Free Advice For Event Coordinators

Dear Event Coordinators,

You and I do not like each other. It’s not personal. You are simply advocating and maintaining a practice that I find creatively lazy as well as unnecessary and damaging to the SL community and its commerce. That aside, some of my friends are event coordinators and I’ve even had one or two of them in my virtual house. My feelings on location based events aside, there is an issue that needs to be on the radar of your management agenda: content theft.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that several high-profile cases have damaged the cause and reputations of many recent events. There is no way to police the grid. There is no 100% fair way to deal with any of this. But you can no longer pretend that “this is a case for Linden Lab” will cover it. Happily there is a two-part plan that you can put in place to both strengthen the integrity of your event and protect yourself against unnecessary drama.

Step One: Clause in Sign-Up Agreement

Your first step is to include a clause in your event sign-up agreement that is more than the standard useless “no copyright violation allowed.” You need something that conveys authority and provides insight into consequences. Something like:

[EVENT] will not tolerate incidents of copyright infringement. We understand that inspiration is drawn from many sources and that Second Life brings together individuals from different nationalities. As such, copyright can be confusing, even for those who pay close attention. Our best advice is to avoid any product that reproduces or is “inspired by” an item protected by copyright. Avoid use of any logos or reference to copyrighted materials in your event offerings. Should one of your items be brought to our attention for copyright concerns, we will err on the side of caution and remove the items. This is not done to punish or pass judgement, but to remove even the possibility of impropriety. In the case of returned materials no guilt is assumed and no insult intended. By agreeing to partake in this event you understand the handling of this issue is at the sole discretion of event management and that any potential removal is merely a precaution and not an accusation or judgement of guilt. You agree not to take any action against the event, event sponsors, or event management based on such removals. Following removals, reimbursement of donations and rental fees will be considered on an individual basis, but are not guaranteed.

I am not a lawyer. If you are worried about legal ramifications, I’d have a real lawyer glance at this, but odds are if they’re unethical enough to be stealing they’re not going to have the resources to do anything about being called on it, especially when there’s nothing to gain.

Step One Two: Established Protocols

Your next step is to have established event protocols for dealing with items reportedly dealing with copyright infringement.

1. Set minimum criteria for addressing copyright infringement. For example, if a person reports a possible infringement and provides links to supporting documentation, and/or five or more people report on a single store or item, action will be taken. Without links to supporting documentation or multiple reported incidents, merely keep the issue under review.

2. Respond to those reporting consistently. Have copy/paste response ready for event management to provide to avoid inciting frustrations.

Thank you for letting us know about this potential concern. We have a policy of reviewing each reported issue to discern validity that can take several hours to coordinate between event staff. This issue will not be ignored, but please be aware that many Second Life content creators use similar tools and may even purchase full-permissions items from the same vendors. Similarity in and of itself is not necessarily a sign that anything is out of place. Obviously, if something is questionable we will address it with the seller, but event staff and participants are often in different countries and time zones. Reviewing this will take time. Please be patient, enjoy the event and thank you for taking the time to help us maintain the integrity of [EVENT].

3. Set minimum criteria for establishing removal. Overwhelming community uproar, obvious cases of similarity with real-world copyright, etc should be enough to qualify. In the case of SL creators vs other SL creators you can defer to Linden Lab protocol since both parties are aware and have recourse, or you can made a judgement call on removal. Remember removal is not an implication of guilt, merely a decision that even the threat of scandal on this topic is enough to damage the event and therefore will not be tolerated. If one or more of the offending parties are event sponsors, further action may be needed.

4. Have a review and removal protocol in place.

A. Upon receiving a credible complaint, vendors and items can be set to 100% transparent. This will remove them from view without doing any damage so owners can be notified and event coordinators can review the situation. Address owners, even those blatantly offending, with polite calm and always keep focus on doing what is best for the event. Avoid language or behavior that implicates guilt; this is not just to cover your ass, but to also demonstrate humility. There is little chance of proving anyone 100% in the wrong, being aware of that and maintaining the narrative that you are working together for a greater cause will avoid fanning persecution complexes. “I understand this imposes a hardship upon you and it may be disappointing not to be able to share this work with the event community, but we’d like to ask that you remove these items and replace them with other merchandise at this time. Thank you for helping us to keep focus on the positive aspects of what we’re accomplishing at [EVENT].”

B. After a fair review period, if the issue raises enough concern, the items should be returned. It’s only fair that owners should be offered the opportunity to replace items with something else, but repeated violations under a single store name should be met with asking the owners to remove themselves voluntarily for the good of the event.

5. Have your event staff keep their opinions to themselves. If you’re going to have a “no discussion of copyright infringement” policy then keep it. Highlight the fact that there are protocols in place and things are being addressed in as fair a way as possible. Avoid supporting or accusing anyone. Be as respectful of dissent as possible and change the topic with authority and purpose. Be aware that maintaining a double standard on this can turn community support against you. It’s also unethical. You’re never going to be able to please everyone, but playing the martyr card also isn’t going to help.

I understand it’s a hassle and not fun to deal with copyright infringement, but as community and blogger awareness of this issue grows, it’s not going to be something that is quietly ignored anymore. Having protocols in place assures that you and your staff will not be ambushed by this topic and that your event will not be overshadowed by negative publicity. It may even have the positive effect of inspiring designers toward more creative and less derivative works as well as discouraging lazy copycats from participating when they see there’s no profit in it.


Salome Strangelove

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  1. Posted May 29, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

    Hey, wait a second – there are two Step Ones.. that’s a trick, right?

  2. Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    Yes. It’s totally a trick. You don’t need to proofread. This isn’t the typo you’re looking for.

  3. Miles Coltrane
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    “Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.”

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