Recently, a movie has had world wide release, generating many dollars for the production company, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation and the writer, James Cameron, who is also the Director.

Over the course of my time in world, a number of newly released movies have enjoyed their SL release, introduced here by their production companies. These include Die Hard, Beowulf, etc. A number of launches of movies took place in world, where free, fully kitted, licenced avatars were freely distributed in world. None seem to have generated such interest from in world residents as James Cameron’s Avatar ©. Why is this? Do people feel a kinship with the movie name? This is a Science Fiction movie, and although SF has a cult following across the globe and within virtual worlds, it is not an overwhelming following. Other SF movies have been recently made, with no such following. Is it because of the world wide popularity of the movie at cinemas? Possibly, although I still do not think this is the only reason.

This article is not really to discuss the popularity of a movie in the physical or virtual worlds, but one of the consequences. I have seen in recent weeks a scrambling rush of designers, bloggers, creators, fly-by-nighters and ordinary residents to recreate the main characters from the movie, with complete and total disregard for any copyright issues that may involve. I have thought quite a deal on my feelings towards this.

As a council member of Artist’s Voice, I have an obligation to uphold the standards and ideals of this organisation. This is not difficult for me, as I have had a life long passion for support of creativity and artists in all forms, part of which is the protection of their work. This applies to virtual and physical worlds.

As we are well on the way to hurtling into the 21st century, we are faced with an entirely different set of scenarios than those which prompted the formulation of copyright and intellectual property laws in many countries. Few have really useful legislation enacted to specifically cover electronic, digital and graphic copyright and IP rights of creators. I believe this has contributed to the flurry of copyright infringement we see recently with particular regard to James Cameron’s Avatar©.

Is it ok to rip a design from an artist? The short answer, no. If, by making a representation of a character from the movie Avatar © are you committing copyright theft and IP infringement? Short answer, yes. Of course, I may be ignorant of some enterprising person actually seeking permission from both James Cameron and 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation to use their creations and introduce them into Second Life, either as giveaways or as a money making venture. If this is the case, please let me know! It is also possible that permission has been given from 20th Century Fox and James Cameron to duplicate their work in Secondlife – again please let me know if this is so. So, basically if you do not have the written permission of the creator to use either their creations or elements of it, you are infringing upon their IP rights if you use it .

I read yesterday of a resident who thought she would compound her errors by making a James Cameron’s Avatar© skin by modifying a skin from a well known designer (who incidently, has been the victim of content theft). Problem is, the original skin was non modifiable – therefore was a ripped skin to begin with. Given the exposure of content theft issues in Secondlife, ignorance is not an excuse.

So why this article? A number of reasons, one of which is my own self examination of the personal standards that I use in my day to day lives (RL and SL). I do not accept that:
– theft is ok if it’s only a little bit
– if the owner does not know
– if the owner is rich and can afford it
– if the thief ‘just feels like it’
– if ‘everyone else is doing it’
– if it will distribute more of your in world magazines
– if your sponsor has insisted upon it
– If you personally consider you are not breaching copyright just because you choose to think that way
– If you felt ‘inspired’ to ‘pay a tribute’
– ‘this is a game, therefore it doesn’t count’
– if you justify your actions with the claim that you are generating free publicity for the movie

or a multitude of other reasons. I’ve seen too many good people left bitter, disillusioned, disappointed and friendships destroyed because of the rampant theft in world. I am firm in my mind of my own opinions regarding copyright, as are many others. It is a line you must not cross. If in doubt, contact a council member within the Artist’s Voice organisation for clarification.
We all need to make a decision: do we wholeheartedly support an artist’s right to protection of creativity, whether physical or virtual environment? If you choose yes, your decision must be unequivocal, otherwise you undermine entirely your stand. If you choose yes, we all need, as a community, to support artists by:
– refusing to purchase items which breach copyright
– standing up to those that claim it is ok, and insisting that it is not ok
– not supporting people who insist on blogging these items
– reporting those people who have knowingly breached Lindenlab TOS
– maintaining our own ethical standards in our purchasing power
– supporting entirely a creators right to protection, whether they are SL residents or not
– keep in mind that copyright and IP rights are NOT debateable in world. Law is very clear, and it is not a matter of arguing your way out of it with your friends opinions.
Artist’s voice is having a major event soon to support artists. This is an exciting event line up, and I encourage you to attend, enjoy the convivial company, spend some hard earned cash, and be aware that in doing so you are supporting creators rather than thieves.
“In our continued effort to combat content theft and to celebrate those designers who are producing original content to make our Second Life all that it can be, the Artist’s Voice is pleased to announce the:
I ❤ Originals Fair: February 8 – 14, 2010”
Put this date in your diary now, I’d love to see you there!

I know there will be many disagree with this article. This is not intended as laying down laws to anyone. It is intended to encourage you to examine your own ideas and thoughts on the issues discussed.

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