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…


PVDS Weekly Speaker Series Guest Jon Himoff, CEO Rezzable Fri. Nov. 12th 3pm PDT

Please join us as we welcome Jonathan Himoff, CEO of Rezzable at the weekly Professional Virtua Designer’s Society on Friday, November 12h from 3-4 PM SLT in the 21C region of Second Life.

Jon (RightAsRain Rimbaud) believes that web-based virtual world are the beginning of a very exciting direction toward the 3D Web, where a new type of interaction with information, content and people will be possible. Further, the avatar will be the essential interface/guide/companion for this dynamic new environment. Rezzable was founded in order to take a lead in establishing engaging users experiences and get the most out of new 3D web platforms as well as web services. Prior to founding Rezzable in 2007, Jon held CEO-roles at enterprise-software development and services companies that delivered innovation solutions via hosted platforms and advanced planning technologies.

Professional Virtua Designers’ Society

Our Mission
The purpose of the Professional Virtua Designers’ Society is to promote and protect the social, economic and professional interests of its members.

The Society is committed to improving conditions for all digital artists designing and developing virtual goods and products intended to be used in virtual worlds. It is also committed to raising standards for the entire emerging industry. The Society embraces digital artists at all skill levels and provides professional development to lift these special content creators to new levels of professionalism and skill.

What IS Chad Hurley Doing in Apparel?

Someone sent us this link to the Forbes article, “What is Chad Hurley Doing in the Fashion World”.

We definitely got a smile reading the article. After all, we’re not suggesting that we have the expertise to lead Microsoft just because we use computers, but it does seem that there is an evident lack of respect for the actual knowledge a good fashion designer has and brings to the process of designing and developing apparel.  Just because you wear a shirt doesn’t mean you are qualified to design shirts.

If there is one thing we’ve learned from dealing with the tech industry for the past few years, it is that folks from the tech industry really don’t understand the apparel industry.  We at Fashion Research Institute have been successfully engaged with the tech organizations like IBM and Intel Corporation to create design and development applications for the apparel industry using emerging technologies, and while we have overcome the communications barriers, we can safely say these two industries do not easily communicate.

Hurley’s response to the question of the biggest difference between the ‘clothing world’ and the Internet is a fine example, in that he assumes that the big difference is the time length of the product development cycle.  We would say that the biggest difference between apparel and the Net is not time, but physicality.  We are an industry that produces physical ‘stuff’, and that physical product is governed by physical considerations which must be addressed.

Domestic production is not in fact ‘harder’ than overseas production; if anything it is just the opposite since your factories are local, supply chains are shorter, and your workers speak the same language as the designers.  Domestic production is more expensive, but that is not the same as more difficult.

American Apparel is designing and developing domestically.  Hurley apparently is completely ignoring Dov Charney who has been producing domestically successfully with American Apparel. There’s just so much techie hubris in suggesting that he and his partner are going to be the ones to ‘bring back American production’ and ‘filling a void that hasn’t been filled since Levi Strauss’ when it’s not only already been done, but domestic production never actually stopped.  There are many small design houses producing locally in very short runs.  The product they manufacture is more expensive than overseas mass market product, and not so widely distributed or known as the product designed and manufactured for the big mass market retailers.

We certainly wish Hurley and his partner the best of luck with his new venture, but we also recommend they partner with the appropriate apparel industry experts.    Otherwise they may find that the fastest way to lose their financial shirt is to try to make real shirts.

ScienceSim OpenSim Land Grant Program for Science and Education

Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce the second 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 an initial set of 8 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 six-month period beginning January 1 and running to June 30, 2011 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 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

One organization, one region, from January 1-June 30, 2011.

Region assignees have building and terraforming privileges.  Terrain textures are applied which remain in common to all regions in the land program.  Regions must remain open to common access to enable visitors to freely move between parcels.

Assigned land 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 regions.

PVDS Weekly Speaker Series Guest Fake Jewel October 29th

Please join us as we welcome Fake Jewel teaching an Interactive Writing Workshop at the weekly Professional Virtua Designer’s Society on Friday, Oct. 29th – 3-4 PM SLT in the 21C region of Second Life.

Fake Jewell is the writer and director at the Jewell Theatre on Samandiriel Island. She and the Jewell Theatre team have been creating full-length themed theatrical productions since August 2007.  In her RL, Fake has taught Creative Writing to folks from 7 to 93 years since 1998 in a variety of workshops and regular classes.  Fake and her group have recently experimented with Machinima, taking part in the UWA Art of the Artists competition and in the 48 hour Machinima Festival.

The session will be an interactive workshop where participants will be invited to try the ‘block-breaking’  techniques Fake uses in RL to get her students writing.

Professional Virtua Designers’ Society

Our Mission
The purpose of the Professional Virtua Designers’ Society is to promote and protect the social, economic and professional interests of its members.

The Society is committed to improving conditions for all digital artists designing and developing virtual goods and products intended to be used in virtual worlds. It is also committed to raising standards for the entire emerging industry. The Society embraces digital artists at all skill levels and provides professional development to lift these special content creators to new levels of professionalism and skill.

Content & Licensing in Virtual Worlds

We are seeing an increase of something that we find disturbing on many levels: self-created licenses for content.

The reasons we find these licenses is disturbing are many: in general, content creators are not lawyers, nor do they seek legal counsel in developing their license agreements.  These agreements are often poorly framed or worded. The agreements do not indicate what legal jurisdiction and what laws of what country govern them.  And, scariest of all, some of these licenses attempt to ‘reverse engineer’ previous licensing agreements.

Any software developer will understand why licenses cannot be changed after something has been issued.  Others will have used that original bit of code issued under one license, which has its own unique set of requirements and restrictions.  These users may have even created a product that incorporates the original bit of code.  If coders were allowed to change their original license terms, that means that anything created with that original bit of code would also be subject to these new terms, which might be more restrictive than the initial license agreement. Trouble, heartache and grief and legal strife lies that way, and so once something has been released under one license, that is the license that governs its use for all time.

Likewise, content creators can’t change their license terms after the fact.  We see this increasingly with content creators who have been developing for Second Life®, where they are suddenly changing their terms of agreement for previous purchasers.  Unfortunately, licensing doesn’t work that way. If you license content under one agreement, you cannot legally to make a unilateral change in the licensing agreement unless you have included language to this effect in the original license.

It’s just like the coders with their software licenses: if they were allowed to change the license type, that change would create a legal and administrative nightmare and no one would use their code as a result.   Users would be afraid to, since they wouldn’t know if they had to try to track everywhere that code was used, in what products, and how the licensing might change the usefulness and applicability.

Since most of these licenses are not developed by actual lawyers, but by the content creators themselves, those agreements are missing certain critical and important terms…such as a clause enabling the content creator to make changes to the licensing agreement at will with appropriate notification to purchasers of that content going forward.

We have been working with a team of American Bar Association lawyers for the past 18 months, developing legal templates that content creators will be able to use as a ‘jumping off’ point for their own agreements.  These agreements are only suitable for organizations or individuals who are based in the United States, and of course, legal counsel should be sought to help further develop them. Towards the end of October, we will be publishing these legal templates for content creators to use in developing their own legal agreements for licensing.

We will also be publishing our legal primer for content creators, which is intended to help content creators navigate the murky waters of content creation and licensing for OpenSim-based worlds.