During the Curio/Hush skins drama back in 2012, I often questioned who actually benefited from the DMCA. For me, Hush had so blatantly copied Curio as demonstrated here, that it didn’t make sense that Gala would be forced to remove her skins.
After seeing Amelie get essentially bullied by Woomi (owner of Amitoro skins) and her friends into removing her skin after proving her skin wasn’t a copybot of Woomi’s skins , I was disgusted. Even after her proof, Woomi and friends insisted that because it looked “inspired” by Amitoro skins it was in violation of copyright material. In that respect, Woomi’s skins would then be considered to be a copy of Mother Goose, TSG, and other asian-inspired skins.
This is a brief summary of how DMCA works in relation to second life.
What is copyright infringement?
“As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.” via Copyright.gov
While it does say “derivative,” many of the skin designers use similar templates, so in that case, it would be too hard to determine.
Who can file a DMCA takedown?
Only the creator of the work may file a DMCA takedown, or a lawyer representing the DMCA. The creator must file as their RL identity, not their SL identity. Because SL is hosted in the United States, all content, whether created overseas or not, is protected by the DMCA.
How does it work?
Let’s take a hypothetical, yet possible scenario from Second Life.
Let’s say a skinmaker named Betty Boop has a skin for sale. She’s browsing marketplace and she sees that Jessica Rabbit has just released a skin that looks just like hers. On SecondLife there are instructions to file a DMCA. Most big websites will have instructions, or online forms for doing so. However if this were a different website where that wouldn’t be possible, Betty Boop cannot just send an email requesting a DMCA takedown herself, but instead she must get someone to do it for, someone who is designated to do so. So she tells the agent all the reasons she thinks the skin is too similar to be sold, and the agent relays the message. On Second Life, you may either snail mail, or fax a request yourself for takedown.
When Linden Labs takes down the content, a few things can happen. Jessica Rabbit may go down without a fight. However, it may be in Jessica Rabbit’s favor to file a counter-notice in a similar manner. Because Linden Labs doesn’t determine whose came first, or who is at fault, they can only notify Betty that there has been a counter notice, and if Betty doesn’t file a lawsuit within two weeks, Jessica will be allowed to sell her items. The cost of going through court may not be worth that skin.
Linden Labs does not deal at all with the DMCA process. The process is done outside of SL in the *~real world~*
Will I get in trouble for wearing, or purchasing an item in violation of copyright unknowingly?
I cannot confirm yes or no. But I will say Linden Labs has really decriminalized copybotting. It’s too frequent and too minor for them to deal with. Chances are nothing will happen. The most they will do is remove the item from your inventory.
The process is tricky, and can be expensive. This is probably why designers do little when it comes to copy-botted items that are priced so low on marketplace. I feel that Linden Labs should take more responsibility in removing copy-botted content off of marketplace themselves.
Another friend of mine was being harassed by a group of people on SL to file a DMCA against someone who was copybotting their material. Because the person who botted it wasn’t selling it, or even claiming it for there own, it’s not really worth the time and effort. Think of it this way, for a DMCA takedown, you need a place for it to be taken down from. For this reason copybotting must be dealt with through Linden Labs.
In Amelie’s case, I probably would’ve continued to sell the skins. Had Woomi sent a DMCA takedown, Amelie could’ve sent a counter-notice, and my guess is that it would’ve ended there.
In short, unless you’ve truly, madly, deeply stolen content and resold it, you shouldn’t worry. Even Hush and Curio came to a settlement after all that trouble. I hope that gave you a better understanding.