It's important to understand that there has always been a war on the SL economy by communists in the opensource movement who hate the economy as such, and hate that people buy and sell in it, and hate that people keep copyright coupled to commerce in order to do that, using the tools of Second Life itself put into it by its framers.
I noted in my report on Ina Centaur's latest "liberation front attack" that if I had world enough and time, I'd sell her freebies to undo her communist sabotage. I think it's the sort of partisan war one should definitely take part in to combat communism -- if you have the stamina.
I do this first and foremost with Linden objects made some time ago that they put on all perms because they are part of that goofy Creative Communism culture. I modify them (sometimes they cry out for modification as they are so crappy) or I keep them as is (some of them are really good) and I re-sell them in my shops. Usually I charge $1 or $2 because they *are* freebies and you *can* get them elsewhere -- they aren't in the library, but they are here and there at various depots. I get to do this, and should even charge more
I first got the idea for this when I saw a Linden tent for sale for $100 on Baku flying around as a newbie. This tent was nowhere available that I had ever seen, and I loved it, it was perfect for something I was building. It was modifiable, too, so I could change its textures. I thought that the person who had gone to the trouble to find and tier and display that item deserved $100, and paid it. Yes, I was aware that it was likely out there somewhere -- but I hadn't seen it at Stillman Bazaar or anywhere else. Yes, $100 was a lot to pay. But it was what I needed just in time -- and paying that "just in time" price is something SL will let you do, and let sellers do.
What is an economy? An old friend of mine who is a wealthy retailer once explained it to me very simply:
"It's the place where a willing buyer meets a willing seller."
He explained various features of how this formula can go wrong. If prices are too high, the buyer won't sell his stuff. And if you have an economy where the seller won't make good stuff and charge more for it, and makes a lot of crappy stuff and charges less, he essentially has an unwilling seller who buys but may not forever and it collapses (the Soviet Union).
The GNUsenses, copyleftists, opensource freaks, various hobos, etc. have barraged SL deliberately with freebies to try to undermine what they saw the Lindens doing. I've seldom covered their war, mainly because after about the first year, they had absolutely zero effect. Many's the time I've seen Jai Nomad's hugely insane prim-heavy Dutch table (a pretty work of art to be sure with its inlaid woods) for sale for at least $100.
I once approached Jai and asked her if for God's sake, she could put some of her pretty items on mod. They were just so frigging prim-heavy. I was making a newbies' community, wanted to use her houses to inspire people to build cool space-age kinda stuff (this was back when I was a naive noobie landlord) but I only had so many prims. Could she please consider giving me a special set of them on mod? She had them on copy/transfer but not mod. She was reluctant to do this, I think like others she may have believed that if only she didn't put stuff on mod, she could realize her communal dreams of spreading free content throughout the world to "help da newbz" but also undermine the Man's copyright economy -- it was kind of a deterrent.
Well, here was I, a landlord, willing to give people free houses, willing to charge them only one dollar a prim, the barest of rent that would barely break even on the tier (and not really), but she was asking to help by enabling prim reduction (also, enabling taking some of the "glow" light-box stuff off -- at that time, the light was blinding and spread across the sim). Finally she relented and I got a set of the stuff that I was able to get defatted and put it out. It was put on no-transfer, though : )
The GNU store, ironically supported by certain famous FIC types who were happy to copy anims available on the Internet and resell them in SL for a fortune (LOL), was something the Lindens promoted, and all the newbies were told to go there. It actually didn't have much of a selection. Some of the stuff was odd. Some of it was hugely annoying. Like one widely-distributed orange coloured A-frame house that the maker put on "lock" -- which was another thing that oldbies did to stop further copying and defeat of the "first sale" doctrine while still styling themselves as Lady Bountiful with free stuff. You wanted to get rid of that ugly orange or at least be able to resize the thing -- but you had to figure out the "unlock" at first and that took time -- some newbies never figured it out.
