Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My DMCA Saga Drags On

It's been two weeks since I submitted my DMCA. The Intellectual Property Team took down the items the copier had made with my textures and/or sculpt maps - the ones I identified by their (Italian) names that I found inworld.

But the copier continues to list new houses featuring the same stolen content, which tells me that all content with the UUIDs provided were not removed -- or if they were, have been replaced by identical content.  And my emails requesting that content made with these UUIDs be taken down continue to be ignored. I mean, that is why I filed the DMCA notification, so that my content would be removed from this account.

Therefore today I wrote another DMCA -- for the same content, only this time  I only included the UUIDs, the same UUIDs included with the original DMCA and ignored.

Forget the names of the objects, forget what they look like -- if they were made with these textures and/or sculpts, just take them down.

After talking to someone knowledgeable about the asset database, I understand that it is 1) possible but 2) difficult to do what I am requesting -- identify content using UUIDs.  I have told the IP Team I understand this -- this whole process is extremely time-consuming for both them and me.  But this is the course LL has chosen -- it would be far easier, when presented with incontrovertible proof of copying, to ban the accounts and all those associated with them. Which I understand would not stop them, but would at least inconvenience them a bit.

I also understand, from talking to someone knowledgeable about DMCAs and takedowns, that the current LL policy to not delete infringers' accounts until they can be said to have "continually" been caught infringing, is based on fear of litigation. Someone will sue them for taking down the infringing content and then banning their account. Something like that. Which, frankly, seems an unsupported fear in the vast, vast majority of cases, few of which are on the scale of the bunnies vs the horses, but  involve garden variety rippers of very limited means and capabilities (I am being polite) ripping in the most obvious way.

The bottom line here:  There are no consquences for ripping content in SL unless you get caught "continually" doing so.

Only the creators of original content are punished -- along with LL, who has to expend so much time doing the takedowns involving the same people over and over. The infringers like mine just shrug and keep copying.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Ivory French Cabriole Dining Sets

For a fresh summery look we have two new whitewashed country French dining sets.

The chairs have beautifully sculpted cabriole legs with fabric and color change -- combine the fabrics with different colors to match your dining room.

Each table rezzes a dinner and dessert for as many seats available from a convenient menu.  During the delicious steak dinner your guest can touch the wine to receive a glass of merlot and touch their plate and receive a fork or bread. 

Dessert is a piece of creamy cheesecake with strawberry and to drink, cafe a lait with Bailys.  The coffee  service is antique silver and the china is served on placemats with fabric and color changes. 

After dinner is over rez an antique silver vase with flowers and two candles.

Both sets include a matching buffet and breakfront.

Also included is the delicate console also with sculpted cabriole legs.

Each set includes a different high resolution, sculpted rug. 

A wonderful dining set for any occasion.

Friday, May 20, 2011

And then there are those other Lindens...

What was so very upsetting about the massive layoff of 1/3 of the Linden workforce almost a year ago was not just the number, although it was large enough to grab attention by itself. What came as a shock was the departure of the Lindens we knew -- the good guys, the ones on our team, the ones who understood Second Life and demonstrated that as quirky as SL residents tend to be, we had their respect and understanding.  They gave a human face to Linden Lab. That was a real blow to many of us. LL became this faceless Corporation.

Slowly some other good people have emerged to take their places. I won't name names here, because given LL's obsession with secrecy and anonymity, it might not serve a Linden well to be identified as one who interacts with residents. 

I am one of those who has been "foolish" enough, according to some, to invest heavily in SL.  I quit my teaching position to run my store full time. I just bought a fourth sim. And so, some might assume, as one other merchant did recently, that I am a large merchant with some kind of influence.

My response: ppfft. There are no large merchants, as far as LL is concerned. We just don't pay enough tier (marketplace commissions are peanuts). And my merchandise is about as high prim as it gets -- furnishings and homes, most rezzed at all times, so I pay about as much tier as any merchant is going to. But no I don't have any clout at all, as was demonstrated recently when some anonymous Linden on the IP Team decided he was perfectly willing to break the law and withdraw my valid DMCA without my consent -- and then procede to ignore my emails. He knew I was utterly powerless. And who would ever know anyway?

He assumed there was no one around for me to turn to for help.

But he forgot about those other Lindens -- the ones who understand what we are doing here and why.  The ones who believe they are ultimately here to serve SL's residents.

The first thing I did when I discovered that I was being stonewalled was to email the only Linden I know who has any idea who I am. I explained the situation briefly and asked if s/he knew who I could contact for help.  I emailed the IP Team again and CCed CEO Rod Humble.  I IMed a couple of Lindens I saw in the Concierge group. I called Linden Lab and left a message for Lisa Berry, LL general counsel (and very likely to be aware that no Linden is legally qualified to withdraw a DMCA on the filer's behalf).

