A CNN iReporter’s view on SL media regulations

•July 27, 2008 • 5 Comments

Our next media-related avatar is Janey Bracken, editor for Virtually London and CNN iReport contributor. Some of her stories have been broadcasted in the channel. Among then, the First U.S. Congress hearing on Second Life.

Click on the image to read Janey Bracken's coverage of the first U.S. Congress hearing

Click on the image to read Janey Bracken's coverage of the first U.S. Congress hearing

“I had a friend who talked me into starting a blog. I found I liked writing a diary sort of thing… then another friend told me CNN had come into SL, so I joined them as an iReporter and from there applied for this job with the Daily Mail which I get SL wages for,” Bracken said.

As a reporter, Janey has run into situations in which a different avatar used her text and altered it for a different publication. However, as other users I’ve been talking to, she didn’t think this was important and decided to not report it to Linden Labs.

“If it became a problem I would confront the person,” she said.

According to Bracken, CNN doesn’t practice censorship but will take down any content that is not suitable to the site. Like other outlets, CNN doesn’t give iReporters a code of ethics or rules they have to respect when reporting.

“We have meetings each week to discuss things and those sort of questions are covered,” Bracken said. “I use my common sense also.”

Snapshot taken during the interview

Snapshot taken during the interview

In order to avoid conflicts with her coverage, Bracken records the transcript of all her conversations in her computer.

“I cover myself like that if people say I have misquoted them,” she said.

When asked if coverage within SL will reach a point in which it has to be regulated, Bracken said it’s hard to say. In her opinion, it “needs a test case to prove it.” Like many laws, the object of regulation might come before the rules to control it. However, SL only provides avatars with the DMCA for now and each organization is left alone to give guidance or not to its reporters and writers.

This leaves me close to our analysis section which will come in the next post. Stay tuned!

Creating a Second Life TV channel from scratch

•July 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

As I announced earlier, I interviewed Robustus Hax, the CEO of Metaverse Broadcasting Company, Metaverse TV, “the streaming entertainment for the Virtual World and residents of Second Life.”

Click on the image to watch MBC Live on your computer
Click on the image to watch MBC Live on your computer

The conversation with Hax gives us a good idea on what it means to create a TV station within Second Life, catch reporters’ attention to have them send reports as citizen journalists and to what extent journalists and media owners can control the veracity of what is being reported.

Hax created MBC “from scratch” and is now looking for SL reporters and citizen journalists who will submit content for his channel.

The channels goal is to be the hub for all activity in the “Metaverse” and be sort of a background to people’s second lives,” Hax said.

His team of anchors and editors -Dousa Dragonash, Recka Wuyts, and Vijay Saeed- will be in charge of finding the people, the stories and coordinating all the content. Very much like in a real world television.

I pretty much organize, edit and film most of our programmingWe’re expanding pretty rapidly so we’re looking for other capable videographers,” Hax said.

MBC has a partner publication online, The Metaverse Tribune. And both publications are under special regulations in relation to Second Life. While other outlets must publish content under DMCA and copyrigh rules by Second Life, MBC is released online, not within Second Life.

As Hax explains, the channel is “outside of linden jurisdiction because its streamed from the internet.”

However, this doesn’t mean that he will release just any kind of content.

“We try to keep our content on par with PG rated sims though, each SIM has a rating Mature or PG parental guidance. On PG sims you have to watch what kind of textures and pictures are used, so we try to keep no cursing no nudity on the channel,” Hax said.

In order to do so, one of the MBC editors makes sure everyday that the content is adequate and runs fact checking on the stories that have been submitted by reporters.

Among the coverage that has been already released by MBC, there are stories about Second Life 5th Birthday, which was broadcasted live on their channel. And why broadcasting online and not in SL where most of the audience is? According to Hax, SL’s capabilities are of 100 avatars in an area, and live broadcasting online can reach more people than that.

Click on the image to watch the video. Also available on blip.tv
Click on the image to watch the video. Also available on blip.tv

Hax doesn’t provide his reporters with a code of ethics or rules that he wants to be followed when reporting SL events or news. MBC only requires reporters to make sure the facts are correct.

“There are a lot of differences obviously RL and SL but I’d say the same standard of ethics for both reporting and running a business are the same,” Hax said.

MBC launches officially on August 1st. Hax has about ten reporters to contribute to the publication, but also hopes that The Metaverse Tribune will help draw audiences to MBC.

“[The content] is usually a mix of public news stories and our own exlusives.  We always invite residents to send in stories that they think need coverage,” Hax said.

In addition to that, SL popular bloggers will provide content to the Metaverse Tribune and MBC too.

The MBC is an example of how rapidly avatars can create outlets in SL and report as they would do in real life. However, while in real life both users and reporterds, as well as media company owners, are protected and forced to obey certain rules, regulations in SL are still too weak, way too unknown to compare media in both worlds.

You are welcome to leave comments on the discussion board or reacting to this post.  What is your experience? Do you think media in SL should be regulated like in real life? Has your content been plagiarized?

