Content, Creation, Consumerism, and Control

It seems lately there are a good many pundits out there who want to define how content creators should license their content.  They even go as far as defining what license should be used and what format it should take.

This commentary brings up some interesting questions about creation and consumption of digital works, because at the heart of all of these discussions are assumptions that are broadly made about control and ownership of such works.

What we find particularly interesting is that what these pundits really want is to assert control over other people’s property, and to do it in a particularly insidious way…by asserting their wants and desires over creative work without actually consulting the people who are the creators.

Creative people create like other people breathe – it is that natural a part of their being.  Their creations are an extension of their selves, a bit of their creative heart’s blood that they have made whole and real in a sharable and often tangible way.  Many of us define ourselves by the work we do.  Our work is so often a deep part of ourselves that we find it tremendously troubling to see non-creatives attempt to define and restrain our work, often in a way we ourselves have not and would not agree with.

Because our work so often is an extension of ourselves, we see it as an aggressive form of enslavement and marginalization of content creators to be told by non-creatives how our work should be managed, a level of control which these same pundits would never accept themselves from an outside community. Obviously if a creative is performing work for hire, then the person doing the hiring can in fact stipulate control, but we are referring primarily to the many talented freelance creatives out there who work primarily for themselves.

Creatives are being told, de facto, that we must license content the way ‘they’ want, or ‘we will fail and be bypassed.’ However, so far the actual facts  of content licensing do not reflect this at all.

We at Fashion Research Institute have been watching the swirl but thus far have refrained from commenting.  We think it is important to state on the record that we fully support content creators and their right to license their content in whatever way makes sense to them.  If (and this is a very big if) they wish to license their work using any of the many public and standard licensing agreements available, then they should have the right to do so.  Likewise, if they wish to license their work under any other license, then they should have the right to do so.

Having said this, we think the market itself will speak as content and licensing evolves.  If consumers balk at the license terms any given content creator offers, they can opt to not license with that creator.  What we think is more likely to happen is that content licensing will bifurcate, with creators who make mediocre content being pleased to offer their content with fairly nonrestrictive terms, operating under the assumption that ‘getting their name out there’ is a sound business decision.  Alternately, content creators who provide superior, premium content that is in demand by the marketplace will also be able to define their own license, which may prove to have more restrictive terms but which will still be gladly accepted by a different segment of the marketplace.

We have already seen these assumptions playing out in our own practice.  Fashion Research Institute has its own licenses, and we provide content that ranges from quality retail content to superior, premium certified content.  Consumers who want to know that the content they are being provided has provenance and pedigree, and can be certified, are willing to accept the more restrictive license in return for the security they receive in knowing that the content they are receiving is not laundered or pirated, which gives the consumer an additional layer of legal reassurance. Retail consumers, who do not need the layer of protection provided by the certification process, are generally content with our less restrictive retail license. Other consumers decline our license and take their chances with content creators who are willing to license and price their work according to their own process methodology.

As the industry evolves, the marketplace will shake out into something similar to the animal husbandry marketplace, where pedigreed, pure-bred animals cost more than adoptive animals.  The pure-bred costs more because its provenance can be traced and the purchaser has a pretty good idea what the animal will look like and how it should behave.  Likely the adoptive animal may cost nothing to very little because purchasers get no certificate of assurance about what Fluffy or Fido is going to become or how it will behave. In the same way, premium content will be handled differently than non-premium content because premium content costs more to produce and manage and it will be licensed differently.

FRI CEO Shenlei Winkler @ Metanomics Monday, Nov 1

Shenlei Winkler, CEO Fashion Research Institute, will appear on Metanomics on Monday, November 1, 2010 at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET).  Topics to be covered include fashion (of course); OpenSim; the Professional Virtua Designers Society; and Fashion Research Institute’s various research collaborations.

Please join the audience at the Metanomics Studio (

Fashion Research Institute and Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. Collaborate to Bring Avatar Content to Youth Project

Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce the signing of an agreement between FRI and Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc, to bring new content to participants in the PFH project that provides treatment services to rural youth after they leave residential treatment.

