Copyright, Style, and Fashion , or How DO You Come Up With Ideas?

Today I was going to write about the most recent foray into legislating fashion copyright presented by NY Representative Charles Schumer this month, but then I got distracted. However, we will return to this fascinating topic because it needs to be ripped apart and really examined. Suffice it to say, nice try, guys, but no Oreo.

But I digress.

I just finished my most recent textile collection, Carriage Trade’s Faster, which features, as one might imagine, horses going fast. Specifically, it features big athletic chestnut & bay thoroughbreds going fast on the track, beach and over fences.  As I was happily ticking off the ‘available for sale’ forms, someone meandered in and looked over my shoulder and said, how do you come up with these ideas?

Which lead into a discussion about design versus product development (at the point where I’m releasing the collection for sale the design is kinda long ago and long done, for me at least.) Once we got that clear, then we went back to the original question. How do you come up with designs, and how can you make sure they don’t infringe on someone else’s copyright?

I pointed out that at this point in our human evolution, pretty much every sort of style fillip has been tried. As a species we’re not all that old, and we have been bilaterally symmetrical since we stood upright and started our species’ flirtation with back and foot issues. We aren’t terribly complicated forms (2 arms, 2 legs, head, body) and we have had the same basic needs to cover and protect our various appendages that we’ve had for the last half millenia.

As you look back over recorded history, you can see all sorts of fashion styles that went in and out – some because of religion, some because of changes in materials and manufacture, some because of celebrity, some because of legislation, some because of climate change, political change and some just because one or more human animal craved difference and was the earliest trend setter.

Does any of this sound familiar? Good, because while it seems that fashion changes happen really fast the truth is innovation itself, new ideas, new concepts, is not easy and doesn’t happen all that often. (And I personally really, really, really dislike the hijacking of innovation and innovative, since true innovation is really hard and most so-called innovations aren’t.)

So how do we come up with our styles, especially high-volume designers like yours truly?

We spend a lot of time looking at things. We look at things in nature, things in the man made world, we do a lot of web surfing (I love Jeremy Gutsche’s Trend Hunter, Pantone’s news letter, the IEEE web site, and the Materia database web site), we ‘go out into the marketplace and review and sample’ other designer’s work (In other words, we shop and buy). We go to museums. We look at art.  Maybe we listen to music. We read the trend reports. We handle materials. Sometimes we just start doodling and see what emerges.

And then maybe we’re ready to design. How do we come up with our ideas….let’s go back to the concept that innovation is a bitch, and that most styles have been done in one form or another. Most designers are not haute couture designers who are creating runway style.

This is a really important concept because it means most of us are not trying to be unique or innovative. We’re actually trying very hard to deliver styles that will sell into our marketplace, whatever that marketplace has been determined to be.  We’re following what the trend reports say are important styles, memes, colors, concepts. We’re picking up on what the name designers are showing on the runway, and we’re lensing and interpreting all of these things to make what we hope will be a commercially successful collection.

The haute couture designers who are showing new on the runway have a tough job because they have to at least try to innovate. That’s why you get such visually off the wall collections like Amsterdam-based Viktor and Rolfe’s 2007 collection with self-contained lighting.  It was certainly unique, and weirdly stimulated a desire in the marketplace to have clothing with lighting on it. I was asked to prototype some handwear (gloves to you non-practitioners) that featured lighting, intended for the juvenile mass market.

Making light-up gloves was hardly a sweeping new innovation – it wasn’t even my idea. But the way I approached the challenge was unique, the ways I chose to execute the style was unique, and the ultimate sample was very unlike runway models with huge Kleig lights as shoulder pads.

As for the Faster collection, it simply built off a pilot project I’ve been working on for the past two years. It just made sense to me to do the Thoroughbred-centric collection now. I wish there were more glitter and fairy wands involved here, but alas, it was just common sense of where the Faster concepts came from…


Fashion Research Institute Oversees a Third Round of the Science Sim Land Grant Program with Intel Labs

New York, NY August 8, 2011 – Fashion Research Institute Oversees a Third Round of the Science Sim Land Grant Program with Intel Labs

Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce the third round of OpenSim region grants in the ScienceSim grid. We will administrate the land program through our research collaboration with Intel Labs.

