Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been surveying the owners of all the public OpenSim grids about what their grids are all about. We asked about hypergrid, currencies, maturity levels — and intellectual property policies.
What we found suprised us. A number of OpenSim grids now have very detailed takedown policies in place, and most of the other public grids have some policies and procedures in place for protecting content and removing infringing assets.
Of those grids that didn’t, most were private grids, where a single owner or group of owners was responsible for all the content on the grid.
How to guard against copyright violations
If you are a grid owner, you have two main choices when dealing with copyright issues. You can personally take responsibility for all the content on your grid, and if someone has a problem with you, they can sue you and complain to your Internet service provider and get them to cut off your service.
Or you can let other people put content on your grid, and if someone has a problem with that content, they can contact you and you will handle the problem. Worried about lawsuits right and left as a result of content that your users uploaded? You don’t have to be, as long as you get your grid declared a “safe harbor” and faithfully respond to all copyright infringement complaints.
According to our go-to virtual worlds copyright expert, Tre Critelli, the situation is the same with OpenSim grids as with regular websites. (He wrote a nice column for us about this in November.)
Take for example this website, Hypergrid Business. The publisher, Trombly International, is fully responsible for all content on this site. If we decide to make a habit of stealing content from other sites and making money off of it, we’ll get sued. After all, we knew the content wasn’t ours, we posted it anyway, and we have to deal with the consequences.
But, say, we were running Facebook instead. Millions of people are posting stuff all the time — we can’t do a background check on every single thing that’s posted. There aren’t enough lawyers in the universe. So Facebook has filed a designated agent form (you can see it here) with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Basically it says that if someone has a problem, they can contact a real person — specifically, Theodore Ullyot — and gives his address, telephone number, fax number, and email. It costs $105 to file the form.
And, second, Facebook had to put a policy in place for dealing with infringing content. Specifically, users can contact Theodore, or fill out a form, and Facebook will deal with the problem.
The same thing happens with OpenSim grids.
We have a company grid, where all the content is ours. Yes, guests can teleport in over the hypergrid and put stuff down — but we’re responsible for letting it stay there, or deleting it. We don’t rent out regions to anyone else. Many of the small-to-medium sized OpenSim grids fall into the same category. As a result, they don’t need to have takedown policies in place. However, the owners are personally liable for any illegal activity.
But larger grids, such as OSGrid, InWorldz, and SpotOn3D have the same problem as Facebook — though not necessarily on the same scale. Yet.
As a result, they have copyright policies in place and have posted contact information for copyright infringement complaints.
What happens if a grid posts a policy — and then ignores all takedown requests? By not following its own policy, the grid will lose its status as a “safe haven” and can become subject to lawsuits.
InWorldz, one of the most popular commercial OpenSim grids, has filed a designated agent form with the U.S. Copyright Office, a PDF which you can see here. It names Beth Reischl as the designated agent, and the contact email for DMCA complaints is [email protected]. InWorldz was the first OpenSim grid to officially register in this way — a sign of its commitment to copyright protection. As a result of this and other measures, it became a popular destination for virtual goods merchants and has grown quickly over the past few months.
Another commercial grid, SpotOn3D, has also filed its designated agent form. The grid is owned by PowerSynch LLC, and its designated agent is Stevan Lieberman, one of the founders of the grid. The contact email address is [email protected].
Many grids haven’t filed a designated agent form, but do have policies posted on their websites.
The OSGrid has a nice page up for DMCA violations, which you can see here. OSGrid has an email address set aside for these complaints, [email protected]. Ansky Grid has a similar DMCA policy in place, and complaints should go to [email protected].
3Rd Rock Grid also has a policy in place, but for some reason all copyright complaints must be in written form, and mailed to 3rd Rock Grid, 63 Deer Trail, Garden Valley, Idaho USA 83622.
Some grids, such as YourAlternativeLife, have a rudimentary policy in place.
Several grids, such as Sim-World, request that copyright complaints be filed through a support process. However, it can be onerous for a content creator to set up a user account and learn how to use the support process, since they vary greatly across grids. We hope that all grids move to a simple, straight-forward takedown policy, with a real-world contact person and an email address.
Several grids are based outside the United States, and aren’t required to file designated agent forms with the U.S. Copyright Office. But that doesn’t mean that they ignore copyright issues.
The non-profit New World Grid, based in France, has its copyright policy here,
The U.K.-based Avination grid has a copyright policy in place here.
If a content creator is unable to get infringing content removed from a grid, they are likely to complain to the grid’s Web hosting company or Internet Service Provider, make a big public stink — or file a lawsuit. Any of these acts could potentially destroy a fledging grid.
By making the takedown process transparent and responsive, content creators won’t have to take such drastic steps.
It also has a secondary effect: of making OpenSim more attractive as a destination for content creators, which, in turn, brings in users and revenues for the public grids.
- Make your DMCA policy easy to find. We recommend a link in the footer of your Website taking visitors directly to the DMCA page.
- Make your DMCA policy easy to read. The Facebook policy is a model of simplicity, and their submission form can easily serve as a model for an OpenSim grid.
- Put a real person in charge. You don’t have to give their home phone number or personal email address, but just knowing that there’s a real person out there somewhere will put minds at ease.
- Post the email address, and check it regularly — and forward incoming complaints to your key management people. Don’t let a complaint fester while the email sits in a forgotten inbox.
If you’re having trouble getting through to a grid owner about infringing content on their grid, contact us at [email protected]. We have contact information for most of the grids out there.
All the popular OpenSim grids are currently located in the US or Europe, where copyright is taken seriously. If the grid doesn’t respond to your requests, contact their hosting company.
List of OpenSim grids and their intellectual property protection policies: OpenSim grids copyright policies, additional info
More info about OpenSim grids, including hypergrid and currencies: List of public OpenSim grids