Protecting Intellectual Property

How Permissions Protect IP in SL

When it comes to Intellectual Property in a service/game/world like SL where you can sell and market your user created goods for profit, the argument of copyright quickly comes up. Be it prevention against straight copies, reproductions or texture changes the developer needs to decide what will work best for them and their creations.

SL provides you with the tools to create basically whatever you want [within reason and limits of the engine obviously] and without the permissions and copyright features built into the service there would be no reason to spend hundreds of hours building a complex world filled with unique objects, sounds, scripts and textures when mr random can walk in and steal it all from you.

I’ve spoken about the 3 primary permissions before, but a quick rundown of them

Copy: Allows the user to make “copies” of the object, often this is attached to free things or stuff that the creator wants remixed/used as a base for stuff.

I feel like fair use still applies however, if you copy and object then edit the item to have your name on it then resell without permission that goes against everything that fair use and copyright stands to achieve.

Modify: Generally, allows users to scale the object’s model, replace the texture and whatnot. Allows people to make the item they have suit their avatar/world

Transfer: This can go hand in hand with copy, either the user can “give” their item or whatever away, or make a copy of it then transfer it.

Combined these are powerful tools that can help prevent copyright theft, an object that has all 3 disabled will be far more difficult to pirate/copy and sell, than an object with them enabled.

Of cause, if somebody really wants to copy you there isn’t a massive amount that can be done, but intelligent use of Permissions can help mitigate their efforts.

What’s Copybot?

Originally copybot was a inhouse dev tool used by Linden Labs, to make it easier to export objects within SL to XML. That can be then edited and imported back into the game.

Copybot is best used to take your own IP and built things to copy and edit them.

Copybot is a controversial issue within the SL community and in 2006 many virtual protests and threats by store owners to shut down if copybot wasn’t banned as people were just flat out stealing their things with the tool,  and in turn. LL added this to the TOS

You agree to use Second Life as provided, without unauthorized software or other means of access or use. You will not make unauthorized works from or conduct unauthorized distribution of the Linden Software


CopyBot Infringement – A Terms of Service Violation

Finally, to reiterate our policy on CopyBot: Any use of it to make infringing copies of our customers’ e-houses violates the Terms of Service and may result in suspension or banning of Second Life accounts. If you believe that a Resident has used CopyBot (or a similar application) to make infringing copies of your content, please file an abuse report and provide as much information as you can to support your claim. Although technology can’t prevent the copying of data drawn on your screen, we don’t tolerate Residents who seek to profit from infringing use of CopyBot.

 We’re sometimes asked why Residents are allowed to have or sell copying devices. The answer is that there are legitimate uses of a copying mechanism. It’s the infringement that we don’t allow and won’t tolerate


How can creators protect and open up their creations in a virtual world?

Generally, protecting your IP is done through intelligent use of the permissions system, and having a very clearly laid out set of rules either attached to the object, or included in the box/folder when sold.

“Opening up” or having your objects as “Fair Use” {}

Means that people can modify and create new things with the stuff that you’ve worked and created on, and as long as its provided free and refrences you as the original creator than can generally do whatever they wish. Fair use is one of the best parts of copyright law and has allowed some truly incredible things to be made on the internet, Honestly I wish more companies and organizations were cool about fair use.

Lots of companies and corps fail to grasp why fair use is good, a strong example is the Japanese Animation group “Studio Ghibli” Ghibli will and has come down insanely hard on anybody using anything from their work on YouTube, and from their POV it makes sense, protect your IP etc.

However, they will take down literally anything including reviews and content that is typically covered under fair use, giving up what is essentially free marketing for their products.


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