Copyright Violations: A Reflection of Ethical Values, Even In SL

wall mart_goonREREmyself
GideaNinja Dagger (left), ReRe Sandalwood (right) and ayona daxter’s boyfriend (center)

KariNoelle Baptiste, Eta Sigma Delta Secretary and SL Parade Liaison, recently contacted the creators of The Vagina Monologues to see if it would be okay for her sorority to use the play’s namesake to promote not only their sorority’s inworld organization, but to springboard a discussion about Domestic Violence. Though The Vagina Monologues creators declined Baptist’s request, they were kind enough to offer the ladies of Eta Sigma Delta a suggestion: to partner with One Billion Rising, as well as change the name of their play to something that reflects their inworld’s organization-based goals.

I.  An Action That Shows Integrity

karinoelle wth dog
KariNoelle Baptiste, with her dog Sade underfoot…

While many may dismiss KariNoelle Baptiste’s request as something she was supposed to do, Baptiste should be commended for her actions. After all, doing something like reaching out to RL entities like The Vagina Monologues creators rarely happens amongst inworld business owners. This is because, while there may be many businesses that rely on the use of real world, trademarked company names and slogans to promote their products, they regularly fail to get permission to use these names. This, in turn, leaves these SL businesses open to potentially getting sued by real world businesses, organizations, and companies….all because these said companies are vying for their rightful share of the profits these inworld businesses are making.

II. Example of a Business That Practices Copyright Violation

One business that makes no qualms about using copyright names is Wall Mart. Located on Sanctuary Isles and owned by ღℒαɗÿ Åνøηα Đεηαяøღ (avona.daxter), Wall Mart plays upon the name Walmart, a company whose headquarters is located in Bentonville, Arkansas and was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 (taken from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart). While many may look at the creation of this store as “cute,” moreso because it is a reflection of an RL store many of us may frequent on a regular basis, the creation of this store makes ღℒαɗÿ Åνøηα Đεηαяøღ (avona.daxter) vulnerable to being sued, specifically if a representative comes inworld and pays a visit to the store.  With the help of GideaNinja Dagger, The SL Parade was able to gather some Wall Mart product pictures as evidence of their careless copyright violation:

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Wall Mart Copyright Violations”]

 

Because ღℒαɗÿ Åνøηα Đεηαяøღ (avona.daxter) relies on RL company names to sale her products (products that include clothing, as well as electronic merchandise, etc.), she, in turn is making herself doubly vulnerable to being sued by not only Walmart, but by other companies such as Guess, RocaWear, and the Banana Republic.

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avona daxter’s inworld boyfriend…

While the founder of The SL Parade does not want to interfere with anyone’s SL hustle, it is very important to be informed (not to mention follow) the copyright laws intrinsic in RL society as a way to limit the possibility of being sued. However, when GideaNinja Dagger and I attempted to pay a visit to the Wall Mart store, not to mention contact ღℒαɗÿ Åνøηα Đεηαяøღ (avona.daxter), we were promptly told by said owner that she has had this store inworld for four years. She then commenced to send her boyfriend to the store in an effort to intimidate Gidea and I. When her intimidation tactic did not work, Gidea and I were promptly banned from the SIM.

Yet to solely say that ღℒαɗÿ Åνøηα Đεηαяøღ (avona.daxter) is the only one guilty of illegally using copyrighted names to sale inworld products would be a misnomer, because there are countless others who do this as well.

III. What Does Linden Labs has to say about this? Their position…

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Linden Labs asserts on their wiki page that, “It is often difficult to tell what may or may not be trademarked or protected as trade dress. However, use of designer logos and brand names without permission, such as Gucci, Nike, Louis Vuiton, etc., is usually not acceptable. If you don’t have permission, please don’t just use a misspelling of the brand name, for example, “Njke” instead of “Nike” – instead, create your own original brand name that’s associated uniquely with you!”

Based on the realization that there are ALOT of individuals guilty of copyright violation, it makes one wonder what stance, if any, Linden Lab takes on this issue.  To better answer this question, The SL Parade perused around the internet and found a Second Life wiki dedicated to the subject. Entitled Linden Lab Official: Intellectual Property – Second Life Wiki, this wiki seems to reiterate the notion that Linden Labs is against copyright infringement.

In fact, in an effort to reiterate this claim, Linden Labs asserts:

“You should not use copyrighted, trademarked, or celebrity material in Second Life, unless of course you are the intellectual property owner or have permission from the intellectual property owner. Your use of Second Life is subject to applicable copyright, trademark, and right-of-publicity laws. These are complicated laws, and understanding our Terms of Service and DMCA Policy is only a very small start to understanding applicable laws. real-world laws apply to intellectual property infringement, and nothing about your use of Second Life will shield you if you are infringing on someone else’s intellectual property — the rightful owner of the intellectual property can take direct legal action against you in real-world courts of law” (from Linden Lab Official: Intellectual Property – Second Life Wiki).

Yet, while Linden Labs asserts that they are against copyright infringement, in order for them to take action, it is the responsibility of the actual trademark owner to contact them.  Linden Lab echoes this sentiment by saying, “To submit a notification, you must be the intellectual property owner or an authorized agent of the intellectual property owner. Do not submit an abuse report. Requests to remove allegedly infringing content are not handled through the abuse process.”

While in theory, Linden Labs appears to be making a reasonable request, there are creators who seem to be banking on the fact that RL companies, organizations, and other entities will never venture inworld to challenge the use of their product names.  Yet, while this seems to be the case, it can also be argued that Linden Labs is banking on the same thing, more so because they limit WHO is able to report copyright infringement by specifying that it has to be the actual owner of the trademarked (and hence, copyrighted) product.

IV. Should More Be Done To Deter Copyright Violation?

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...courtesy of https://brucedwatson.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/individual-accountability-or-the-unexpected-virtue-of-no-excuses/

Based on the realization that Linden Labs only accepts written complaints directly from trademarked owners (rather than anyone who is a witness to copyright violation), it is fair to say that more should be done to insure that members of the SL community be held accountable for their role in copyright violations.

Yet, while many will say that this accountability should solely be enforced by Linden Labs, there are others who will counter this claim and say that the SL Community should actively police themselves as a means of holding individuals accountable to ethical SL and RL standards.

While The SL Parade supports the importance of practicing solid ethics and values, we would like to forward the following questions onto the members of the SL Community:  Who should be responsible for holding SL Community members accountable in the event that they violate copyright violations?  Should it be Linden Labs, the SL Community, or both?

To better answer these questions, please send your comments to ReRe Sandalwood either inworld, or via email at reresandalwood@theslparade.org. Feel free to also reach out to ReRe Sandalwood on her Facebook page, or via The SL Parade’s Facebook page

References

Linden Labs Official:  Intellectual Property. (http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Intellectual_Property)

Walmart section, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart)

Watson, Bruce.  “Individual Accountability or the Unexpected Virtue of No Excuses.” https://brucedwatson.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/individual-accountability-or-the-unexpected-virtue-of-no-excuses/

 

Author: ReRe Sandalwood

Single mom of one child in Real Life. In Second Life, I function as the Editor-In-Chief of The SL Parade, where I regularly write about all things RL and SL. I also own land inworld, and have created a space designed to encourage comfort and relaxation.