We’ve been provided with a set of regions running on hardware that can support 45,000-100,000  primitive objects with up to 1,000 concurrent users per region.  The regions will be awarded for a nine-month period beginning September 1, 2011 and running to June 30, 2012 to educators, scientists, and researchers who wish to bring their programs into an immersive collaborative environment.

There are no hidden charges or costs to this program other than what a selected organization is expected to need for the transfer and development of their programs, and which they negotiate with their service providers.  There is no financial assistance available for this process.  We can accept and transfer existing OAR files into ScienceSim.

Commercial organizations and consultants are not eligible to apply for these regions. Recipients must sign a formal legal agreement with Fashion Research Institute for use of these OpenSim regions. This agreement includes clauses stating that the recipient organization will respect the  existing Term of Service, End User licensing Agreement, Region Covenant, and Content Licenses of the ScienceSim grid.

The Fine Print

Each accepted organization will receive a 4-region, 2×2 ‘campus’ from September 1, 2011-June 30, 2012. Organizations must appoint a single user, who will receive estate manager privileges on this campus.

Campus assignees have full land right privileges.  Regions must remain open to common access to enable visitors to freely move around and visit.

Assigned campuses must be built on within three weeks of assignment.  Land which is not improved within four weeks of assignment will be reclaimed, and any objects placed in the region will be returned to the land assignee.

A content library of premium content is provided to all participants on ScienceSim.  Additional content is provided as well.  This content may not be removed from ScienceSim. Suspect pirated content brought into ScienceSim will be removed immediately. All content provided for ScienceSim users is PG-rated.

A complete OpenSim orientation gateway which has been successfully used with more than 65,000 new users is provided for the use of land grant recipients and their program users. A scripting lab is provided for recipients to learn how to develop OS scripts. Additionally, there are meeting, classroom, and sandbox spaces provided throughout the common space of the grid in the physics and math plazas which land grant recipients may freely use.

Expected Code of Behavior:

ScienceSim serves a population of educators, researchers and scientists.  Land grant recipients are expected to register with their real names and to manage their programs appropriately.

All users are expected to behave with decorum and respect to others to support this collaborative, interdisciplinary working environment.  Services are provided in English only.  All users who enter and use this grid are expected to behave and dress in a manner appropriate to a corporate or academic setting.  All users are expected to respect others’ beliefs; no solicitation, proselytization, foul language or harassment of any sort is allowed here.  Clothing is mandatory – this means at minimum, shirt and trousers that meets typical community decency standards.

Land grants are provided with an expectation that users will have sufficient expertise to develop their own regions.  There are weekly user meetings at which user experiences can and should be reported, as well as a mailing list where feedback is encouraged.  Lastly, there is a weekly governance meeting at which any conflicts will be arbitrated.


To participate in this land grant program, please send e-mail to with your name, your organization, and 2-3 sentence description of the project you’d like to explore in this collaborative environment.  The program has rolling admissions and we will accept applications until we have assigned all campuses.

Past Awardees

Previous awardees are eligible to apply for this program.  Previous recipients have included the Abyss Observatory, the IDIA Lab, ScienceCircle, Meta-Institute for Computational Astrophysics, and Utah State University.


About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: FRI is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices.

Science Sim is part of an evolution toward online 3D experiences that look, act and feel real. Sometimes dubbed the “3D internet,” Intel Labs refers to this technology trend as immersive connected experiences, or ICE. ScienceSim is differentiated from most virtual world environments by its open source architecture. ScienceSim leverages open source building blocks (installation utilities, management tools, client viewers, etc.) based on OpenSimulator (OpenSim) software.

