Posts Tagged ‘theft’

A lot of people in SL don’t “get me” when it comes to my view on intellectual property (music, software, art, writing, design, etc). I’ve read posts that say it’s just the way of the future that these ideas of original creator will break down and become grass-roots and community based notions. Not if I can help it. Sound nasty or short-sighted..? It’s not, really. If you want to try to understand my point of view you need to understand my background – the academic mind.

In my world – the “Ivory Tower” some call it – the product of your mind is everything: It is the grades that get you your job and it is the thing which keeps you in your job. If you were to pass off someone else’s ideas or product as your own you would be under-cutting the foundation and point of the institution: Original creativity, new knowledge, new ideas, which ultimately benefit mankind, and are properly rewarded with prestige, power and monetary reward.

Still sound nasty and short-sighted? Well then you’ll have to have an indepth discussion with me about ethics and law and probably get a bit into logic, metaphyics, epistemology and politics. If at that stage you still understand (or care) what I’m going on about, I’d make impressed noises and hold you in rather high regard.

I am, in part, a product of my environment. I am also critically reflective though and still hold that my views on such matters as intellectual property, are grounded in sound logic and understanding. Were a flaw in my reasoning to be pointed out, I would acknowledge and address it. Haven’t found a convincing or sound argument pro theft yet though…

So with this background I am going to start writing about topics I’ve shyed away from for too long – the tricky and intense topics associated with intellectual property rights, in the legal and ethical sense – in SL. Those posts will be spaced out because of the level of research I intend to put into them, there will be plenty of less confrontational and light-hearted posts in between, but I’m not going to shy away from sharing my thoughts on this vital topic anymore.

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I should warn you: This post is long, it is complicated, and for some it will be offensive. It’s one of those things I don’t expect many people to read, and even less to understand. But I’m writing it anyway cause hey, it’s my blog.

I have a firm set of principles by which I live. The fundamentals never change. They are based on almost a solid decade of full-time university study of both law and philosophy, backed up by over 7 years of tutoring and lecturing in the same, and of course my lifetime of experiences and observations. At all times – all times – I am measuring the truth and success of my principles. All life is my data. And SL drives me nuts.

SL is full of people judging and condemning other people for minor happenings – for social interactions that disturb them, or someone using one too many swear words – so much that means so little. These things, they may bother us, upset us, but they are only reasons for or against continuing to have the individual in question, in our lives. We must collect and examine such data when it appears, and act upon it, analyse consequences, etc. And SL drives me nuts:

Because the things that really matter, the real things that offend directly the principles that inform and shape my life, are the nothings to so many people in SL. If you understand the right to life, then you are half way to understanding property rights as the necessary corollary to the right to life. So fundamental, so absolutely essential, and yet. In SL, theft, of people’s creations – their software, their music, their art, it’s everywhere. It is constant. Thieving the product of others’ effort, of others’ genius. And people laugh it off, they make excuses, and they keep on doing it. I listen to people complain about stolen art and in the next breath joke about ripping off music and software. Integrity.

Someone cheating on an SL partner or telling lies or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, these might be character flaws or something to be worked upon; they are never things you should simply “judge” though because human relationships and communications are infinitely complex and require as much information as possible to reach any meaningful conclusion on. And with people, with their emotions and history, you will never have all the information you need to out-right condemn people for such things. This is part of why I give intense loyalty to certain people in my life – because at some point you just have to say “you know what, this is someone I like and want around and I’m going to stand by no matter what, cause no one is perfect and I’ll never have the full story, but this person I shall choose to believe and support when it comes to the crunch.”

So despite all the relationship and communication ups and downs, I get on with life – I forgive, or I don’t, and that’s just a choice we have to make sometimes. But theft? Theft shocks and upsets me, it damages my opinion of someone more than them cheating on an SL partner ever would. It taints my image of that person until they openly say “you know what, I was wrong, and I’m not going to steal anymore”. Even at that point I want to tell them to pay the person who’s music they’d stolen up to that point, pay the software developer they ripped off – buy the item they’ve been enjoying for free for so long before they realised what they’d been doing. But they don’t, and I’m just happy for the fact they reached that understanding of the immorality of theft; happy for that small blessing.

I think such attitudes are a reflection of not having thought about the consequences of their actions, of the “everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t I”, and of – most fundamentally – not having reflected on the basic rights that all humans beings are entitled to by virtue of their humanity, and the rules of property which it necessitates.

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I’ve often heard it said by people trying to make me feel better when others steal my ideas, my looks or whatever it may be, that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Sweet as that may be, I still want recognition damn it! If someone decides I had a stroke of genius and wants to use it for themselves, then hey, great, inspiring people is fun and worthy. But when they do it without any reference to me in any place whatsoever I get a bit hmmm, and when they do it without even saying to me privately “hey, thanks, that was neat, I’m going to totally use that!” I get slightly louder with my hmmmms.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about thieving my art work or verbatim postings, because that wouldn’t be just hmm-worthy, that would be theft and deserves an entire blog post to itself. And a law suit. We like law suits. And I’m not talking about people who are mildly influenced by things I do and find their own original slant on it, because that’s simply the process of creativity. I’m talking about the people who pass my notions or concepts off as their own own without any attempt at recognizing my original input. This is particularly irritating when it leads people to think my own idea lacked originality or was copied from that other person since they lack context about who did what first – it undercuts my efforts and makes me look like a sheep rather than an original person and thinker.

When it happens I hardly ever complain out loud though, what’s the point? They haven’t done anything illegal, they’ve just crossed a point of politeness essentially. And if you do complain people get defensive of the person you’re complaining about “aww, they’re just struggling to come up with their own ideas, give them a break” or “aww, are you sure that idea which is exactly like your own with extremely minor deviation which came about immediately after yours was presented or expressed, is really taken from you..?”, or that pet favourite “aww, they must like you and think you’re neat, how flattering.” Psh.

So I just suck it up and grumble ever so quietly and tend to think less of these people. Not simply because of lack of originality – we all struggle a little bit now and then for inspiration, I’m sure – but because they refuse to acknowledge, neither privately nor publicly, where that immediate and direct inspiration came from. Taking the credit for themselves and leaving me feeling unappreciated and a tad used.

Perhaps they are unaware of how I have impacted on them, perhaps. Maybe. Possibly. But when it keeps happening over and over ya start to wonder don’t cha. Yes you do.


(And don’t ask me who I’m grrr at cause I won’t tell you, for the reasons outlined above. I just had to get that off my chest. Chest cleared. Amen.)

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