Preferred Family Healthcare is convinced that the ability of people to interact in new exciting ways, using innovative technology, will lead the way to solutions to long-existing challenges as well as improving the delivery of critical services in the future,” says Dick Dillon, Senior VP, Planning and Development at Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc.

Having developed content in OpenSim since 2007, Fashion Research Institute is well aware of the lack of premium content that most organizations experience when they first bring an initiative into OpenSim.

“High-quality avatar customization content can help assure the success of any immersive effort because the process of customizing an avatar aligns users with this digital representation of themselves. We were delighted to have the


Female Avatar

Default Avatar Jane


opportunity to collaborate with Preferred Family Healthcare on their OpenSim-based counseling initiative by providing them with high-quality, PG-rated avatars and additional customization content,” says FRI CEO Shenlei Winkler.

FRI provided the PHF project with 2 full avatars in 6 skin tones for male and females in multiple facial hair and makeup options, as well as a range of additional clothing, jewelry, shoes, and hairstyles. All skins have been created for a PG audience.

Dillon goes on to remark, “Through amazing collaborations such as this, we are beginning to see the enormous promise we have before us, and to realize what we can do, together, with these remarkable tools.”

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

Fashion Research Supplies Avatars for Science Sim Demo

On August 31, 2010, Intel Labs posted this video discussing the advances in scalability in the OpenSim platform of Science Sim.  Fashion Research Institute has the pleasure of collaborating by providing the avatars and apparel shown in the video.

“John” is the basic default corporate male avatar provided by Fashion Research Institute to ScienceSim.  John’s feminine counterpart, Jane, isn’t shown in this video.  Just like in the physical world, it seems the price of beauty presents interesting challenges – Jane’s hair, jewelry and other accessories have a much higher avatar rendering cost than John’s much more simple attire.

Jane will make her appearance at some point, however, along with the four other new default avatars being provided by Fashion Research Institute to ScienceSim as part of a corporate donation of a new content library to ScienceSim.

Creating and Visualizing 3D Content in Science Sim

Greetings Fashionistas!

Welcome to the official Fashion Research Institute Apprentice blog page!

A vintage handbag collection is the 1st of many new projects I am taking on as the newest apprentice of the Fashion Research Institute.  I am very excited to be working closely with Shenlei Winkler, CEO of the Fashion Research Institute on this collection for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, this collection is being put together along side the publication of a book being written about vintage handbags throughout the ages, expected to be out as early as December 2010.  The book contains 16 handbags, each paired with a historically based story.  The handbags date back from late Victorian to the early Jazz age.  Included in the book will be a short history of the bag, “how-to” guides, materials lists, and much more for the reader to follow!

What is keeping me so interested in this project is I will be creating the prototypes for each bag you will see in the publication.  Not only will I be learning first hand many different couture techniques, we will also be creating a mass market version of the couture bags, as well as virtual goods to be found in Second Life, combining all three different layers to complete the collection.

Yesterday, Shenlei and I sat down to go through the 1st drafts of the publication. This included patterns, illustrations, and a short story to go along with each bag.  After she was finished, it was my turn to interview her on the different couture techniques being used on each handbag and to get a better feel for what is about to go into this collection.  We also did some sourcing through old scrap ruminants of fabric as well as some sourcing at the local Jo Ann Fabrics and Michaels Craft Stores.  Today, we decided on the three patterns that I will be working on simultaneously.  I was able to cut out both lining and fashion fabric for each of these three.  Tonight we will be doing some more sourcing for embroidery ribbons and paints to start the construction this week.  Saturday is a possible trip into the city (NYC) to find any remaining sourcing we have yet to do.

I would love for you to follow my journey through this collection as I will keep you updated daily with pictures and much more!  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Hugs and Kisses!


FRI Office Hours in Second Life, Friday, June 4

Fashion Research Institute will conduct office hours in its Second Life Shengri La region from 3-4 pm Eastern/noon to 1 pm Pacific, Friday, June 4, 2010.

Our office hours are come-as-you-are, informal opportunities to meet and discuss topics of interest with our thought leaders in design education, apparel industry development, virtual goods, the use of virtual worlds for product design and development, and related topics. Thoughts on our mind this week are OpenSim performance, content licensing, and simulating historic Gettysburg.

What’s on your mind?