Content, Copyright, and Fashionably Dressed (?) Cartoon Animals

This article in the NY Times was a nice segue into editing what we hope is the last draft of the Legal Primer for Content Creators in Virtual Worlds.

Google has an interesting approach to copyright offenders: they make them ‘go to school’.  We would question, though, whether a 4 1/2 minute video and 4-question multiple choice (guess) quiz will really deter offenders.  We appreciate the fact that it may, perhaps, be possible that someone somewhere may not realize that if they didn’t make the cool content they want to share they are probably infringing someone’s copyright. But that seems unlikely in today’s interconnected world of sophisticated content consumers.

It is interesting that Google has decided to soft pedal their enforcement efforts by giving offenders what amounts to a one-time wrist slap for the ignorant.

When we were drafting, and then reviewing, the Legal Primer, we had a fair bit of discussion about how to deliver the information at the right level.  We’re still discussing whether or not it is as accessible as it should be for an audience of visual thinkers.  The term accessible, for uninitiated, can often mean dumbed down.

Since we’re writing about what is inherently a complicated topic, and a topic which is usually discussed in a great deal of dry, boring, legal jargon, we’ve been challenged to somehow deliver this information in a way that we hope won’t make our readership bleed from the ears, but without diluting the value of the information by dumbing it down.

As the primary drafter of this document, we are taking the approach that our audience deserves a more intelligent document than YouTube’s Copyright School, because we think our audience is smart enough to manage to read a document that is short on cute cartoon animals and long on words and weighty concepts.  There isn’t a video (and no plans for one) and the text is a heck of a lot longer than a single above-the-fold web questionnaire.

Of course, given that the focus is content in OpenSim and SecondLife, perhaps we could illustrate it with an adorable tiny avatar.

Thinks for a minute…


Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation, Part 7

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos or images on its surface, let’s explore some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

Last time we looked at some of the considerations for circuitry for such a garment, e.g., the links for power and for the actual data.  This time, let’s look at how a video playback garment might be powered.

Perhaps the largest challenge for any sort of wearable computing is providing the device with enough juice to make it work.  Short of plugging it into the wall, how would a garment such as we propose be powered? We would have to say that at this point in the development of portable power supply, there is no good or easy solution. What we have seen coming up, may eventually provide enough power to enable such a garment, but at the moment, the technology is not yet well enough developed to make a video playback garment functional.

The most obvious portable power source is a battery of some sort, but as any owner of a cell phone or lap top will tell you, the battery is disproportionately heavy in comparison to its size.  Plugging in enough batteries to power a full garment would require a backpack worth of today’s batteries, and that’s just not very stylish.

There are some interesting developments in creating battery textiles that generate power through the interaction of the body within the textile – some generate power as a result of the static (electricity) that develops from the body’s friction against the garment while others generate power from the body’s movements manipulating and folding the garment to generate power.  (Static electricity develops when two unlike materials rub against one another.)

These textiles are very interesting, since it would seem that you could have a base textile that not only had the ability to play back imagery, but it could also generate its own power supply.

Other things we have thought about for possible power supplies is converting the power of the garment wearer’s foot strike into an energy source.  A woman wearing a high heel carries her full weight concentrated onto a tiny surface area.  When walking, that force is concentrated by her momentum and other physical forces.  It would be entirely possible to convert her entire high heel into a small power manufactory, but that power would need to be moved from the shoe heel to her garment.  Perhaps seamed hosiery would become popular, as you could run an electrical line up the back of the hosiery in the seam, and connect the garment to the hosiery with a small conductive snap.

And what a great project for the physicists, electronic engineers, and material scientists out there to work on!

The issue of power supply is a big hurdle to get past, but luckily with the increased use of mobile devices, there’s increased focus in developing lighter weight, longer life-span battery supplies.  Eventually this question will be answered in a way that enables wearable computing, or even wearable information storage devices, to become more fashionably useful.

Next time: how to get it there, and why we should care about avatars in the wearable computing mix!

