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Designer Fights For Second Life Rights 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-a-first-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A London-based industrial designer has had his work ripped off in Second Life and is now looking to file a DMCA grievance against his client. Commissioned to recreate the French Quarter in New Orleans, the designer, Gospel Voom, spent six months on the project, only to sign on to Second Life after its completion to find it was deleted by the client. She claimed it was taken down because it wasn't making money. However, despite having signed a contract that let Voom retain creative rights over his work, he later found out it was sold to another community, OpenLife, without his knowledge or permission."
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Designer Fights For Second Life Rights

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  • Well, if they are going to use virtual currencies for virtual "property," they might as well settle this through a virtual court or at least beforehand let a (virtual) third party somehow be able to serve as a court with virtual enforcement. I'm serious.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kligat (1244968)

      Unfortunately, there exists no Internet Court of Law existing solely on the Internet with Internet-spanning enforceability for regulating disputes over downloaded music.

      Oh, look, I can already see in the distance the World of Warcraft players flooding into Slashdot to tell people to get a first life.

      • Re:Virtual Court? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @03:12AM (#29074499) Homepage Journal

        You're incorrect from what I read from the article. He did not sell all rights to his artwork and it was basically moved to a different game with his name removed.

        I can see his point, but if he didn't have it in a contract in writing, he's probably screwed. I sympathize. My only real payment for my Open Source work in Linux is that if you grep for my name in the various ChangeLogs, you will find it. I do feel his pain.

        Oh, look, I can already see in the distance the World of Warcraft players flooding into Slashdot to tell people to get a first life.

        /rude

        That was uncalled for.

    • Re:Virtual Court? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mysidia (191772) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:29AM (#29074163)

      It's not a virtual dispute. It's a dispute between a real-world business who hired an artist to create something which was paid for with real money, and an artist who got a contract before performing or being paid for the work that assured the artist he would keep certain rights.

      And the business taking his work, and selling it lock stock and barrel to a third party, which they had no right to do, and resulted in a "clone" of his work appearing in another virtual world, where he wasn't given any credit for it (thus a very real breach of his creative rights).

      This would be as if an artist for a character in any video game licensed artwork to the game publisher to be used in a specific production, and required a certain royalty for every copy of the game published.

      But shortly after release, the game publisher decided it wasn't profitable, scrapped the game, and sold all the bits (including the artwork) to another company, who picked up the picture and displayed it for various uses as their own creation.

    • ive got 2 things for you

      1 Linden Dollars are currently trading at L$251 to US$1

      2 it is often customary for large projects to be settled in real world currency (the better land sellers are setup with Paypal)

  • by scotsghost (1125495) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:30AM (#29074165) Journal

    ... at least, if the summary is accurate and precise.

    Oh wait, this is slashdot. Of course the summary's incomplete and/or biased. I haven't RTFA, someone tell me what's missing?

    • And yet you read and comment anyway...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SvnLyrBrto (62138)

        Honestly... After years upon of goatse.cx, tubgirl, and penis bird links; can you blame someone for not clicking on a link out from slashdot?

        And no, the link being in the summary is no protection. I recall at least three separate cases when some poor individual had his server crushed by a slashdotting and did a redirect to goatse.cx out of either spite or mischievousness.

        • by EdIII (1114411) *

          Honestly... After years upon of goatse.cx, tubgirl, and penis bird links; can you blame someone for not clicking on a link out from slashdot?

          goatse.cx is very broad, there is just so much of it. Tubgirl, I have seen. One. Sick. Bitch.

          Penis Bird Links?

          Never heard of that.... mind.. posting some links? For research purposes of course?

  • by daniel_mcl (77919) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:31AM (#29074167) Homepage

    ... to see how this thread will go. Soon it'll be flooded with debates about virtual property, whatever that means, and whether you should be able to prosecute someone for murdering your Elf Lord or whatever. The fact is that this guy was commissioned for an artistic project, retained full rights, and then had his property deleted. Take an entirely analogous situation: suppose that Ray Charles -- whose contract stated that he owned the original masters of all his recordings -- goes into a studio to record an album, and the studio subsequently throws said recordings away. Ray would have a pretty solid case, and so does this guy. This case has nothing to do with the MMO aspects of the incident; however, I can solidly say that at least half the population of Slashdot will *make* it about that, somehow.

