As I spent my Sunday at home lazily working on the new hair textures snuggled safely with Dick as he works on some new clothing textures, horrible news arrives of two very good people who depend on SL for their real life family’s income. Rebel Hope and RH Engel have had their merchandise stolen and it is being distributed across the grid. My heart breaks for them, I know the both of them and they are the nicest couple, and their work is beautiful and unique. I felt sick, helpless, even hopeless as a fellow designer, as I heard this news. I couldn’t stop the tears that came, I thought about what is happening to them, and wondered what I could do, and I opened a notecard and began to write.
(As of this post, content of this current theft is known to be that of RH Engel and Rebel Hope (2 of their 3 sims were copied entirely, including Rebel Hope Designs and Woodshed Designs), Susan Ramos and xTrojan Ramos (Ramos Designs) and Nonna Hedges. There is furniture, clothing prims, hair and jewelry and even a dragon. The pics show only a fraction of what has been copied and is being distributed. There are far too many prims to set it all out. I stood amongst this stuff, feeling their hurt and crying, unable to speak for a few moments, at the very idea that this happens, and on such a scale as this, and that these amazing designers would feel like giving up.)
It’s an ugly thing, content theft in SL. If affects every single one of us, whether you are a designer or not, whether you are aware of it, or not. It damages our ecomony, in ways I cannot begin to describe in a sensible manner, I’ll leave that to others who comprehend this more then I. It violates the one being stolen from, rips their livlihood, or their hobby, right out from under them. Many good designers have packed up and left SL, giving up the battle. Many designers lose the passion to create in SL…leaving much less new content for us to enjoy. It is nothing new, content theft existed long before recent things have made it easier. For a good article explaining what is happening in a real world courtroom regarding content theft, see Prad Prathivi’s great post.
This is a growing problem in SL, one I am not sure is ever really going to go away. We can whine and blame LL. We can turn a cheek and blindly go about our ‘game’ and pretend it doesn’t matter to us. We can even count the lindens we’ve saved if we happen to be one that receieves this box going around right now. All of the above..happen, happen all too often, and are sad, disgusting reactions to this. We can justify it by saying that it’s just pixels, pixels are not real. I know I have been guilty of blaming LL, of hoping it goes away with little impact on my SL experience.
Every single one of us can do something about this, to stop this from continuing as well as to prevent it from happening to someone else. You can spread the word that content theft is intolerable. You can distance yourself from anyone you know that may be participating in content theft in any way, peer pressure can do wonders at times like this. If you receive stolen content, whether it is that of Rebel and RH’s, or anyone elses, you can immediately file an AR against the creator, and inform the one you received it from that it is stolen and that you will not support it, and AR them also, then delete the items so they will not continue to exist and spread. Also, drop a note to the original designer letting them know who you received it from and who the creator was and that you AR’d them. This will not only let them know they have been targeted by a thief (tho they probably already know) it also lets them know we as consumers are in full support of them, not the thieves. While I do feel it is important to spread the awareness of content theft, I do however strongly feel it is not good to give out locations and names of those distributing stolen merchandise. I also do feel that while it is good to know that there are formats out there to aid the thief, I do not feel the details should be explained to the masses.
One more thing you can do, you can take a few moments in the next days to visit the sims of Rebel Hope and RH Engel and make some purchases to show them that you care and that thieves will never win. I am sure you will find a lovely new dress or costume, or perhaps a new bedroom set, something will catch your eye I am sure. Also, Ramos Designs and Nonna Hedges are in dire need of our support. Visit their sims, spend some well spent lindens and enjoy your new purchases knowing you’ve done something positive for our community.
SL is our community, whether it is just a game to pass the time for you, or a way for you to put food on the table in real life, we are all part of it. Our ability to create in SL is one of the things that makes it special, makes it OURS. LL has given us a great tool, a tool that we have taken and used to create a global community within the real world. It is not a perfect tool, just as it is not perfect world, but it is ours. Take ownership, do your part. Don’t let this theft continue, do what you can to raise awareness, and to stop its spread.
**Just to clarify, the above pic was not taken at a place distributing stolen content, but at a private place, as the above designers were going thru the stuff that is in a box being distributed. This stuff all shows at being created the 19th of Sept 2009, by the same individual, who has now been banned. This was only a fraction of the stuff in that box, there was not enough prim space or time to show it all. It consists of creations by the above designers, and more yet unknown. The initial copier and distributor has been AR’d and is banned, for now. There is probably more out there in circulation. We need to stop this now.