Content Theft in Second Life
(Used under Creative Commons License from the flickr stream of eveli duarte)
The image includes a quote from Bill Gates, which reads "Intellectual Property has the shelf life of a banana."
For the most part I don't have much to say about content theft in Second Life. I do deal with intellectual property concerns in my day job but the issues of interest to a University Professor are in a different realm entirely than the concerns of a virtual content creator. I am not technical enough to speak intelligently about that end of the debate so I have just stayed quiet.
It does not need to be said that stealing is wrong. Every 5 year old knows you don't take things that don't belong to you, even if you can. I really fail to understand why someone would steal but clearly there are ethically challenged people who believe their own self interest trumps other people's rights. Sad but true. I do the only thing I can -- I do not purchase or own (to my knowledge) stolen content in SL. I pay for my software, including expensive programs like Photoshop. I pay for the music I download too. Everyone lives with the downstream effects of their own choices and it helps me sleep at night to do the right thing.
Today I read a post by my friend Salome Strangelove in which she talks about a concrete plan for addressing copyright infringement in Second Life. Salome is one of those people who speaks intelligently on a wide variety of topics and I admire her a great deal. If you have not added her to your RSS you really should.
Salome's plan would require a paid account for anyone who wanted to create transfer items, place items for sale, or mark items as free to the community. Requiring a paid account ties the avatar to a person and eliminates anonymous avatars created for the purpose of theft. Sal suggests this be coupled with a neutral third party organization that would mediate copyright infringement disputes. Please do go to her blog and read her post in its entirety.
I think Sal has come up with simple solutions that have significant merit and would go a long way toward protecting virtual content creator's intellectual property rights. One of the things I like a lot about her suggestions is they are very open, public and transparent. I sure hope someone at Linden Lab is listening.