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:38AM (#29074189)

      The fact is that this guy was commissioned for an artistic project, retained full rights, and then had his property deleted.

      No, not quite.

      He did some code work but retained some rights to it. The client sold it contrary to their agreement. Simple contract issue, has little at all to do with "virtual property" as the concept is being bandied about here, has to do with some code and artistic work that was misappropriated.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Liken it to Rembrandt or some other painter having been commissioned to paint an artwork (or in this case; a painting of an artwork), then seeing the painting get sold by the party that commissioned it.

        • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @04:31AM (#29074779)

          Liken it to Rembrandt or some other painter having been commissioned to paint an artwork (or in this case; a painting of an artwork), then seeing the painting get sold by the party that commissioned it.

          Except in this case, the original signature was replaced, the original painter lost all the credit to his work, and the original client is pretending that the original work was so bad -- it had to be destroyed.

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @05:01AM (#29074905)

      Soon it'll be flooded with debates about virtual property...
      [...]
      I can solidly say that at least half the population of Slashdot will *make* it about that, somehow.

      This debate isn't about virtual property, it's about stolen credit.

      This guy basically negotiated the fact that he would get credit for his work. The original client resold his work (erasing all traces of his authorship). And adding insult to insult, the original client is telling people that the author's original work was so bad for its purpose, that it was purposefully destroyed (this isn't what I'd call a great reference by the way). If I was that original artist, I would certainly be pissed.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. "retain[ed] creative rights" is nowhere near "retained full rights", so you're wrong on that account.
      2. The deletion is probably irrelevant. Just because Voom "retain[ed] creative rights" almost certainly does not mean Second Life could never delete their copies. But I've done independent coding under similar conditions, and I don't think I've ever had a "You must keep this forever" clause, and I seriously doubt Second Life did.
      3. The sale may or may not violate the contract between Voom. Without a

      • by daniel_mcl (77919)

        It wasn't Second Life that contracted him to do the work, it was someone with a Second Life account. I don't know anything about Second Life, but context seems to imply that there's no straightforward way to do a local backup of these things, i.e. apparently they can only reside on the Second Life servers. As such, the client did not have the right to delete them, because the creator had some rights to them.

        A roughly analogous situation would involve your building a duplex (in real life) and selling half

  • Sounds like a simple contractual dispute. Why is this a story?
    • by multisync (218450)

      I guess because - rather than sue the company who presumably violated their contract they had with him - he's chosen to use the taxpayer-funded hammer of the DMCA to go after them?

  • It was the designers fault for giving his work full permissions. Welcome to Second Life, if we can copy/resell/give out for free, and we want a quick buck, chances are we will no matter what you tell us. Even with Second Inventory you will need full permissions to move it across SL grids, and CopyBot (last i checked) was rendered useless by the latest SIM software.
  • If no, then he's fucked.

    If yes, then, if it was any good, it covers stuff like this.

    No story.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dstar (34869)

      Actually, no. If there was no contract, he wins. Slam dunk. Because copyright is automatic, and has to be explicitly transferred.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @07:58AM (#29075317)

        Actually, no. If there was no contract, he wins. Slam dunk. Because copyright is automatic, and has to be explicitly transferred.

        I've been in an intellectual property dispute over some code I wrote, a situation very similar to Voom's.

        If I remember all this correctly, there are five or six situations where it's not true that explict transfer of copyright is required. "Work-for-hire" is almost one. IIRC, to be a "work-for-hire" requires a written contract that specifically uses the words "work-for-hire". So the author of a "work-for-hire" does NOT retain copyright. The other four or five situations which I don't recall also do NOT require a written contract to transfer copyright.

