“Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.” ~ C. E. Stowe
There are some gray areas in copyright, especially as we navigate from physical to virtual goods in an ever-growing landscape that merges the two. The law, at least here in the US, hasn’t kept up and is still largely held hostage by media companies. The result is a populace that has little respect for copyright in the smaller areas, like our virtual playground of SL. We roll our eyes at the letter of the law because, while most of us accept it to be legal, we don’t accept it to be fair. So, when a BSG RP SIM gets wiped out because Universal was all pissy with them, it feels unfair. You can search the marketplace any day of the week and find a thousand items that violate copyright in a manner that most of us would shrug off.
There is also the fact that like Hannibal Lector teaches about the nature of coveting, creators are often inspired by what we see every day. My friend, Sax Shepherd, is an artist and illustrator with over fifty years of experience who has only recently gotten the 3D modeling bug. Illustrators, especially from his walk of life, use reference for most of their craft. They don’t pull a girl out of their imagination; they use real models wearing real things, sitting on real sofas. Watch any documentary about Disney or Pixar artists and you’ll be treated to glimpses into the creative process that includes field trips and models. But of course, you can’t copyright nature and with very few exceptions, you can’t copyright the human body, or ancient buildings.
So, when Sax made a replica of Xaro Xhoan Daxos key amulet from Game of Thrones Season Two, my first response was “that is so cool!”
His original intention was to give the necklace away as part of the hunt at Fantasy Fair. However, when he filled out the application for Fantasy Fair, it specifically said that no copyright-infringing items were allowed at Fantasy Fair. The more I talked to him about it, the more we decided that as cool as I felt the item was, it walked that gray area of copyright, and it wasn’t worth putting a blemish on an RFL event. Both Sax and I, having worked with charities IRL, understand that when you do something associated with a charity, you always err on the side of caution and integrity.
He made a new amulet and that is his official contribution to the Fantasy Fair Key of Hope Hunt.
I could write an entire post on nothing but the complications of copyright between fashion and jewelry and what the entertainment industries have been able to do to copyright law and the US Constitution. I could write another one about how working with or for a charity obligates people to behave with a higher standard. And I am so tired about writing on how so much of Second Life fails to meet minimum standards of integrity. It’s depressing. But it’s real.
Because I was helping Sax with Fantasy Fair (despite my dislike of location-based events, I help friends when they ask) I got to slip in a day before it started and visit the stores and builds. I visited every single shop that was set up, which was most of them. A handful of big names, like Wasabi Pills weren’t set up until the last minute, but for the most part I was able to walk all the builds in a nice, no-laggy couple of hours. I ignored those big wall o’ vendor stores who feel like they have to include their entire inventory Bare Rose style into the fair, but I have to say I didn’t see any blatant copyright infringing content, except at one store.
When I entered Flecha on the Lotus Valley Dream Sim I was shocked at the gall on display. Not only were there Skyrim weapons for sale, but two of the vendors boldly declared they were selling Game of Thrones branded items with the official GOT logo on them (the actual logo, ffs). I only knew the name Flecha because I had purchased an item from them when building previously. They had seemed harmless enough, but what I saw at the Fantasy Fair pissed me off. It’s one thing to be so blatant at your own store (and I have no desire to try and police the grid); it’s another thing to drag obviously ripped content to a charity event.
I immediately contacted a mod from Fantasy Fair and continued my exploration. I assumed that since the application for Fantasy Fair had included a no tolerance statement regarding copyright infringement, that was all I needed to do. However, a few hours later when I was done exploring and came back to check, not only was the content still there, the door still open, but a blogger with advance day access to the event was purchasing Skyrim ripped weapons. I IMed her and explained what she was purchasing and her response was basically “Oh well, I’ll just retexture them a little myself.”
There is not enough facepalm in the world.
So I contacted another official from Fantasy Fair. I don’t want to paste names because I really do understand that, regardless of my personal feelings about these events, the people who organize RFL genuinely seem to want to raise money for charity. Yes, there is a lot of ridiculous ego games tangled up in that, but whatever. Here is the conversation I had with the second RFL official:
[02:58] Salome Strangelove: Hi. I have an icky issue I told YYY about earlier. There’s a store here selling very blatantly content from skyrim, but the store is still open.
[02:58] Salome Strangelove: I’m not sure if he didn’t know what to do or what the deal is. Can you advise who I should contact?
[03:07] XXX: Ah, yes. YYY talked to me about it and showed me the pictures online of the content from the game. I agree that there are serious concerns there. I have to get in touch with the owner myself before we open. Its a slippery slope to be sure. We ignore it and we’re vulnerable. We remove the items and we’re vulnerable too. lacking any investigative mechanisms, any actions on our part could constitute libel. My plan is to ask that he remove the RFL vendor he has out with the sword in it. That way, at least there is no argument to be made that RFL is in anyway benefiting from sale of the item.