The heavy-prim Jai houses were there; but some other ugly skins were just an infliction on the grid. And don't get me started about that widely-flushed turd called "the Beach House" by Siggy Romulus.
For a time, Hamlet ne Linden Au and even the actual Lawrence Lessig, given an account with his custom name, appeared in SL and tried to flog Creative Commons. They put it on Democracy Island (Beth Noveck's short-lived and failed project) as a kind of "machine" that dispensed the "license" -- but I once checked how many items it had dispensed after it had been out for months: the number was at 30. It had zero appeal. It had almost no use. Just like CC itself, which you NEVER see in SL. And for good reason: it harms commerce and undermines copyright, and we all know that it does that, and SL is an ideal laboratory to prove that point in spades -- which is why Lessig stopped liking SL, and why even its founder Mitch Kapor stop liking SL as much as they liked it at the beginning when they imagined that people would step into the regime easily, producing copies that they would release for free with the California Business Model and then...and then...um...get paid somehow.
Fortunately, the Lindens put the "pay" function right into the viewer on the object, and people quickly figured out it was better to get paid *something* than nothing; in fact, it was better to get paid a lot, than a little. And hence the economy was born -- without the Lindens. It was accidental. The convertibility of the Lindens' communist currency (they were willing to accept it for payment of tier only at a terrible rate, an option very few people used at that time) was also something that happened completely without them, but ultimately with their consent, and that was via Gaming Open Market, later forced closed (a long and important chapter of SL history I'd have to find the links to, because it served as the source of the term "GOM" -- which is a term to describe what the Lab has done, and means "to coopt a resident's creation then use it yourself without their involvement" (something the TOS enables them to do, ultimately).
Here's a response to my email from the lovely Ina. My note in italics. Note that unlike Masami Kuramoto, who claims that "it would be copyright infringement' if you sell freebies (it's not), Ina doesn't make that false claim.
1. I'm not aware that there's any serious constituency in Second Life -- if there ever was one -- that believes that release of freebies on all perms constitutes a revolutionary act "undermining the economy". Such acts disappear without a ripple. It's such a huge and diverse place now spanning many real-life countries with an enormous amount of commerce on it of all forms -- for-profit commercial, non-profit, donation, etc. -- that it would be hard to conceive of the actions of any one agent or even a concerted group of agents releasing freebies as "undermining the economy". Indeed, when Linden Lab itself threatened to remove all freebies from the SL Marketplace (they certained harmed *its* economy of commissions on sales!), the community of merchants put up such vigorous defense in support of their loss-leaders that Linden Lab was forced to step back with the plan.
I concede that the macroeconomic overview may have little apparent effect with respect to such financial numerics, but the effect on both individuals and taxonomies of creators may be quite nontrivial. By citing only the SLX case, you seem to neglect the actual creation other side of this creative ecosystem. In my opinion, the proper examples to cite would be that of Arcadia Asylum's MetroCity and related full-perms freebies and Eloh Eliot's “Another Skin”. Unlike promotional freebies released per promo, these two freebie collections are released 1) in a truly opensourced fashion, 2) not as a promotional swag for a particular merchant.
The caveat rests in the fact that these items were opensourced in a way that anyone can modify, or steal and resell, repackage, and even take over, with their own “rebranded” name as creator. They were not merely full-permission items, but textures and other source material were provided. As a result, you see a profusion of these freebies repackaged being sold to unsuspecting users. Since Eloh Eliot released her .psd and .ai opensourced skin, the skin market has become supersaturated with Another Skin's. With actual value put in by the intermediary creator, said creator reselling the content seems perfectly all right. However, when the intermediary creator simply repackages the same content with no-added value, then tacks on an “industry-standard” premium of L$3000/skin, that she or he obtained for no cost, the fellowship of the potential creative meritocracy that SL could have been, becomes abjectly violated.
My goal is to try to keep this fellowship of creative meritocracy.