        The reason why you hear phrases similar to "copyright must be explicitly transferred" is that it's very, very easy to make sure those four or five situations don't apply to you as an author. And any author with half a brain makes damn sure they put themselves where they retain copyright by default. It remains to be seen if Voom has half a brain or not.

        FWIW, I recall that there are also some legal hurdles from case law that Voom has to clear before it would be found that he retained copyright. I think the case most of those hurdles are from is CCNV v. Reed. I know two of those hurdles are (1) where the work was done, and (2) how much supervision the author was under while creating the work. (I remember those because in my dispute I did all the work on my hardware and was under no supervision whatsoever.)

        If Voom did the work on Second Life servers and was under close and continuous supervision of Second Life management, he may not have cleared those hurdles and may very well not have retained copyright. If, on the other hand, the product was developed on his own hardware and the only contact he had with Second Life after signing the contract was using FTP to send them the results, he probably did retain copyright.

        So no, this doens't appear to be a "slam dunk" at all.

    • There is always a contract, even if verbal. If the client won't admit that in court, it becomes more complex, but if it's a simple case of two people misinterpreting the contract, that shouldn't be an issue.

  • I remember when SecondLife opened up the French Quarter area and had a virual mardi gras fund raiser for New Orleans disaster relief efforts. Virtual crews made virtual floats and everything. I'm sad that it's gone. Here's a screen shot from the event... http://livejournal.3feetunder.com/slmardigras.jpg [3feetunder.com]
  • Having read the article, it's clear that the designer has no idea how virtual worlds and especially Second Life (SL) and its many clones like Opensim work. He's making up a legal theory about virtual property and artist rights in virtual worlds that simply doesn't exist, yet. It's wishful thinking.

    If he created something in the physical world, the law provides him with some default protections, for good or for bad, and he still has those protections now. If he wanted permanence of his works, he should ha

    • by lordlod (458156)

      Having read the article, it's clear that the designer has no idea how virtual worlds and especially Second Life (SL) and its many clones like Opensim work. He's making up a legal theory about virtual property and artist rights in virtual worlds that simply doesn't exist, yet. It's wishful thinking.

      It's not virtual property, it's intellectual property and courts have plenty of experience dealing with it.

      The way that the program distributes temporary copies, the fact that it's a virtual world and that's it's an open sourced simulator are completely irrelevant.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        FTFA, it sounds like a "work for hire." (can't tell for sure, since we don't get to see the actual contract, but if the contract was clear that it wasn't work for hire, then why not post it and resolve this matter?) Work for hire == shit out of luck..

        So it was as a real-life businessman that he was careful to communicate the terms of his commission with his client, on more than one occasion, to ensure he would retain and protect his creative rights and credit.

        If it isn't in the actual contract (and it d

        • by voss (52565)

          There is no such thing as implied work for hire, it must be expressly written in the contract, if its not clearly written that it is work for hire...its not.

          Im sure the client would happily have included a work for hire clause if they could have.

          The fact that its a virtual is irrelevant to copyright, if the client had simply deleted the work, there would be no case. Not having a backup is clearly
          the authors fault.

          However putting on another site clearly violates the authors rights. Of course remedies would h

          • There is no such thing as implied work for hire, it must be expressly written in the contract, if its not clearly written that it is work for hire...its not.

            No. In fact, it often won't matter whether a contract asserts that a work is a work made for hire.

            A work made for hire is defined in the Copyright Act at 17 USC 101 as:

            (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or

            (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. For the purpose of the foregoing sentence, a "supplementary work" is a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an "instructional text" is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.

            Also note section 201(b), which relies on the above definition:

            (b) Works Made for Hire.--
            In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.

            Thus, any work done by an employee within the scope of his employment is a work made for hire where the employer is the auth

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            The designer is based in London. "Work for hire" doesn't mean the same thing as in the US. Also, we don't know until we see the contract, and if the person doing the bellyaching was in the right, why don't they just show us the agreement?

