BSG: Universal DMCA?

A rumour is circulating that Universal Studios have issued a DMCA take-down order against Battlestar Galactica-related (BSG) merchandise within Second Life, and Linden Lab have compiled.

Cairan Laval carries more word on the matter – and its possible speculative nature –  and of the potential meaning, if true.

Doubtless, if this is the case, then a lot of swearing is going on within the community; but the fact is, neither Linden Lab nor Universal Studios is the villain here. Whether we like it or not, BSG material is copyrighted. Full stop, end of conversation. Unless those producing BSG merchandise actually have a “little” thing called a “licence” to produce their goods, they are in breach of said copyrights. The same goes for those producing Star Trek, Star Wars, Simpsons, Disney, or any other merchandise directly based upon or utilising copyrighted or trademarked images and items.

I actually find it ironic that there are those in SL who scream blue bloody murder on subjects like copybotting, but who routinely pop out to the web and grab textures for use in their products or who routinely created merchandise for sale regardless of any copyrights on said textures or objects. It matters little to the size of the corporation behind the objects, be it Pepsi, LucasFilm, Viacom or – as in this case – Universal Studios. A copyright is a copyright, period; the “well they can afford it” attitude attitude doesn’t cut the mustard in exactly the same way it doesn’t when an in-world content creator finds they have been ripped.

Nevertheless, as Ciaran points out, DMCAs are perhaps not the best reaction from the corporations themselves. He has a valid point that SL could represent an (admittedly small) audience that is guaranteed to generate income – and more importantly – goodwill. So why not enter into modest licensing arrangements with content creators? Why not grant them the rights to produce goods on all OS-based grids? This would create massive feel-good for all concerned and once and for all lift worries and concerns over copyright breaches for those who’d like the assurance they are operating “within” the law, either as a merchant or a consumer, and be secure in the knowledge goods and products aren’t going to suddenly poof in the night.


4 thoughts on “BSG: Universal DMCA?

  1. The problem, Inara, is that among the huge mass of copyright owners in the entertainment industry, only a very few are actually supportive — even encouraging! — of so-called “fan art”. There are some good examples, where the company and the fans join forces to promote what they like best: entertaining content. And these very few cases actually make the news, they produce Case Studies, and allow people to give lectures on them. This has given many the false idea that fan art is tolerated or even legal somehow, when in fact it’s just a tiny tiny minority of cases (albeit very successful ones!).

    You hit the nail when explaining that people are fine in ripping off content from the “big corps” but get very protective (and vocal!) about their own content when it’s copied with copybot in SL… I have caught a lot of SL merchants happily pirating Photoshop and ripping off CDs and sharing MP3 with friends, while at the same time, they were at the forefront of the protests against copybotting 🙂


    1. Fan art and fan fiction are a different kettle of fish, Gwen, although you’re right that they may have given rise to some confusion as to what is and what isn’t “allowed”. But at the end of the day, ignorance isn’t an excuse.

      Traditionally, fan art and fan fiction have been tolerated so long as they have clearly been produced as “non profit” activities.

      Merchandise related to the likes of Star Trek (and Star Wars and most other fan-embraced shows and films) has always been licenced in order to be sold for profit. And those behind the brands have rigorously pursued those producing unlicenced goods.

      In-world merchandise clearly falls into the “merchandise for profit” category, period. It is, after all, sold in-world with a view to generating revenue.

      Whether we like it or not, that puts it in the realm of “requires licencing” and well outside of the sphere of “fan art” or “fan fiction”. The only exception to this would be if said merchandise were created and given away free. And I’ve yet to see a single freebie Star Trek or Babylon Five uniform doing the rounds, much less freebie models of the weapons and ships and so on.


  2. Indeed Gwyneth, people using pirated or cracked copies of Photoshop will very much complain about their own intellectual property rights being infringed, they have a right to do so but they should feel guilty as hell about making such a claim.


    1. Yep, the Photoshop argument is one I missed & it is perfectly valid. And does someone who uses a ripped copy of software really have the right to cry wolf? That comes close to being like the thief who called the police over the theft of the ring he’d stolen. A controversial statement, I know…


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