I hope this clarifies the issue at stake.
2. The notion that a *if* such an act is actually (or could be construed as) damaging to the economy, that it is mitigated if it is mediocre quality is a novel one as well. It implies that copyright permissions are only legitimate to keep coupled to commerce and commercial activity if they are on *good* content or even really high-quality content. It implies that those who *might* worry about an economy-sabotage should stop worrying, and simply *make better content* -- work harder and better! But in fact, the persons most undermined by freebies of mediocre avatars are the makers of *other* mediocre avatars that they can still sell -- and that's ok. Having a huge diversity of content in the world from amateur to professional is all a good thing.
Eloh Eliot's skins were released at a useable, professional quality, but with plenty of room for improvement. They are considered by the more elite creators and patrons of SL to be of “medium quality,” but are considered by more plebeian users to be “good enough” or “wow, waaaay better than my n00b skin.” As a result, masses were resold with absolutely no improvement or variation from the original released set, purely because the customers were not aware that they were buying repackaged free content. This is blatantly unfair to creators who actually create, c.f. fellowship of a creative meritocracy.
I believe that the only way to responsibly release quality content in this world of ephemeral and highly portable virtual goods is to notify the potential customers, and in this case, being geared for OpenSim, I would hope that the many educational and nonprofit institutions making use of OpenSim and SL would not be scammed into paying for content that was originally provided for free.
3. To be sure, constantly decoupling copyright and commerce with a conscious desire to hammer a wedge between it to undermine copyright (as Creative Commons does) is indeed a political act and you imply it as such. But it's a political act that the overwhelming majority of merchants in SL ignore. The overwhelming majority have no interest in Creative Commons as it doesn't serve them and doesn't help them make any livlihood.
Because this content is released under the most liberal Creative Commons license, the intermediate creator is not forbidden to resell them – this makes sense, as there is really no way to track what happens to all this. However, as I mentioned above, I would really like the potential consumer benefactors to not be scammed into paying for them, when they are freely available.
4. If you are worried about people selling your perm-free items, you have to click the box "no-transfer". Trying to use social injunctions against the selling of freebies doesn't work anymore in this very wide and diverse world. And you really can't ask people anymore to tier the display of your loss-leaders for free anymore. It's the attention economy -- they want a penny at least.
When your content is released open-source (i.e. with textures, sculpties, mesh, etc. freely available for anyone to download and modify), it becomes a nontrivial matter that these limited SL permissions cannot solve. Anyone can just upload your source, plaster it on their own prim and call it their own. No SL permission box can help you in this case. Getting the word out and making sure that your endpoints are aware of what's available is the only way to avoid this from becoming epidemic.
How's your Whack-a-Mole score these days?
Thank you for your time and concern.
The fellowship of creative meritocracy -- what a term! -- is best kept by charging a lot for your stuff so that it is valued.
The communists always hide their altruism -- which is in fact a sabotage act designed to "expropriate from the expropriates" and I out it as such here -- in this caveat that they "just don't want people to be scammed".
If you REALLY don't want them to be scammed, then don't put your junk on transfer? Hello!!!
But if you are engaged in communist liberation acts, you don't do that, do you, because then you don't get as much eyeball space and inventory share for your cause.
It's good Ina outed herself -- and her clan -- with the actual intentions she has here. It focuses my mind better on what these people are really up to, which I hadn't quite put all together in one way before.
The opensource professors who whine about costs and whine that their students need free stuff seemingly out of concern for the poor and seemingly out of creative altruism, and who believe there is a "stampede" to Open Sim (there isn't) are actually footsoldiers in a war. It's a war led by John Perry Barlow, Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow and others, and is indeed a war. It's a war on copyright, and that means *it's a war on your livlihood* if you make a living in SL, or even if you just get costs met.
These people have always tried to use the social injunction against selling freebies.
