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Knock-offs, Celebrity skins and other weighty issues...

Monday, June 30, 2008 , Posted by Suzanne Powell at 3:39 PM

I was perusing the SL forums and other forums (like I do every time I am procrastinating), and I found quite a few posts from newbies regarding the sale of copyrighted content or knocking off copyrighted RL items. I really am flabbergasted at how people think that "Just because it's on the internet" it is free and anyone can use it. Let me tell you now - it isn't free and NO you cannot use it.

SecondLife has come under fire lately because of wide-spread content theft in game but there is another form of content theft and that is the use of copyrighted textures from other sources (renderosity, turbosquid, istock, getty, etc.) or the use of photography from flickr or google or even the use of a trademark to sell items under that name (Nike, YSL). It is wrong. It is stealing and it isn't right. I can understand the misconception but people who do this must know on some level that what they are doing is wrong (that little voice in the back of their head saying "warning, warning, warning" is being ignored).

If you do make content there are some things you must know:

  • Buying a texture from a texture site does not give you the rights to sell it unless you have written permission to do so - even in SecondLife. This includes merchant content found on Renderosity - no you do not have the right to take a "texture" rebake it into SL template and then sell it.
  • Creating a knock-off of a shoe or item by a major chain is "ok" as long as you DO NOT use their logo or images and do not imply or use their credentials to market the shoe or item. That being said - proceed carefully because giant corporations have a lot of money, lawyers and time and really do go after the little guy. It is only ok if you are making an artistic representation - this is very thin ice and I wouldn't suggest anyone make an exact replica of anything to sell.
  • Taking an image off of google and then modifying it DOES NOT MAKE IT YOURS - you do not have the rights to sell that image or distribute it. There are no "grey" areas - look it up. I don't know how many times I have seen textures that were taken off of google and being sold here - way to get sued people!
  • Creating a Celebrity Skin and then naming it after the Celebrity using photos you found in People or US or on google is definitely a way to get sued. Create your own textures and skins using verified texture sources like this one: and DON'T use celebrity names or images to market your skin otherwise you are implying celebrity endorsement which will get you a DMCA notice, subpoena, and ban from SL.
  • If you make a certain style of clothing - you do not own rights to the "style" only your name and only the images you created to make the clothing. I have heard a lot of whining from other designers in regard to "So & so makes clothing that looks really similar to mine they are stealing" Look it's really simple - unless they stole your textures or are using your logo, they haven't stolen anything. If you both used content from the same source odds are the clothing is going to look the same. Now this is going to be a slap in the face to some designers but unless you can prove that someone actually is using your digital file, and all they are doing is creating a "similar" look; the only thing you can do is out maneuver them in the marketplace. It's called free-enterprise. I am not commenting on the out-right copied textures (I have had that happen to me) I am referring to instances where two designers often come up with similar looks because their art is very similar or they have similar tastes. I am also not referring to Nicky Ree's problem - she has had a person copy her textures and then modify them to hide the fact they were copied, this is definitely wrong. What I am talking about is similar looks and designers fighting over the market.
  • If you are a prim builder - document your work by taking pictures every so often and keep a journal of some sort. This will help you if you have to file a DMCA. Also keep a record of when you created the item - just another way to cover your butt.
  • For ultimate protection - file your name and logo with the U.S. trademark and copyright office. This will prevent anyone from using it without your permission and gives you the legal firepower to go after them if they refuse to do so.

If there is anything missing - please feel free to comment, but I do moderate the comments and fighting will not be tolerated, so be adult and speak your mind but leave the playground hi-jinks on the playground.

Currently have 2 comments:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for posting this. As a consumer, I've often wonder what is in the "grey" area and what is illegal. I'm sure posting this will help many (as long as they take the time to read it and understand it!).


    And I want to add in to this list:

    I am just learning about gimp brushes and one thing I noticed is alot of brush designers DO allow creators to do whatever they want with their brushes as long as they offer reference back. But sadly, I have yet to see any note cards in anything I have bought that I *know* the brush because I have the same...making notice of this :(

    If you are using brushes for either Gimp, Photoshop or whatever else is out there and the license agreement says "please reference back" then DO IT on a note card and include it with your item.

    Because if you are not following the license agreements, you are being just as much a "thief" as someone who is outright stealing. Those licenses are there for a reason and should be followed accordingly. If they say "no commercial use" and your selling in world....that is commercial use since Lindens can be transfered to real world dollars.