I got one response, from that one Linden I had emailed. And that Linden simply told me that the the IP Team had in fact received my emails and would be responding to them ASAP.

That's all -- but I nearly cried with relief. Until then I felt like I was shouting into some huge void.

And a couple of hours later, I got an email from the still-anonymous IP Team Linden saying he/she was sorry for the misunderstanding and that I could just reply to the email to confirm that I wanted the takedown to occur.*

I don't know if general counsel Lisa Berry also contacted the IP Team to ask them what the deal was -- why is this woman saying you illegally declined to do a takedown upon receipt of her valid DMCA?  But I do know that because the Linden I emailed took the time to ask the IP Team what was up with ignoring my emails, their behavior was no longer a secret.  At least one person at LL knew what they were doing. And that's all it takes.

*As of this writing, no takedown has occurred, and in fact the infringer continues to list more items -- and yes, with my content.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Being a Linden Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry?

I have generally had positive interactions with Lindens, and decent service. They mostly seem like nice folks, if not always very well acquainted with this Second Life stuff. And then there are the other kind.

I don't know too many businesses where you can't ask to speak to someone higher up if the service you receive is unsatisfactory, but that's how LL operates. No matter how awful a Linden's performance is, there is no one to report him to -- and he knows it. He can pretty much do as he pleases when he is on the job.

I have had two recent very unsatisfactory experiences with LL service people. First was a horrific live chat with poor confused Nikia, when I was attempting to discover why my new sim had not been delivered.  She could barely understand the question and just kept repeating the same nonsensical claim that the Extended Support transaction would take ten days. She sunk her teeth in no matter how patiently I tried to explain that Extended Support customers like the sim seller got instant service.  Nope, 10 days.

Nikia was the worst support person I think I have ever encountered in any life -- and totally unaccountable. I tried several times to contact some other support person, but Nikia was waiting, and picked up every time.  I asked her several times the name of her supervisor, but she said "He left" and would not give me the name, and finally hung up on me.  So no way to contact anyone higher up.

Then there was whoever it was on the IP Team who decided he would take the liberty of canceling my DMCA. Evidently he thought this was a little game. How dare I express concern that the thief would be given plenty of time to hide the evidence!  Was I not aware that the IP Team holds all the power and me none? I guess he showed me who is boss.

Except this is not a little game for me. This is very serious business for me. The thief has many thousands of dollars worth of my full perm content in her /her alt's inventories.  My DMCA covers ALL the copied content, not just the stuff put up for sale. I do not want it passed around, I want it deleted!  And I do not want some emotionally adolescent Linden with nothing at stake and no accountablity to tell me to, in effect, drop dead.  This is not a game of Mother May I. This is not about me repenting of my insufficiently obsequious DMCA wording.

This  is about me submitting a legal document to protect many thousands of dollars of my property and a Linden illegally withdrawing it.   I don't even know which Linden it is because residents of SL are not allowed to know top secret information like that. And even if I knew his name, I don't know his supervisor's name. No, I have to deal with this petulant twit.  Anonymity does that to some people on the internet and Linden Lab.

There are simply no consequences for treating customers like, say, slightly retarded children, if that's what a Linden decides to do. Who will know? Who will know if they treat customers with contempt? Even if people like this actually do have supervisors, good luck getting their names. I am sure many Linden supervisors would be quite horrified at some of the poor service, but ignorance is bliss.  They'll never know.

There are very few jobs where you can be incompetent and not get reported by customers or fellow workers. I can only think of two --- a bagger at the supermarket because most people are not going to report shoddy bagging, and being a Linden, where there's no one to report anything to.

Goes a long way to explaining what seems to many of us the incomprehensible behavior and decisions we see in some Lindens.  A company cannot have both top quality service personnel and this Orwellian anonymity. Accountability means transparency.

Example: The Commerce Team, with a horrendous task trying to make the marketplace functional -- I mean, they have to actually produce results that everyone can see. Fully accountable, not only for results, but to merchants and shoppers. We know who the team leader is -- Brooke -- and she files regular reports to keep merchants apprised of updates. I feel like my input has value. Sure, it's easier to hide -- some days it would be great to be an anonymous creator. But that's not how to build customer loyalty. Transparency and accountability do that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Linden Lab Sides with the Content Rippers

I received an interesting response to my DMCA notification described in the previous post, which I will discuss in a moment. At the end, they restated what the TOS mentions:

Regarding your request that we terminate the Resident account(s).  Residents that continually re-post content that is subject to a valid DMCA may be terminated under our repeat infringer policy.