            Their stance reminds me of the "If the facts are against you, pound on the table" school of argument. I want to see the contract, or they're just blowing hot air.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          FTFA, it sounds like a "work for hire." (can't tell for sure, since we don't get to see the actual contract, but if the contract was clear that it wasn't work for hire, then why not post it and resolve this matter?) Work for hire == shit out of luck..

          ...

          You've actually got that backwards. IANAL, but my understanding of copyright law (that comes from actually having been in a similar situation...) is that unless there's a written contract that clearly uses the exact words "work for hire", it's NOT a "work for hire". The contract doesn't have to be clear that it's not a "work for hire", it must be explicitly clear that is IS a "work for hire". Also, IIRC if the work does not fit the legal description of a "work for hire", it's NOT a "work for hire" despit

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            US law doesn't apply - the guy is based in London.

            The very terms used indicate it was what you would term "work for hire" - he admits he "was commissioned to" render the objects in question. In other words, the work was done in exchange for money. How is this different from you accepting a fee for producing some of the artwork for a video game? The contract is the governing document, and not any later emails from him to the client trying to retroactively withhold more rights.

            We need to see the actual

    • He's making up a legal theory about virtual property and artist rights in virtual worlds that simply doesn't exist, yet. It's wishful thinking.

      It's called software and copyright. You know, that stuff that gets run to make the virtual world come alive? Maybe it shouldn't exist, but it does.

      If you're actually holding courts INSIDE a virtual world, then you might need virtual laws. That would be over things like whether the virtual cash from one virtual country was traded at the correct virtual exchange rat

    • by jonbryce (703250) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @07:58AM (#29075315) Homepage

      If you commission me to create some graphics for a website, and the contract says I retain the copyright; you can't then sell my graphics to another website.

      That is essentially what happened here.

    • Please note i am a SecondLife member not a lawyer or any kind of legal person

      First off the contract should has very clearly stated "the work being done has been created for use on the SecondLife Primary Grid and is not authorized for use on any other grid Beta Teen or other"

      Second if you want to "backup" a build like that then all you have to do as the creator is install a copy of say the Greenlife Emerald third part client and then select the item and pick "export" from the pie menu
      this will create a full

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      So, according to your theory, by publishing in a format that requires duplication, you lose the rights to your creations? Fine, then I claim ownership of the following text:

      Having read the article, it's clear that the designer has no idea how virtual worlds and especially Second Life (SL) and its many clones like Opensim work. He's making up a legal theory about virtual property and artist rights in virtual worlds that simply doesn't exist, yet. It's wishful thinking.

      If he created something in the physic

  • And they're so much work [today.com] to change!

    On the upside, attacks of flying penises are all but unknown. Nearly [youtube.com].

  • Yeah, there's a lot of stuff I'd like to try to build in virtual communities like Second Life, but it's stuff like this that makes me shy away. I think if I had to create virtual mockups for architectural / engineering review, I'd try to use blender and maybe try to get it working in the unreal engine if the blender game engine wasn't enough. Not as much community access as SecondLife provides, but at least you work would be safe.

  • Is there a better summary of events available somewhere? A lot of people are talking about the original buyer of the work having re-sold it, and there's nothing about that in the linked article. Also it mentions the DMCA without explaining how that could be relevant.

  • Today I have founded a new organization, the Virtual Worlds Liberation Front (VWLF)!
    .
    We shall agitate against "permission flags" and others forms of DRM and copy protection in virtual worlds. If necessary, we shall strive to create new worlds free from these digital chains!
    .
    Think about it. . . How would the WWW have been hobbled if nobody could look at the HTML code of most web pages to learn how it works? How about you couldn't link to websites outside of your own domain? (That would pretty mu

  • Second Life has a piss-poor reputation for helping content creators retain control over their creations. Skins (texture over avatar models), clothes, etc. are routinely ripped off because, amongst other reasons, they're cached as individual TGA files on the client computer, and 3rd party SL clients are allowed. These 3rd party clients (e.g. CopyBot) can and have been coded to save any texture desired to a place where the user can then upload to SL and use as their own (complex models are made from what ar

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