The only effective defense against having your work claimed by others and their using it against you is formally copyrighting your work. One can copyright batches of work. That greatly reduces the cost. So, all of a skin designer’s work for a year or quarter or month could be copyrighted in one group. The current US registration fee for a group of images is $65 and if eCO (electronic Copyright Office) is used $35 (but, check that. I haven’t done a copyright in a long time).
The primary goal is to establish yourself as the creator of an item with a neutral party. By submitting your creative document, for instance a Photoshop file with all the layers, you demonstrate you made the individual layers, something a bit tricky to fake. The filing establishes the date too.
Thieves have become crafty and they will steal and copyright your work. If they copyright your work before you do, your battle may be lost before it starts. If they copyright after you have copyrighted your work, they have filed a false copyright as well as violating copyright law. They are pretty much caught red handed.
You may notice that the Copyright Office has no real category for mesh models. What professionals do is place the series of development files in a zip file and copyright it. As I develop models I save in progress versions; skirtA-001.blend, skirtA-002.blend, skirtA-003.blend, etc. This is the best evidence of creative authorship for a court. It also sets the dates in stone. Roll all those progress files into a zip file along with the final version and copyright it.
Going to the Copyright Office is work and incurs cost. Some work is not worth the effort or money. But, if it is not worth the money and effort to copyright, it is not worth worrying about when it gets stolen. One should certainly not expect others to get excited when complaints are filed on work that was never copyrighted or lacks proof of original creative effort.
Another option is embedding invisible watermarks. Digimarc copyright protection is one type of watermark Photoshop users may be familiar with as it is included in the default install of PS (Filters->Digimarc). You can try it out whether you have Photoshop or not. Add a digital watermark to your own image with the Online Services Portal – try it for FREE.
Think of digital watermarks as invisible barcodes. Rather than incorporating a visible QR code or Microsoft Tag into your layout, you embed imperceptible digital information in pictures or behind text, creating an invisible hyperlink from the printed page to online content. Readers can’t see digital watermarks, but they are easily detected by our smartphone cameras. Unlike barcodes and tags, digital watermarks do not occupy valuable space on the page nor do they negatively impact the layout or design aesthetics.
The Digimarc is useable in numerous ways. They are talking about making web links in printed-on-paper images that your cell phone can follow. Awesome.
The Adobe web site explains how to use the feature from within Photoshop. See: Photoshop / Digimarc copyright protection. One can embed and read the Digimarc from within Photoshop and other applications.
One can protect 1,000 images for US$49.00 and 2,000 for $99.
For use in SL it is a bit more complicated. Adobe explains the problems added by compressing images.
The image must contain some degree of variation or randomness in color to embed the digital watermark effectively and imperceptibly. The image cannot consist mostly or entirely of a single flat color.
The Digimarc technology requires a minimum number of pixels to work. Digimarc recommends the following minimum pixel dimensions for the image to be watermarked:
- 100 pixels by 100 pixels if you don’t expect the image to be modified or compressed prior to its actual use.
- 256 pixels by 256 pixels if you expect the image to be cropped, rotated, compressed, or otherwise modified after watermarking.
- 750 pixels by 750 pixels if you expect the image to appear ultimately in printed form at 300 dpi or greater.
There is no upper limit on pixel dimensions for watermarking.
In general, a Digimarc watermark will survive lossy compression methods, such as JPEG, though it is advisable to favor image quality over file size (a JPEG compression setting of 4 or higher works best). In addition, the higher the Watermark Durability setting you choose when embedding the watermark, the better the chances that the digital watermark will survive compression.
The Second Life system uses JPEG2000 compression on any image over 64×64 pixels. Digimarc describes their process and JPEG2000. Just take away that it works with Second Life. What this means is you can invisibly watermark images going into SL. At a cost of $0.05 per image that is pretty cheap insurance and probably less than the cost of a registered copyright. See Digimarc’s FAQ.
If one is not bothering to mark their images for the slightly more that upload cost, then the item is just not worth anyone’s attention to protect. The Lab and Law enforcement agencies are just not going to be interested in helping you.
A L$800 (US$3.00) skin should be worth a 5¢ watermark.
So, if you get that I don’t have much sympathy for TID people and their campaign to force the Lab to ‘listen,’ you are right. I have great empathy for those being abused by a griefer. But, not for the abused that become abusers.
Everyone wants to fix the problem of Intellectual Property theft… I think they generally start in the wrong place.
I think it is obvious there is a financial component to the problem. If you looked at the crime statistics in the FBI report, you saw most computer crime is reported in the USA. It would probably make sense to many people that criminals target those that have money and things of value.
I think the same is true in Second Life. Criminals/griefers hit products that sell and are expensive, the ones people base their businesses on. So, griefers can base a business on stealing them.
Because of this financial component, theft has a RL side that creates the incentive to steal. In many poor countries being able to steal a few hundred dollars is a big deal (See: Democratic Republic Of The Congo US$300/year average income). In a declining or poor economy crime becomes more prevalent (See Argentina post economic collapse as an example).
Until we solve the RL problems of theft, poverty, and declining economies we are not going to solve the problems of theft in Second Life. The less time law enforcement spends on major crime the more time they have to deal with minor crime. The better the economy is the more likely people will be out making real money than stealing pennies. I doubt we will ever get rid of crime or mental illness completely. But a better economy and prepared people reduce crime. We can conceivably get things down to a manageable size if we can improve the world economy enough.