I received a note from a lovely woman in my SL Profiles account, sharing her feelings about the skin rip off from a couple of days ago. Bless her heart - she opted to protest.
At Linden Village.
In the nude!
For those of you playing catch up, it was discovered that someone chose to copy and sell knock off skins from some of the best designers in SL. This caused a lot of hoopla and generally made everyone very unhappy.
The discussion popped up among some fashionistas the other day - okay, an expression of outrage popped up - everyone wants the Lindens TO DO SOMETHING.
One good friend pointed out that the reality is there is nothing they can really do. The Lindens are not the security force for business in SL. There IS NO security force in SL. I'm highly tempted to suggest we create a government, complete with elections etc. But somehow, as fascinating and engaging as it would be, I think it would ruin SL. (Thank you Duckyfresh Wantanabe for your nomination as VP many many months ago.)
Okay so here's what the legal heads tell me. Designers in SL come from all over the world. Each designer is ultimately responsible to his or her own Real Life government. Those government's laws are all different and as such, expecting the Lindens to enforce them all is, well, a silly expectation. (However, if they chose to embrace such a thing, they can hire me to coordinate the attorneys - Ill lock them all in a SIM with a camera and watch the feeding frenzy with glee.)
One may argue that they are subject to the laws of the US given that Linden Labs is based in California and they technically do their business there.
Or one may argue that they are responsible to the laws where the server sits that hosts their shop which, physically is where they do their business.
Or, some suggest that SL is it's own universe and has absolutely no regulation. (Thank you Libertarians and cyber-geeks.)
Regardless of your choice, the Linden's hands seem tied with the exception of the possibility of them perhaps saying, "Hey, we frown on this behavior and feel it is not part of our intended purpose for SL. These folks are not team players and are not SLers in our mind. Shame on you for ruining the experience for everyone."
As for the designers... As much as this stings to say, copy-cats are the best form of flattery. I suppose in a way you know you've made it when your designs show up as knock offs on the street. No, the stitching isn't the same. No the patterns do not line up just right. But the less economically gifted will say, "Who cares? I look like I am wearing an XYZ." Reality is, they aren't. And most never will.
Yes, I realize that there is a difference in SL as computer technology being what it is, one can simply break a code thingee and poof! An EXACT duplicate.
That said, here is the best advice I have seen regarding such matters.
If you have a legitimate claim to your work, send a cease and desist order. Let them know you are on to them and inform them that they must stop. This has been effective in the past - in fact, just this past year. Most people run with their tail between their legs when you sound serious and professional. (We did this with one person in the summer of 2007.)
Next, if you haven't already done so, file an abuse report with SL. Notify the land owner of the impersonator's shop POLITELY that he or she "may have a problem" (even if you know it IS a problem). Enlist him or her as your ally to work for a "positive resolution" - think of it as a courtesy - he or she probably considers the rental his or hers business and doesn't want to be blind sided.
Then, notify the fashion community, starting with the owner of Fashion Consolidated (and the other major fashion groups), then the owners of the Fashion agencies. The key to this is being professional, not getting upset, and having a clear resolution in mind.
Eventually, ashes ashes, "we all fall down". The thing dies and your brand is not only protected, but your professionalism through the whole episode increased your positive reputation. By the way, there are agencies out there than can help you manage these things. For more information, let me know. It's great to be a freelancer these days!
As for the folks who ripped off the designer skins - you suck.