Content, Piracy, and OpenSim-based Grids

We recently picked up a link sent to us of an image shot in an OpenSim-based grid, that showed a 3D model used in the region that looked suspiciously familiar. Upon visiting the region, I discovered that lo, the model was in fact very familiar: it was a model created for our old Shengri La islands (closed in Summer 2010) by a very talented artist who we have supported since his early days in Second Life®.

We approached the owner of the region and let him know that he was harboring pirated content. While he did remove that model, his response made it abundantly clear that a lot more consciousness-raising must occur not only with content creators, but also with consumers. He seemed to think that pirated content was somehow a single creator issue, not a community issue, and we take issue with this point of view for a number of well-informed reasons.

What we did not say, but should have said, to this gentleman is what mothers everywhere tell their children when the kids pick up (and put in their mouth) something they found in the street: ‘Don’t pick that up.  Don’t put that in your mouth. You don’t know where it has been.  Now wash your hands.’

It’s the same thing with so-called ‘freebie content’.  As a consumer, there’s no way to know where that content has been.  Most of the ‘freebie content’ in the OpenSim universe has no provenance to speak of, much of it has been pirated, and the way it is dispersed and distributed creates some massive legal and security issues.

Currently these security issues relate more to DRM and legal considerations, but we can also foresee the day when some hacker decides to create a Trojan horse attached to some particularly attractive bit of content and release it into the ‘freebie pool’.

While we do not yet know of any tech exploits attached to content in this way, we assume it is merely a matter of time before it happens, and when it does, we anticipate that such an exploit will spread quickly given the dispersion rate of content in the OpenSim-based grids.

We will repeat again: there are many good reasons not to pick up content of questionable provenance. Odds are good it is pirated, which has moral, ethical, and legal implications.

But even more specifically for the average consumer, and why they should care, is that there is a very real risk of danger to their personal hardware/software.  We wouldn’t know the exact details of how a Trojan horse security exploit would be built in a virtual world, but we do know that it is something that could be done.  We surmise the average consumer would not be able to detect such an attached exploit until too late.  We also understand how disease vectors spread epidemics. Unconstrained freebie content that can move freely through hypergrid-enabled worlds with no real technical controls is a ticking time bomb that will explode.  We think it is merely a matter of time before it does.

We see the possibility of trouble ahead, so we are speaking up now to warn the community of content consumers that free content may end up not being quite so ‘free’ if the freebie collector ends up having to pay to have their hard drive scrubbed because the content itself was nothing more than a Trojan horse. Whether or not it is better for a consumer to protect themselves by only buying content licenses from known entities is something only the consumer can decide.  After all, ultimately, they are the ones who assume the risks in picking something up out of the gutter and putting it in their mouths.

Content Creation and OpenSim

We have been working in and developing content on OpenSim since September 2007, when we first logged into what would become the OSGrid.  Fashion Research Institute is the oldest professional content creator on OpenSim.  Our current research collaboration with Intel Lab® is focused on content management and movement using the OpenSim-based ScienceSim as our test platform. With Linden Lab’s recent announcements about price changes and the closure of Teen Second Life grid, we are seeing increased interest from educators and other consumers of content, many of whom are confused about what they can and cannot do with content they ‘purchased’  in Second Life®, and where to go for content which they have a legal right to use in their pending OpenSim-based educational grids.

In the hope of helping to alleviate some of the confusion, we offer here some of the insight we have acquired over the years of working in OpenSim and the best practices we ourselves use in developing our content in OpenSim.

We started moving our content out of Second Life® a year or so ago, and closed our final avatar apparel line last Spring, after Linden Lab® made some ToS announcements.  Our area of expertise, as one may expect from the Fashion Research Institute, is avatar customization content. We needed a substantial catalog of content to outfit our avatar models on our Virtual Runway™  product.  We have also developed content libraries of PG-rated avatars and a well-tested orientation region for OpenSim for various organizations to use on their OpenSim-based grids such as ScienceSim. We now have a huge body of content available for licensing by those who need an orientation program or avatar customization content.