Continually. Copying once is not enough. Copying twice is not "continually". Three times would be the bare minimum. And again I have to ask, why???  What is the purpose of this policy?  Why allow a proven copier to stay at all?

So there you have it, the definitive statement about whose side LL is on.

The other interesting part is the connection between "reposting" content and being subject to a valid DMCA. What is reposting anyway?  Does that mean "putting up for sale"?   I don't see anything in the DMCA notice or law about selling, but about copyright infringement. You don't have to sell something to infringe copyright.

Every article of my original content anywhere with someone else's name on it as creator is IP theft. It does not matter if it is set for sale or not, or rezzed inworld or not. My DMCA was very explicitly about my property in inventory or anywhere else.

As I said in the previous post, my main concern is not about what is "posted" or set for sale inworld and on the marketplace, but with what is in inventories. Having no experience with IP infringement on this scale, I wanted to be very sure that LL did not intend to notify the infringer before doing a takedown -- or, as I have heard of before, just telling the infringer to do his own takedown.  That is just not going to work. It's like the police ringing up a burglar to let them know they will be over later in the day to check the place for stolen property. Or ringing them up to ask them to please get rid of any stolen merchandise they may have on hands, thanks.
And although I obviously was very skeptical about the possibility of LL deleting the account, it seemed to me the only viable way to expunging all the infringing content in inventory.  LL may have some special means of determining which of the house and furniture textures and sculpts in the thief's inventory are my content, but I would not know -- do copied things even keep their names? The names of at least some things have been changed.

Therefore it seemed to be that the only way to delete all the infringing content was to delete the accounts of 1) the avi that did the copying and 2) the avi doing the building and selling.

I explained all this in a preface to the notification -- my concerns, my preferences, my requests. And I asked for feedback on how the takedown request would be carried out, and whether the accounts would be deleted or not (who knows, maybe they are repeat infringers?)  This was what I said:

If LL is unwilling, for whatever reason, to delete all accounts in possession of my ripped content – and give them time to transfer my content full perm to various others, then please let me know as I may need to reconsider.

Note that I said "may need to reconsider" and not "will withdraw".

So the takedown team writes back and says:

Based on your request, Linden Lab now considers your DMCA complaint withdrawn.  You may resubmit the complaint if you change your mind.
Hmmm. Now, two things about this. First, I asked to be advised on their course of action -- and what it looks like to me is that they did indeed fully intend to give the copier time to transfer my content.

Glad I thought to ask!

However, that is not what the SL DMCA webpage says they will do. They say this:

On taking down content under the DMCA, we will take reasonable steps to contact the owner of the removed content so that a counter-notification may be filed.

"On taking down" -- that means "at the time of" or something close to it. It most certainly does NOT mean before taking down content.

Secondly, just to be clear: it is LL, not the copier, that does the takedown. I don't know if, as I have heard, it is sometimes their policy to notify a thief to do his own takedown, but that is not prescribed by the DMCA.

So there it stands:  the takedown team has taken the liberty of withdrawing my complaint for me. And until the thief steals enough to be considered "continually" she is free to pursue that goal in peace.

In discussing this whole nightmare experience and my DMCA with people I have a couple of times mentioned that I thought it was possible LL would do nothing.  And each time I was assured, oh, if they get a proper DMCA notice they have to do a takedown, it's the law.  Except that what they have chosen instead is to withdraw my notice for me and do -- nothing.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Whose side is Linden Lab on?

Twenty pages. That's how long my DMCA* notice to Linden Lab is, including the ten pages of photos.

Yes, someone copied my stuff again only this time they got carried away -- houses, kitchens, dining rooms, furniture, accessories, you name it. All of it sitting full perm in her and her alts' inventories, maybe some of her friends'. Thousands upon thousands of hours of work, worth many thousands of dollars, now belongs to her. Because she wanted it and took it.

The thief has an inworld vendor with 18 furnished houses, almost all of them cobbled together from textures and sculpts taken from houses and other things copied from me and many other merchants - and all of them on the marketplace (AKA  Big Fencing Operation). One look at these houses tells you I have spent far more time on this DMCA than the thief spent on any one of his houses.

Documenting every item (that I have proof of -- most of it is still sitting in their inventories) and giving the UUID of every texture and sculpt map, taking pictures of the original and the stolen items -- has taken my assistant and me four days.

That's four days of work lost -- no new content for this week, no new group gift, no notice sent to my group.  Think that helps sales?  Thieves steal not only things, but time -- and joy.

