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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Step Up! Campaign

I received a note from Tricia Aferdita about some awareness raising going on around art theft. She's helping out with the Step Up! Campaign and helping organize the artists who want to help raise awareness of the problem. I think this is fantastic and if you have been a reader of this blog, you know my stance on art theft and have seen a few of the blatant cases by some of these thieves.

There is a Ning group where some discussions have been going on that is of interest, be sure to take a look. Here is my recent post there.

One thing that I wanted to add to that discussion there. I think one of the most powerful things we as artists and people concerned with art theft in SL can do is to simply confront these thieves and tell them that what they are doing is
WRONG. I strongly believe that the reason they just continue their illegal business is because no one complains to their face.

Now I'm not saying that people need to start making threats about filing abuse reports (or about anything else), which is pointless. The only real recourse is to notify the copyright holder and hope they file a DMCA notice with LL. Just politely inform the thief that what they are doing sucks, that content theft in SL is a serious problem that hurts SL and the art scene, and they should be ashamed of themselves for selling stolen art. Then leave and tell your friends about what is going on. Take them back to show them. Tell them to complain too.

If you are a gallery owner, read this old post about making sure that your artists are not thieves. This is really your responsibility as a gallery owner to make sure you are not helping to sell stolen goods!!

Be careful you don't sling accusations, there are cases where people can license photos or art you may recognize from a service that licenses such things, or they are that artist in RL, and they may indeed have permission to show or sell that piece. So assume goodness! Ask if they have permission politely. The only gotcha is that a real thief will claim "of course" so it's a bit of tricky business trying to sleuth out the truth. If they claim that they are indeed that artist in RL, and something just seems really suspicious, what I have done in the past is this - if you can find the RL artist's website, email them a polite note to confirm that the SL person you found is really that person and that the reason you are asking is that you are very concerned about art theft in SL and want to make sure that the RL artist is not being ripped off. They will thank you.

I'd love to hear your stories, and Tricia Aferdita is collecting them as well, so I'll be happy to forward them on to her. So let me know if you run into any slimy art thieves in SL! If you don't feel comfortable confronting a suspected thief, let me know, I'd be glad to help. To me this is what is means to Step Up!! Complain about it, don't just shake your head and leave!


  1. One thing I wanted to clarify. The kind of art IP theft that I see the most is, thankfully, not stolen SL-resident created art, but simply grabbing copyrighted 2D images from outside SL, uploading them and selling them for profit (and sometimes claiming as original work). Yes, there have been cases of theft from SL artist, and in those cases, unlike what I said above, you should NOT confront the thief, but notify the SL resident about the theft so they can take appropriate action.

    What I'm really addressing in my original post is more about theft from external sources (i.e. famous art being sold). In those cases getting the non-SL resident to do anything is much more difficult, and in those cases some education and peer pressure to stop selling obviously stolen art may just do the trick.

  2. Thank you, Sasun, for giving attention to the Step Up Campaign in Second Life. I too felt I had to make a statement about the issue of legal and ethical art in SL. So I sent this notice inworld in several artgroups:

    Step Up for Ethical Art in Second Life.

    Today, the 5th of November 2009, has been declared as a day for awarenes & solidarity to show your support for the content creators of Second Life. You can show your support by not uploading any textures or other content to SL for 24 hours on this day. By doing that, we are sending a message to Lindenlab that we want to make a statement about copyright in SL.

    As a galleryowner I feel I want to make a special statement today to step up for ethical art in SL. There are a lot of galleryowners in SL who not only sell their own art, but also, or only, art from others. There seem to be a lot of misunderstandings about what art you can sell in SL legally and what not. To make those who sell art from others more aware of what is legal, I want to adress to two topics today:
    1. Art you found on the World Wide Web
    2. Art you got sent from someone else

    About Art you found on the World Wide Web:
    People often mistake the World Wide Web for being 'the public domain'. It is not. If you find a wonderful image somewhere on the internet, and it does not say who the artist is, and it also does not say that it is copyrighted, then that does NOT mean that it is not copyrighted! So by taking that image and using it, you are taking the risk of infringing on the copyright of the creator/artist. Art only is for the use of the public domain if the site where you found the artwork explicitely says so. Usually only art from artists that have died longer than 70 years ago is released into the public domain. You can find more info about this topic at Wikipedia:
    An example of artwork that is released into the public domain you find here:

    (read next comment for folluw up)

  3. About art you got sent from someone else:
    We often tend to trust others when they tell us that the art is theirs or they would have the right to copy it, or the creator/artist is someone they know and would be oke with the use of the image. Be sure to verify if this is all true. People often believe themselves that they have the right to copy art of others, while they are not. They found it on the net and it did not say it was copyrighted, so that means they can do with it whatever they want and they can give it to you to use for your gallery, right? Wrong! Ask them who the artist of the image is. If they don't know who the artist is, then don't use it. If they do know who the artist is, then find the website of that artist and send him/her a message asking about the use of the image. ONLY use the image if you get a positive written answer from the artist that it is oke for you to exhibit it and sell it for Second Life use. If the artist does not allow you the use - and if he/she does not reply, then you're not allowed the use - then throw the image away and don't use it!

    How you can Step Up for Ethical Art in SL:

    1. Wear the Step Up Ribbon today
    (who reads this blog: if you want one, contact me inworld)

    2. Do not upload any textures or other content to SL for 24 hours today.

    3. Do not sell any art in SL that you don't have any written permission for from the original artist. If you are not sure about some art you have in your gallery and want my advice, feel free to contact me.

    4. Do not buy any art in SL that does not credit the original artist. How do you know this? Does the name or description of the artwork say who the original artist is? If not, ask the galleryowner who it is. If they say they don't know, don't buy the art. If they say they do know, check if they have the written permission of the artist to sell it, and if they have not, then don't buy the art. Because if you do, then you take the risk of buying stolen art. You don't want that on your SL club or home wall, right? Right!

    With any questions, IM Zena Zemlja.

    Enjoy your Ethical Art in Second Life!

    Zena Zemlja,
    Owner of Art Galleries Body, Mind & Spirit,
    Galleries for Ethical Art in Second Life.

  4. P.S.
    If only one person, galleryowner or customer, changes his or her view on the use of art in an ethical way in SL, by reading my notice inworld or in this blogcomment, then it has been worth the effort.