[03:08] Salome Strangelove: They’re selling the items full perm at the RFL event. I don’t see anyway that doesn’t cause problems.
[03:11] XXX: Its not that it isn’t potentially a problem.
[03:15] XXX: And maybe I should just kick him out. According to 6 people in the last 5 hours everything in the shop is in one way or another questionable. So am I to spend the next 9 days investigating these claims? Or do I boot him out without any kind of due process? That could make me personally liable for slander, because punitive action is an assessment of guilt and again, we have no means to asses that at all. None of which is to say that we should take no action at all, but rather to say that I am taking my time in dealing with it because no matter what we do there will be a price to pay.
[03:16] Salome Strangelove: RFL is a private event. You are not responsible unless you go around calling him names.
[03:18] Salome Strangelove: You can easily say something like “It has come to our attention that there is an unavoidable similarity between many of your items and those featured in content from other games. In order to avoid any controversy that may reflect on RFL we are returning your items and your donation. We invite you to join an event in the future without the items in question. Thank you.”
[03:20] Salome Strangelove: I don’t like being this person. I’d rather not have seen it. And I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to deal with, but the submission rules for RFL include warning about copyright content, etc. Either that means something or it doesn’t.
[03:21] Salome Strangelove: This isn’t someone who was inspired by something they saw in a film or a magazine, these are obviously the game textures
[03:22] Salome Strangelove: I don’t want to harass you all night. I know you’ve all worked hard and you want to enjoy the opening. So I’ll leave this here.
[03:22] Salome Strangelove: But I think it would be disappointing to allow this person to sell obviously stolen wares at an event that is not only for RFL, but a key event showcasing original creators in SL. Have a good night.
[03:23] XXX: I never said we were not going to act. I just wanted to explain why we have not acted yet.
(The above has been edited for brevity and to remove anything that might be inappropriate outside of a private conversation. I also corrected our mutual spelling errors. It was late.)
I left the issue there. In part because I’m tired of issues like this. I’m tired of feeling like I have to educate people about their misconceptions. I’m tired of the ridiculous threats from anonymous sources, the cowardice of people who know better but don’t dare say so, and the ineffective tools we have to use our common sense and hold people accountable when they do things that go outside of any gray area into the realm of “obviously this is a fucking problem.” I can blame Linden Lab all day, and I do, to some extent, but the fact is that we, the residents of SL, have created an environment that enables situations like this.
I kind of understand why. When I blogged and communicated about the Gala Phoenix issue, I dealt with the lowest of the low of the Second Life “community.” And frankly, I just don’t want to deal with that particular flavor of pathetic anymore. I kept doing it because I knew that no matter how tired I was of the issue or how frustrated I was with the nastiness directed at me, it wasn’t a teaspoon full of what Gala was facing. Backing down or going silent because someone on the interwebs called me a bad name or threatened me seemed like a poor excuse when someone else was suffering the loss of their income, the theft of their personal art, and the judgement of those people in the SL sphere who feel they always have the right to co-opt the tragedy of others for their own entertainment.
So, yes, maybe it was cowardice, but I didn’t want to suit up for another round of listening to a bunch of idiots claim we have to pretend there isn’t a problem unless a court of law says so. I was just going to let it go. Then I logged onto SL the other night and the Fantasy Fair group chat popped onto my screen with the following:
[2013/04/25 03:13] XYZ: I think people need to realise that SL is a reflection of much out of world – there are MANY brands, shows and games that we pay homage to in this world. Please don’t let the words of only one person spoil how you see SL. We are a family and as such stand together. XXX has made excellent points and I hope that the individuals out there who complain might take a moment to consider them carefully before making more unfounded accusations.
[2013/04/25 03:13] ABC: I’m not disagreeing. But when they look almost identical it gets hard to draw the line between what’s ripped and what isn’t. That’s all I’m saying. Its an honest mistake that should be sorted out between two people rather than causing drama during a good cause. She shouldn’t have said what she said without giving Flecha a fair chance to stand up for themselves.
This made my blood boil. The XYZ above isn’t just some random person, it’s someone officially linked to RFL Fantasy Fair. So basically in an open group chat, we have an official of Fantasy Fair calling the accusations “unfounded” and a toady following up saying how Flecha didn’t get a fair chance to stand up for themselves. The “She” they are referring to is the Blogging Elf who posted a really mild blog post of the issue. Of course, because people who take things that don’t belong to them are shameless by their very nature, Flecha Warwillow and all his/her apologists came tramping in.
I just couldn’t let it pass.
[2013/04/25 03:15] Salome Strangelove: The Fletcha stuff was obviously taken from Skyrim. There was no gray area.
