In the last few weeks, certain channels of comment about Second Life (and, one infers, channels within SL) have been flooded by the issue of content theft. This thread at SLUniverse, where I first ran across the topic, has grown to at least 47 pages in two weeks! (I’ll get back to that in a minute…) Meanwhile, anyone who pays attention has at least heard of the suit against Linden Labs filed by Nomine and Eros LLC (a.k.a. Munchflower Zaius and Stroker Serpentine). The latest piece of news, only two days old as I write this, is the Lab’s clever exploit to identify and bust (i.e., permaban) 50 people using something called “NeilLife”, a poorly-hacked copy of someone else’s 3rd-party viewer, to illegally copy content.
As I combed through that 47-page thread at SLU, I found two things of particular importance. One of them was the alleged source of the third-party viewer that was the cause for alarm which began that thread. As the discussion developed, a lot of attention was paid to a griefer group that calls themselves “Patriotic Nigras” (PN). We furries are very familiar with that particular bunch — they’ve got a real hate on for us, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but if you’ve ever wondered why “Yiff in Hell, furfags!” shows up so often from those particle-spewing replicator cubes, they’re to blame (or maybe their copycat wannabes).
In the aftermath of that bust, and lining up my sources for this blog, I re-read Post #3 in that thread (also by the original poster, Jesse Barnett) which says:
This isn’t ThugLyfe as that is in closed beta. This was built by someone who had been accessing the ThugLyfe subversion and using bits of code.
“ThugLyfe”, by the way, is a viewer that the PN has been working on — I guess to invent features to make it easier for them to cause trouble. And it turns out that NeilLife is a copied and poorly-hacked version of the ThugLyfe beta. QED, as far as I’m concerned… and we’re left with 47 pages of “OMG!” over — what?
The second important aspect I noticed about the tsuris over content theft is: Who’s making the most noise? I didn’t count instances, mind you… but it sure looked to me like the people doing the most panicking are all SL fashion designers… more significantly, fashion sellers. In their “worst of all possible world” scenarios, the NeilLife/ThugLyfe viewer will be come widespread, people will be copying their creations left and right and wearing them, selling — or *gasp* giving them away! — and pull the prim rug out from under their market. Many of them claim to make a significant chunk of RL income from cashing out Linden dollars, converting them to real-world currency, and they see any challenge to the status quo as threatening their individual livelihoods. Many of those, at least in the early pages of that thread, played the “drama quit threat” card.
Oy, weh ist mir! Whatever would we, the common folk of SL — human, furry, or otherwise — do if the high-end, high-priced purveyors of clothing and accessories had to abandon the grid because their profit margins (after paying tier or rent) shrank back to the level of providing them with a little in-world cash for tipping DJs in the clubs they go to to show off their must-have creations?
[OK — obviously, I’m a guy. One hairstyle and a handful of jeans and shirts is all I need to look how I want to. And I’m a furry, which for me means I don’t wear shoes. So I’m not into the fashion scene anyway. Granted, a furry avatar itself is an “outfit” consisting of a skin and prim attachments worn over a human shape, and there are plenty of furs (mostly female, big surprise) who collect avatars the way their human counterparts collect skin, hair and shoes. But we’re a minority and a niche market… and I was one of only two furs who posted on the never-ending thread in SLU, the other being Argent Stonecutter.]
Synchronicity time: While all the ohmygodding is being raised about protecting intellectual property, Pixels and Policy is asking “Is Virtual Consumerism Built on Social Pressure?, and Mahala Roviana is answering the question in her blog Second Slice with a resounding “Well, duh…”, and Santino Pintens started up a Virtual Consumer’s Union, which has some other people (see the comments to that post) saying “Huh?”
I’m saying “Huh?” too. But I’m saying it for a different reason.
Santino Pintens uses shoes that cost L$1000 as an example. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? You can get a full furry avatar for less than that! To someone who engages with Second Life on the “no payment plan”, it looks positively prohibitive. But let’s put it in what I believe is the proper perspective: not Linden Lab’s version of “Monopoly money”, but real-world currency. I generally use a conversion ratio of L$250 = $1 (USD) — yes, I know it fluctuates, and it’s slightly better than that, but it makes the math convenient. This means that those “expensive” shoes cost a whopping $4. As Ari Blackthorn seems fond of saying:
Unless SL borks your inventory, you have those shoes forever; they don’t wear out on virtual dance floors. Not bad for 4 bucks, eh? So, here’s some friendly advice: You want the look? Bite the bullet, cough up the cash, buy the monopoly money. Pay to play.
It’s true: stuff does go “out of fashion” Why? The important reason is: technical improvements in how things can be constructed. For example, there are a lot of furry avatars that just plain look “old tech,” because they are… which is why Luskwood Creatures, for one, is systematically going through their entire avatar line and redesigning each to the latest state of the art. The same thing applies to clothing. The introduction of sculpties has vastly improved the realistic look of pants, sweaters, hoodies, you-name-it. In footwear, the latest innovation I’ve seen is open-toed shoes and sandals with sculpted toes built in, so now your feet can look like real feet, instead of whatever that is at the end of a avatar’s leg.
The unimportant reason things go out of fashion is: Somebody said so. Which brings me back to Mahala’s Second Slice post (link above), and the reason I’ve re-written this TLDR post three times while blundering through the maze of issues relating to virtual content.
In our quest to create things more realistic, we’ve stumbled and instead made them more like reality. I thought that’s what we were trying to escape.
Right on! And with all of that, we brought the goon squads: vandals trying to disrupt it “for the lulz”, shoplifters trying to steal it, shop owners screaming for the cops and/or threatening to sue when the cops don’t come, whiners demanding clearance sales… and, gods help us, the self-appointed Fashion Police.
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* “Fashion”, David Bowie (1980)