Ten Ways to Defend Creator Rights
SPECIAL ONLINE REPORT FROM ELEANOR MEDIER
Artists are the engine of culture, yet have no short-term power, only long-term. This is because there are only fragmented organizations. Witness: the businesses that supply the arts are big companies that sell to individuals (including Linden Labs). The market of art supply buyers is enormous. Yet there is no voice.
Artists work for love, not money. There are no pursuits that have greater competition! Technology increases the percentage of those considering themselves “artists.” Each wishes to be seen, heard, appreciated, and understood. For every creative person that passes up an opportunity, ten more step up to try. Artists will quit lucrative jobs to follow their dreams. Art is not treated as a business, but as a passion. So business rules tend to fly out the window.
Enter Second Life®—the perfect platform to express creativity. Making a living as an artist in SL is reserved for a tiny percentage—those that can make tips to supplement sales or those that have products with large audience appeal. The more money that is involved, the more important the legalities of who earns what.
The best artists in SL are artists in real life. The training and the experience translate. A clue of professionalism is in the consistency in the work—a recognizable style. If there are a lot of fans due to performance or showing, then the concern to protect that style is necessary in the marketplace. The reality is that anyone who produces work with social visibility has been copied. It only really matters when reputations can get tarnished or when the thief makes money.
Recent developments concerning Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. and now Second Life provides a wake up for creators. To be in the virtual world of SL requires agreeing to the ToS. Creators are concerned Linden Labs will steal ideas and form competing businesses.
Strategy is the best defense:
1. Read the analysis. The legalese is very hard to understand in itself. Google some key words and figure out the policies of each platform—Second Life, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Take about two hours and find a few experts that can encapsulate.*
2. Understand the differences between terms [quoting Webster’s Dictionary. The copyright law itself has a much longer description and outlines the rights. It must have a tangible form; ideas are not copyrightable]:
> COPYRIGHT—the exclusive right to the publication, production, or sale of the rights to a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work, or to the use of a manufacturing or merchandising label. granted by law for a definite period of years to an author, composer, artist, distributor, etc.
> TRADEMARK—a symbol, design, word, letter, etc. used by a manufacturer or dealer to distinguish his products from those of competitors, and usually registered and protected by law.
> PATENT—a document open to public examination and granting a certain right or privilege, especially a document granting the monopoly right to produce, use, sell, or get profit from an invention, process, etc. for a certain number of years.
> LICENSE—document to define intellectual property ownership and usage, usually specifies size, frequency, expiration, and audience coverage.
> TRADE SECRETS—proprietary organizational information that gives competitive advantage. Usually protected by a confidentiality agreement.
3. Determine how to present ideas or develop businesses based on ToSs, but keep in mind that these do change. Don’t present all ideas in one platform—use various channels to support the others.
4. Choose a style to defend. Too many artists who consider themselves serious experiment all over the place. Get known for a strength. Then there is something to defend should someone steal an idea who is WORTH suing! [In my real life as a designer, I have won three law suits concerning the left of my designs by companies that were using them for profit. The style of the work was one of the proofs of theft.]
5. Prepare to respond. If someone DOES steal an idea—whether Linden Labs or a product commercial—know what to do. Have legal experts identified and know the active groups. Google to discover what intellectual property suits are active.
6. Trademark names and brands, A licensed use does not include trademark, and that can be a deterrent to anyone tempted to use a product or artwork promotionally or commercially. If the work is serious enough to steal, it is serious enough to trademark in the first place.
7. Document origin. For trade secrets or copyright disputes, proving who created it first is the base from which the law begins. Many cases also investigate what is recognizable of the original in the derivative—can the lay person hear that the Beach Boys’s song is the Chuck Berry tune, but with new lyrics?? Chuck Berry won that dispute.
8. Be a moving target. The most creative are onto new ideas by the time someone copies. It is more important to be first with a new idea.
9. JOIN United Content Creators of Second Life (UCCSL)! There needs to be ONE organization to act as a conduit of interests—to investigate changes, share information, and draw together everyone for what is actionable. Look there for a list of what is possible to do now for more protection or to influence changes in the ToS.
10. Watch for a test case. If the ToS gives Linden Labs teeth, then they need to bite someone. Let’s know about it. Unfortunately, there may need to be a sacrificial lamb to serve as an example. The USSC will be on top of this. The statement that LL has made in defense asks for user “trust.” Given that the agreements are signed, it is time to test that trust.
—Eleanor Medier is publisher, real life expert and author on creative business practices.
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This article is part of a special online report covering Creators’ Rights.
To understand an overview of the issues, please also see:
“Digital Property Rights in Second Life: Times have Changed” by Kylie Sabra
“Second Audience: Defining Issues” by Eleanor Medier
Peter Gray of Linden Labs has issued a statement to UCCSL. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-tt7l89N_zBOGtQLTlwNjBmUWs/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1
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© 2014 by Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal. Articles cannot be reprinted without permission.