[2013/04/25 03:15] Salome Strangelove: If they came by it by accident, it should still not be at the fair.
[2013/04/25 03:15] XYZ: Please don’t use this forum for accusations
[2013/04/25 03:16] AAA: Salome, NO
[2013/04/25 03:17] BBB: OKAY… I think we have beaten this discussion, please this is not what backstage is for
[2013/04/25 03:18] XYZ: MANY people use games, movies, etc for inspiration – you can NOT be sure of the source of someone’s builds so it is NOT our, nor your, role to make such accusations. If anyone has any concerns with anything take them through the normal SL channels. We sent out a notecard to the group a few days ago in relation to this – please re-read it and this will be the end of the discussion in this group.
[2013/04/25 03:18] AAA: he uses a picture, to make the sculpt and the texture, a picture, he doesnt steal nothing. the idea comes from Skyrim? Yes, but is not stolen.. Is the thing i explained before, i can make an outfit inspired in WOW and look exaclty (i couldnt even if i wanted cause im not so good) But that doesnt mean is ripped. And well my last word. But is really easy to make some picts and say “Ohh this is a shit, oh this is ripped” and yes, the easier thing is to make some pictures and say some things in a blog..the difficult thing is creating here. My last word and opinion,
[2013/04/25 03:20] XYZ: Please read the attached notecard and feel free to pass it on as necessary.
[2013/04/25 03:21] Salome Strangelove: If you’re going to order someone to stop talking about a topic, then you should stop all conversation.
[2013/04/25 03:22] XYZ: Conversation is now stopped. Please discuss other things … like ummm CHOCOLATE!
[2013/04/25 03:22] BBB: I want chocolate!!!
[2013/04/25 03:22] XYZ: What are your favourite brands of chocolates?
[2013/04/25 03:22] CCC: perks chocolate!!!
I have no idea how long this conversation went on before I logged in. Remember, XYZ is an official from the RLF Fantasy Fair. It was okay for them to DEFEND Flecha and talk about how inappropriate the Blogging Elf was in group chat. But when they’re presented with the opposing viewpoint, the “no discussing this topic” line is slammed down. And then it’s all “la la la, what about chocolate.”
The Blogging Elf is the person using words to spoil people’s SL. Going against the “family.” The Blogging Elf “shouldn’t have said what she said” on her own blog. That was the conversation that was going on when I logged in. But speaking the obvious truth about Flecha’s behavior was out of bounds.
So, here are the images I took of the Skyrim content IN THE FLECHA FANTASY FAIR STORE (which has been removed):
There were plenty more, but those were the only ones I photographed personally.
Flecha maintains that they simply re-created the items meticulously. Because, apparently, the fact that we can’t do anything about this sort of thing means we all have to pretend to be stupid. Oh, did I mention that Flecha removed a How-To video from their YouTube that showed a folder on their desktop called “Copybot” and the “Incognito” program (Incognito is a viewer used to rip content)?
Flecha’s side of the story has been pretty well dismantled by Ryker Beck and Damien Fate in the Blogging Elf comments section. The Blogging Elf also offered an apology which I have sympathy for. I’m sure it’s hard to feel like you’re betraying the SL “family” and bad mouthing cancer patients when that’s what people throw at you.
None of this is something that we can use to remove Flecha from the grid, or take legal action against them. Those are very real limitations with their own due process for good reason. But it should have been more than enough to make it clear they had no business at an RFL charity event where just the semblance of impropriety should have dictated their removal.
So far, all of this is regarding things that have been taken from outside sources. (BTW, while the Skyrim weapons have been removed from Fantasy Fair, the Game of Thrones items which have the GOT logo are still there. Because…why?)
Most people will just ignore things like this that come from outside SL. But people with no shame who take the work of others don’t draw the same lines we do. Knowing this, my friend Vivienne Graves and I went through Flecha’s marketplace store, where we found this sofa. The arms looked really familiar to me, so I bought it.
And guess what…
Cel Edman is one of my favorite creators in SL. He sells full perm kits for builders like me who aren’t 3D modelers, but who like to assemble and play. He did so with sculpts and continues to do so with mesh. Like Logan Bauer of Arctic Greenhouse, he deals with too many people that abuse his good faith and try to resell his work as their own.
It’s not enough for some people that creators like Cel and Logan allow us to make our own creations out of their elements and resell them. Cel’s SFT Pack has been around for years and I’ve used pieces of it countless times. I’ve retextured the sculpts so much I know their patterns by heart.
So, I took the sample sofa from Flecha and dropped two sculpts from Cel’s SFT pack onto the prims. I didn’t change the sizes, or adjust the textures. Here is what it looks like:
Here’s a close-up of the arms:
Here’s the cushions with no texture, full shiny:
And, just for giggles, here’s one of the Flecha sculpt maps side by side with one of Cel’s:
When you remove Cel’s sculpts you get a pair of prims that are hideously shoved together to form the base and back of the sofa. It’s something no one that created their own sculpts would have made, and obviously just lazily done to reuse something not intended for this purpose.