Along with my original sculpt maps and textures, dozens of others by other creators are now full perm in the copiers' inventories because I used them in some of my content. I can't file a DMCA for those, though, but only my own original content (I did notify all the creators). That doesn't count the hundreds of other textures and sculpt maps no doubt copied from still other merchants that I don't know about, or the hundreds of others of mine that have not made it out of inventory and into the world yet.

Running my business is my full time job. My family and I depend on my income from La Galleria. Someone making some things with my content and putting it up for sale is really not putting that income much at risk. That's not my great fear. That's not the thing that could seriously affect my income. My fear is what can happen when people with no regard for others have thousands of dollars of full perm content in their inventories. It is a ticking bomb.

I am, of course, disgusted by the sense of entitlement: "You are entitled to work, I am entitled to the fruits of your work." But I am even more deeply disgusted with Linden Lab's failure to consistently delete the accounts of thieves -- and I mean the ones like the thief of my kitchen not long ago.  I bought that kitchen he had for sale full perm on the marketplace and have it sitting in my workshop for any Linden to see, with his name listed as creator of every prim. But no slap on the hand for him. He is happily living his Second Life on the grid as he always has.

It will be interesting to see what action LL will take this time. Frankly, my expectations are very low. What I would like is for the accounts of the thief and her alt that did the actual copying to be deleted, since what she has in inventory is far more than what she has for sale. Not that that will stop them but it can slow them down.

And that's really all we are asking LL to do: slow them down! Please!

LL may not be able to do much, but it can do that; and if it is the one thing LL can do, why do they allow thieves to keep their accounts -- and I am not talking about gray areas but well documented thieves?  Does LL not want to hurt their feelings? Do they not believe that creators have the right to the fruits of their labors? Do they just want to give them more chances to steal? Why? What has LL  to gain by keeping theives on the grid?  What valuable contributions are these leeches making to SL that the grid will be poorer without them? What does LL have to lose by deleting their accounts?  Maybe they have so much free time they need to fill it by keeping people on the grid who will keep them busy with DMCAs.

I was talking to another merchant today, and she told a story I have heard over and over again:

[2011/05/17 13:52]  Pamela Galli: I have 10 pages of pics
[2011/05/17 13:52]  Pamela Galli: 10 page dmca
[2011/05/17 13:52]  Clothing Designer: that's what I had...same here
[2011/05/17 13:52]  Pamela Galli: someone just decided it was easier to go into business with my stuff
 [2011/05/17 13:52]  Clothing Designer: they ripped it so completely it was unreal
[2011/05/17 13:53]  Clothing Designer: same here
[2011/05/17 13:53]  Clothing Designer: problem was that they took it out of inworld, but not out of inventories, so it still rezzes
[2011/05/17 13:53]  Clothing Designer: ripper is still in business today
[2011/05/17 13:53]  Pamela Galli: X#%@
[2011/05/17 13:54]  Clothing Designer: yup
 [2011/05/17 13:54]  Clothing Designer: they ripped from another designer too
[2011/05/17 13:54]  Clothing Designer: a much bigger designer than I am
[2011/05/17 13:54]  Clothing Designer: and still they are in business designing and built their rep off my work and the other person's
 [2011/05/17 13:54]  Clothing Designer: I followed up three times and nothing was done
 [2011/05/17 13:55]  Pamela Galli: LL may not be able to stop ripping but they can sure as hell ban the rippers
[2011/05/17 13:55]  Clothing Designer: that's what I had hoped that she would be banned
[2011/05/17 13:55]  Clothing Designer: but nope

I have heard similar stories over an over again. I have experienced it myself.

I agree that justice should be tempered with mercy, but we are not talking about jail time here. If you come into a virtual world and attempt to damage someone's livlihood -- or just the joy they have making and selling things -- should you or should you not forfeit the right to stay in that world?  If someone drops a turd in the punchbowl, should he not forfeit his right to stay at the party?

And if LL decides that infringers should stay, are we not owed some sort of explanation? Because otherwise the only message merchants get is: WE DO NOT CARE.

It's all very well to profess appreciation for creators, but actions speak louder than words. So far LL's actions have been too inconsistent for merchants to see any clear policy about getting infringers off the grid.  Doing that consistently, no matter how much a game of whack-a-mole it may be, would at least send a message to merchants that LL is on our side, that it may not be able to do much, but what it can do, it will do.

Stay tuned, see what LL does this time, see if the new leadership has made up its mind yet whose side Linden Lab is on.

Oh, and if you have filed a DMCA, add your info to this new informal survey on SL Universe: http://www.sluniverse.com/php/vb/dmca-tracking/  
Interesting to see whether accounts are banned or not.

*Digital Millenium Copyright Act -- a detailed notice that copyright has been infringed which obligates LL to take infringing content down. In theory, at least.