Second Life content creators face genuine dilemmas

Content theft has always been something of an issue in Second Life, though there seems to be less of it going on in per capita terms than in the physical world. That said, it is interesting to see Second Life content creators increasingly moved towards positions maintained by music and movie publishers in the physical world.

"Why would anyone walk into a store and spend 400 or 500 Linden on a dress, if they can get a dress of similar quality for free or very cheap from a reseller," asks Ziggy Quirk.

Of course, publishers of videos/DVDs, PC and Console games, books and even websites have asked themselves this essential question over and over, and implored the purchasing public to really understand things from their position.

In microcosm, Second Life content creators are starting to 'get it'. When it comes to content - particularly to textures - there's no more way to prevent duplication and knock-offs in the synthetic world than there is in the physical world.

The physical world is full-perms, speaking technically.

Down at the bag shop (physical world), I can't tell if that's Prada or a knockoff. Neither can the store owner. Stock comes in from a lot of sources - multiple distributors, clearance stock from closing stores. Somewhere along the way, fakes have been injected and nobody can tell. Physical content, analog content, or digital content: all of it gets copied for profit.

Prada, Rolex, Microsoft, Blizzard/Activision, Warner Brothers, Universal Music Group - everyone's complaining about their stuff being copied, in one way or another, and then sold cheap or distributed free. By the time you read this story, there will be copies of it on quite a number of sites who are presenting it as their own content, for profit.

On technical measures for the prevention of copying digital content alone, more than a trillion US dollars has been spent - and ultimately wasted.

The publishers of digital content have poured money for years into making sure that no human on earth could copy CD music or computer games or DVD movies. With pretty obvious results. We've all seen how well it works. There's signs that music publishers may finally be giving up entirely on attempts to protect their works with technology, except for a few die-hards who would still like to realize some - any - return on all that investment.

Content creators are asking for Linden Lab to take action. Either for Linden Lab to take technological steps to eliminate the possibility of duplication or to take action against those who are doing the duplication.

"DRM, huh? How much do you want to pay for this to not work?" -- James Dawson, programmer.

Technological barriers to duplication just don't work. It may be possible that with the consumption of a few trillion more US dollars that someone will find a way that does. We're not going to be holding our breath here in the meantime. Any piece of digital content from any world or venue, from any platform is ultimately available for someone to duplicate, sufficing only that they can receive it in some form.

Content can be decrypted, physical locks and dongles bypassed. Watermarks and metadata can be removed.

That leaves action.

"Any freebie or full-perm item should only be distributed with the full permission and wishes of the creator, and when it's reported it needs to be stopped as soon as humanly possible." -- Ziggy Quirk

That action has to take place in a Court of Law, or at the hands of Linden Lab. Linden Lab is faster when they do take action, but they also make mistakes like anyone else. The more so, because they seem to be eternally rushed.

Courts are surer and slower ways to proceed. For those brands and publishers being knocked-off or replicated in the physical world, however, those don't seem nearly fast enough, and nobody ever seems to make their money back closing down the copiers or distributors.

Second Life, some say, is a microcosm of accelerated human history repeating itself. It remains to be seen whether the content creators start to echo an accelerated history of publishers versus pirates.