I went through all Cel’s packs and couldn’t find them, but knew it looked familiar. Viv theorized they had re-purposed a prim from one of their other full perm items. She was familiar with it because of a friend of hers has purchased the full perm sculpts from Brookston Holiday a while back. Brookston doesn’t appear to be active anymore and their Marketplace items seem to be deactivated due to the retirement of Magic Boxes. All that remains of the listing is this image of the full perm couch set, although the chair version of that set was featured in a blog post.
We got a sofa from a friend who had purchased the Brookston Holiday set to sell sofas in their own non-transfer creations. Here’s what the prims look like side by side with the Flecha texture on them:
I’m sure if I wanted to spend all my nights tracking down were Flecha “drew inspiration” for all their items, I could. People with no creativity who lift from others are just not all that smart and they’re usually pretty lazy.
After the Curio situation nothing surprises me anymore. The boldness with which people will take things and abuse those who dare hold them accountable can’t shock me anymore. What does disappoint me is that instead of removing Flecha from the fair, the officials of Fantasy Fair decided, for reasons I cannot fathom, to all but support Flecha. Not to remove them. Not to remain neutral. To openly call the evidence against them “unfounded accusations” and shout down those of us who refuse to pretend common sense doesn’t exist.
In the real world people of integrity who organize for charity do whatever they can to avoid even the semblance of scandal that might be tied to the organization they represent. People who support those charities err on the side of what’s best for the reputations of the events and the purpose at hand. When shoved between a rock and hard place, they at least try to maintain full neutrality. Full neutrality is the bare minimums. Period. And full neutrality doesn’t mean a half-assed “no more talking about this” notecard while officials voice their own opinions in group chat. FFS.
I don’t expect anyone from RFL to waste time trying to fight copyright issues. I can’t call them lazy because regardless of what I feel about their efforts, I know it’s a lot of work. I honestly don’t know what to make of it. It’s just such amateur behavior I have to assume these are people without any understanding of their positions. And that’s so often the case in Second Life. People who feel if they work hard on what they think they’re supposed to do, they will get their pats on the back and ego rewards and they can just skip all the tedious responsibilities that come with those roles.
For the record, the rallying cry around this issue should have been “While we can’t prove anything for certain, the reputation of Fantasy Fair and RFL are the most important thing and we cannot allow for even the possibility of seeming to support copyright infringement.” A softly worded version of that could have been sent to Flecha before the fair opened and this whole issue could have been avoided. It would have never made it into the public eye. If they had any integrity whatsoever, Flecha would have volunteered to remove their store once they were confronted for the simple purpose of allowing the event to pass untainted.
Of course that’s not what happened. Is it? Instead we get the passive-aggressive bullshit two-step about how hard people work for RFL and how it’s disrespectful to cancer patients to point out problems like these.
Because the artists who work for Bethesda don’t work hard. And neither did Cel Edman, or the graphics designers for Game of Thrones. None of those people work hard. Only people who organize events for RFL in Second Life work hard. Their time and effort is all we’re supposed to respect. And if you disagree with that, you’re being disrespectful to cancer patients, ruining other people’s SL and going against “the family.”
You know what’s actually disrespectful to cancer patients? Allowing something like this to happen at an event taking place in their name and turning a blind eye, or worse – supporting the person responsible instead of those trying to do what’s right. Using their sickness to guilt others into silence. Standing behind RFL as a shield instead of standing in front of it to shield the cause and all it represents. That is disrespectful.
If you bought anything from Flecha Warwillow at the Fantasy Fair I hope you’ll demand your money back and donate it directly to RFL. And if you’re one of those people trying to convince the rest of us to abandon common sense and pretend that we don’t know what’s in front of our faces, I hope that there are still people like me around when your hard work is taken by some jerk who thinks they can get away with it just because no one can hold them accountable.
Here’s a novel idea: when you find yourself on the wrong side of an issue, recognize it and do better instead of digging in and making it worse. People will forgive mistakes. Not all of them, but most. Putting your ego in front of your purpose will never make the world a better place.
This kind of “I cannot be found wrong, no matter what” posturing is what creates these ridiculous battleground cliques in SL where Camp A hates Person X because they pointed out their buddy was doing something wrong. So Person X doesn’t get to play their reindeer games. The result is the entrenched buddy system that leads to the same people being showcased over and over with all their gray areas airbrushed and ignored.
No matter how much you talk about chocolate and pretend it’s not so, you can’t make all of us ignore reality.
And the fact remains that all of this — all of it — was unnecessary.
Do fucking better and stop blaming the messengers.