“The rotten Apple spoils his Companion.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
I am not a Plurk user. When I see Plurk refers in my blog stats I generally want to just crawl back to bed and wait until whatever they’re on about passes over. So when friends say “you have to read what’s going on in Plurk” I am rarely eager to do so.
Those of you that are like me probably missed this week’s scandal. In most cases that would be a good thing, but in this case, there are long reaching consequences linked to the controversies and squabbles. So much so that I’ve had to break them into two blog posts – this one (which addresses the incestuous relationships between some big name designers and event coordinators and the lack of consequences this creates) and one that I’m working on which addresses the ethical implications of gacha events like The Arcade.
First, let me recap what appears to have taken place.
- Isla Gealach of Cheeky Pea noticed that Apple Fall was putting out an iMac clone he called the iFall. Isla sent a private message to Apple Fall telling him to remove the item from sale / promotion or she would bring it to the attention of event coordinators, etc.
- Apple Fall responded on his Plurk with the usual class he exhibits in all his public dealings. His “you can’t touch me” response:
So, i’m fed up of your shit, your antics, your feeble attempts at trying to underhandedly attack me. And not just me, sweet heart (Yes, Isla Gealach, I’m talking to you),
- Isla Plurks that she has gotten an anonymous text threat from an unknown number in Australia. It reads: “gurl your secret is out. world wide. time to step down. karma is about to slay you.”
- Tegan Serin, owner of Floorplan, first Plurks that Isla has stolen fabric textures herself and has no room to go after Apple Fall. She then Plurks that she has gotten a text threat from Isla. It reads:
Amanda. I know about the arcade scripts. Thomas showed me and I have proof. I know your alt got all the rates only. Stop this witch hunt. Now. I know you use shit from etsy bc you showed me how. So stop. Before I tell everyone. So far I’ve told no one. Piss me off and see. Delete your plurk or I’ll put one out there of my own.
- Colleen Desmoulins, owner of The Loft, asks what is going on and in her (now hidden) Plurk; comedy and cat-fights ensue. Jezibell Thorne (co-owner of C88 and Apple Fall’s public relations / customer service partner) ignored Apple’s infractions and went after Isla. Voshie Paine (Enchantment) hilariously tried to assert some moral authority and Octagons “Pizza” Yazimoto (The Arcade) spent time trying to kill any notion of wrongdoing by The Arcade. The usual fanboi types rah-rahed their two cents. Isla Gealach was accused of copyright violation on some of the fabrics of her pieces as if that negates everything else under discussion. The group also demanded Isla provide “proof” of the Arcade script accusation, even though it was Tegan that made that public.
Stop laughing. This is so what happened.
Most of this is now hidden behind public Plurk streams turned private — because once their income is threatened and their high school behavior is revealed, suddenly all these brave kids with their “bring it” attitudes just want everything to go away. But the damage, in this case, lingers and raises some big questions for consumers regarding the ethics and behavior of the big name event organizers and the way trademark and copyright infringement is often ignored when it involves popular designers.
Popularity + Copyright / Trademark Violation = No Problem!
Apple Fall is unrepentant about his copyright and trademark infringement. This is not surprising since the Apple Fall store shows that he has no problems infringing upon the intellectual property of Hasbro/Mattel, Vogue, and Burberry (those are just the ones that are obvious at a glance). There is no indication he intends to refrain from selling his “iFall.” And why should he? He’s got the co-owner of C88 as his business buddy, so why should rules even apply to him?
This is not the first time one of the big players has demonstrated flagrant disregard for copyright/trademark. It is not the first time that it will be completely ignored by organizers. The truth is that designers and event organizers have little reason to care at all. Items that remind ignorant consumers of their favorite things are good sellers. And, in the unlikely event the items are reported to the larger companies and the larger companies act to have the items removed by Linden Lab, it’s the consumer who is punished, not the event staff or designer. The consumer loses money and merchandise without reimbursement. In fact, other than a three day ban (with their stores still able to collect sales) designers of infringing content rarely get any flack.
Many people, even surprisingly big design names, have been skating the rules their entire SL existences. When caught they disappear for a few months, then rebrand with their buddies and contacts intact. Because stealing is easy and creativity is hard.
Why isn’t there a bigger demand for ethics and transparency on behalf of organizers? Why aren’t designers removed from future event rounds when their intellectual thefts are discovered? Why aren’t they at least suspended from participation for a few rounds? Why don’t events demonstrate even a hint of interest in protecting their consumers?
Event Coordination Rule
$1 #1: Stick With Your Buddy!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to identify the relationships that exist between most of the promoters and owners behind the bigger events. The Arcade clearly focuses on harvesting the popular designers from C88 particularly. C88′s co-owner is partners with Apple Fall. The Liaison Collaborative just announced their events will be moving to the Apple Fall SIM. These are just things that can be pointed to within the current controversy.
SL is a smaller pool than it used to be; the players have concentrated. It’s understandable that there will be crossover. But this isn’t crossover; this is lockstep. And when so many of the coordinators are using events to promote their own brands or shadow brands, then where is there any consideration for the consumer?
This is where we are in SL mainstream fashion and design. This is where event culture has led us. No one cares when popular designers break rules. No one seems to mind that a very small pool of people are controlling the biggest events.
I give credit where credit is due. The networking and promotion efforts by this entwined little clique is impressive. Most creative types don’t possess promotion skills, so there’s enormous value in promotion. But when that promotion has no ethical obligations and does not create inroads for new talent, then consumers lose.
There are a handful of brands and designers (Zaara, Wasabi Pills, Kriss Lehmann, Cory Edo, Barnesworth Annubis) that often participate in these events that I consider to be among the best offerings in SL, if not the best. Their reputations are hard-won and enough to make someone like me go to events that I otherwise find tedious and objectionable. It honestly saddens me to see these designers and brands alongside someone like Apple Fall.
I’m often accused of being an elitist snob, and it’s a fair accusation. I loathe the mediocrity that gets over-promoted in SL and I can’t stand the fact that so many events are about promoting friends as opposed to showcasing the best in what SL has to offer. But this is entirely different. Quality has nothing to do with it. You can create the best forgery in the world, but it’s still a forgery and you’re still a forger.
Copyright and Trademark violation is committed in an effort to gain from someone else’s work. If you think “well, Scrabble won’t miss the income” ask yourself why a creative person capable of making anything they want puts someone else’s brand on one of their own creations. Why go to all the work of creating it in the first place? Then ask what other ethical shortcuts such a person might be making.
When such a person is so closely entwined with the movers and shakers and promoters, who is there to hold them accountable for their actions?
Do the responsible and ethical creators of SL who work hard to build their brands really want to participate alongside this person?
Are those of us who love SL fashion and design really so eager to buy, buy, buy that we’re going to keep turning a blind eye to these incidents?