For awhile, there was one of those Ayn Randians who called herself the Queen of Second Life, Jamie Bergman, who used to deliberately collect all the oldbie freebies, especially the weapons, and deliberately sell them in a popular store. The job of aggregating and displaying is one the market appreciates. They don't feel "scammed". They pay $100 for a good weapon -- or more. Too bad for you, communists.
They tried to bully and harass her endlessly on the forums, but she was playing war with these commies and refused to be budged. She kept on selling freebies happily for ages, but then got bored with SL I guess, she's gone now.
There is absolutely nothing in the TOS the Lindens can invoke to punish the sale of freebies.
I once saw a group of zealous Lindens land like a ton of bricks on a neighbour with a yard sale who wa GASP reselling Yadni Monde's freebies *he* sells for $1 *for a $1 too* which he "forbids". This was in the days when Lindens were wilder than they are now.
They deleted the content and warned this guy he couldn't do that. They were thugs. They were pals of Yadni, a beloved early adapter, and they used this vigilante method of destroying property and intimidating a relatively new resident into stopping the resale of freebies.
But then they couldn't scale that. Thousands of people came and resold freebies. The Lindens had to let it go. You don't sell server space and get commissions on goods if you stop the resale of freebies. Either you play economy, or you don't.
I suspect that the website Copycense is right, that this war is going to heat up, and more and more there will be a challenge to copyright but also to copyleftist thugs like Lessig and Creative Commons. While once Lessig tried to invoke the legion of online digital artists in his army against RIAA or big media corporations trying to maintain copyright and preventing resale or remixing and modification of resale of content, and it all seemed like a glorious struggle of the People.
Of course the People that Lessig had in his army weren't *the* people -- the were the affluent hippies and coders that he had gathered around him in the EFF and related networks who themselves were either rich kids like John Perry Barlow to start with, or had become rich through...the sale of software (imagine that!) like Mitch Kapor, who now presides over Firefox (and Second Life and other projects with open source freebies), or various other people working in big IT firms or simply living in Mom's basement.
But now there's a different army. Now there's an army of people like Stroker Serpentine, a plumber in real life, who starts an online business and wants to get paid for his creations. Now you have thousands of people who aren't rich, who aren't connected, who aren't working for big IT, who aren't in the Silicon Valley magic circle, and they make content online, and not only in SL but on all kinds of other websites, and they want to get paid. And they want copyright coupled to commerce, and they want to have the system work to keep their livlihoods intact. *Livlihoods* are important for people to eat and have a home -- people are not SL avatars
One of the biggest indictments against Creative Communism is Flickr. In various jobs I have, I often have to go to Flickr to research photos available and also in a sense follow news, because some news events are followed by what people post there. And I sometimes have to search out a CC photo because I work at sites that want pictures, may not have budgets for photos, and also support the CC stuff (I don't, but I don't have a choice as a mere worker in these situations). So I look at Flickr a lot -- and I also look at the various SL groups on it and SL related content -- plus -- and here's another whole group of people -- my children's work, their friends' work, their school photography class projects, etc. etc.
And here's what I see on Flickr: the default is NOT CC. (There was probably a war over that; it was lost very early on). The default is ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. And the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of people keep that default, either because they haven't thought about it, but in many, many more cases, because they have. Some people put CONTACT GETTY PHOTO or some other agency if you want to buy the rights to their photos. Sometimes in a few cases you do find CC licenses.
But the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the content IS NOT ON CC AND NOT ON COPY PERMISSIONS. And that's a good thing. It'd not like I can't contact the creator if he has "all rights reserved" and no info about any agency like Getty, and not write to him to seek permissions and arrange payment if relevant.
The artificial "problem" that CC induces by saying that people "don't have an easy way to share" otherwise is bullshit, as the default is share without credit on the Internet due to the technological and ideological regime set up by Tim Berners Lee and co, and the same Internet that makes that possible also makes it eminently easy to put a notice on your freely viewed Internet page: write me for permissions or contact my agent.