some cases, healthy amounts.

My better half claims that by writing posts like these and speaking out for the respect of IP rights everywhere, that I'm alienating people. I'm not the only one speaking up and I know plenty of you 'out there' feel the same way I do. Keep speaking up, because the discussion on virtual IP rights is far from over.


The Nym Wars and the inconsiderate treatment of whole classes of people who either choose, or need to, use a pseudonym on social networking sites.

Call tinfoil-hattery on me, but I'm beginning to believe that the whole reason Google is insisting on wallet names has to do more with where this country is headed than it is any sort of advertising profit. There's a bill in Congress (no idea if it passed or failed yet) that wants to force people to self-identify. Some of the Google schmucks have made statements like "there are so many asynchronous threats out there that they will HAVE to know who everyone is" (loosely paraphrased). The NSA has been tracking people online for a long, long time, and I think Google just exposed the NSA's latest secret project: A complete, online database of everyone's RL identity. It sure as hell looks like Google is angling for the job.

More tinfoil-hattery: Maybe they're not "just another company" after all...