Although we finished backing up our content from Second Life®  six months ago, what follows is our ‘best practices’ from that process.

We had an extensive collection of avatar content we had developed over the years.  We found that the best tool to move this content was Stored Inventory. (aka Second Inventory)  It will move the contents of prim containers, including scripts, textures and other objects. Although the process itself is slow, it is also relatively mindless and can be performed in the background while other tasks are being accomplished, or given to an intern for completion.  All content brought in using Second Inventory should be checked for completeness, as it is prone to not completely backing up containers of content.

Please note that Stored Inventory will only allow the actual content creator to move his or her own content.  If a user licensed content within Second Life®, but they are not the content creator, they will not be allowed to move that content.

Something a content user should be concerned about is knowing the provenance of the content they are acquiring: who made it and is it original content.  Professional content developers will do business either under a business name, which should be registered and have a employer identification number of some sort, or as a real life individual who will also have some sort of  taxpayer identification number.  If a content creator refuses to provide such information you may wish to reconsider conducting business with them. There is no way for you to track them down if there proves to be a legal or other issue with content you may have licensed from them.

Of course, licensing or purchasing content that uses trademarks owned by real world organizations is also rife with issues. Most of the owners of these marks didn’t license them for use by Second life® or OpenSim developers, so you run the risk of legal liability.  Can your nonprofit, for profit, or school afford the legal fees to defend itself?  If not, be very careful about allowing licensed trade or service marks into your content.

A final bit of advice, when a content consumer decides to move their content from Second Life® into OpenSim, or decides to license new content from a creator, make sure you document all of your content, including any licensing information, and back up that up in a commonly accessible document management system so that everyone in your organization that handles content has access to it. Create a special OS region where all you do is bring your content in and curate that region. Have your admin make OAR files early and often: nothing is worse than losing hours of backup because the region failed to save to the server properly. When you are all done with the region, make sure you have some sort of record of what is contained within the region, and then link that record to your OAR file for back ups.

NOTE:  Due to the announcement today from Linden Lab regarding yet another change in the ToS, the Professional Virtua Designer Society will be holding a special session to discuss how these new terms can affect content creators.  For more information about the PVDS, visit

Virtual Worlds and E-Commerce: Technologies and Applications for Building Customer Relationships

JUST released by IGI Global – Virtual Worlds and E-Commerce: Technologies and Applications for Building Customer Relationships. Author/editor Barbara Ciaramitaro (Walsh College, USA)  gathered an amazing group of industry experts to present various opinions, judgments, , and ideas on how the use of digitally created worlds is changing the face of e-commerce and extending the use of internet technologies to create a more immersive experience for customers.

Virtual Worlds and E-Commerce

Shenlei Winkler authors Chapter 13, Opening the Content Pipeline for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds

Fashion Research Institute CEO, Shenlei Winkler, contributed her insight by authoring Chapter 13,  Opening the Content Pipeline for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds.

Here’s the abstract for Shenlei’s Chapter.

Open-Simulator (Open-Sim) refers to a three dimensional application environment that can be used to develop virtual worlds similar to those that exist in Second Life®. Open-Sim is considered open source software, i.e., software that is developed by a community of volunteers and is available for use by the public free of charge (Open Simulator, 2009). Although participants in virtual worlds are generally considered by law to be the owner of any Intellectual Property (IP) they create, content creators and owners of OpenSim-based virtual worlds struggle with issues surrounding licensing, content delivery, and usage in these immersive spaces. The Fashion Research Institute (FRI) is specifically exploring these issues in a case study involving the licensing its Shengri La virtual world creations to external users. This case study is the basis of ongoing legal research by FRI’s legal steering committee of attorneys from the American Bar Association’s Virtual Worlds and Online Gaming committee who are working on a pro bono (volunteer) basis. This chapter presents the result of the ongoing case study. It offers a practitioner’s view of issues related to licensing and distribution of content in virtual worlds.

To order a full copy, visit IGI Global.

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-808-7.ch013