Looking for copyright-related news

•July 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

My next interviewee, Kitty Tandino, is a member of the SL Press Club. This group was created “to identify and communicate great resident stories from inside and outside of  Second Life,” as defined in SL. Tandino contacted the group in search of good stories and sources in cases of important in-world events.

I asked her about events involving SL law or regulations.

In 2006, there was a “ban rush:” money was being taken from SL members for different reasons, some related to children avatars. Tandino contacted the SL Press Club in that case. “I helped make a ban list and turned it over to the then Chadric Linden and many were removed then,” she said.

After the ban, children avatars are no longer allowed in SL nor it is to interact with any of them, known within the in-world as age-play.

SL has plenty of places tagged as containing mature content, as Tandino recalls, being harrased when entering the in-world is more than common. To help new avatars avoid these situations and learn how to report them, Tandino became a mentor.

“I deal with helping teach new members how to use the tools given to them like Report abuse, so I have seen many [cases],” Tandino said.

The problem comes when avatars don’t use mentors’ help when entering SL.

Tandino has had her scripts and textures stolen “a few times.” As I mentioned in the previous post, an avatar took pictures that she had taken in SL and published them online in real life.

As eyeing Daigdig, Tandino knows there are options to get lawyers both in SL and in the real world. In her case, she decided not to do so because the other avatar wasn’t making a profit with her photos. But he was still doing something illegal under the DMCA, which proves that, unless the affected avatar reports it to SL -once he or she knows the theft has taken place- there’s no other way to follow or find these infringements.

Still to come: Interview with MBC CEO Robustus Hax.

What to do when your SL creation is stolen or copied?

•July 27, 2008 • 1 Comment

I met in Second Life with eyeing Daigdig with the purpose of getting an answer to this question. His wife had been involved in a complaint over a creation’s property and they seemed like the person to go in our next step.

“If you see a breach of copyright, you need to notify SL and they basically take action,” eyeing Daigdig said.

Some of the most common complaints related to copyrights or an avatar’s property are when their texture, the script they created or the design of a building, for example, are copied by another avatar who takes what they did instead of creating their own.

According to eyeing Daigdig, there are no plans from SL to create an application or a system to make sure that a user cannot apply to his or her avatar the script for body language or copy the design for a building.

“It would be nice. As a creator/builder, to know when you spend hours working on things,  others can not copy it in 2 minutes and get a monetary reward for it,” eyeing Daigdig said.

In most cases, avatars don’t know that something they created, let’s say a building, has been copied by other user and placed in a different land. But in other cases -his happened to one of the avatars I interviewed, Kitty Tandino, an avatar will come and say they took some of the photos someone else had taken and publish them online. For Tandino, this wasn’t a big deal because the other avatar wasn’t making money out of it. But when it comes to script theft, avatars can sell the script to someone else without having spent a minute working on it.

Once an avatar discovers that something they created has been copied, SL verifies that the allegations of theft are true. In that case, SL deletes the items. According to eyeing Daigdig, “if the person renames or uses the item again, you again have to report it for Lindens to come in and delete it, they do not delete it from the asset server. After 3 reports, they do eventually suspend the account.”

SL has authority to do so under the DMCA: Digital Millennium Copyright Act. All SL users are under this regulation as soon as they accept the terms of use and agreement when they enter the in-world. The Copyright Act can be found in SL Official Web site:

“The DMCA provides a process for a copyright owner to give notification to an online service provider concerning alleged copyright infringement. When a valid DMCA notification is received, the service provider responds under this process by taking down the offending content. On taking down content under the DMCA, we will take reasonable steps to contact the owner of the removed content so that a counter-notification may be filed. On receiving a valid counter-notification, we generally restore the content in question, unless we receive notice from the notification provider that a legal action has been filed seeking a court order to restrain the alleged infringer from engaging in the infringing activity.”

You might wonder now if this complaints go outside of SL and if avatars file a court complaint in the real world. It has happened, but most of those I talked to agree that it is a long process, and not everyone is willing to go through it. This past week, two SL avatars settled an agreement over the “Sailor’s Cove” dispute, a claim of oral partnership agreement and property ownership.

According to this article published by the ABA journal on law news, there are since last year different law firms working specifically within second life. Sometimes they attend SL complaints and others they use the in-world to reach clients they couldn’t support any other way.

The question is now how well it’s communicated to users, when they enter SL, that they can be making a copyright infringement without knowing it or, most importantly, how does Linden Lab control that the avatar they just forced out of the in-world registers again with a different name.

Do not hesitate to come back later! More posts on copyright disputes and reporters’ work in Second Life are coming.

A writer’s work in Second Life

•July 26, 2008 • 4 Comments

Let’s start the series of posts about media in Second Life with a writer. Colette Pichot is a freelance magazine writer in the U.S. More than that, she wrote a book, “Making Real Money in an UnReal World: Get Rich Using Tips, Hints and Secrets from 15 of Second Life’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” and decided it to sell it online.

“I think the ebook format is easily accessible for a worldwide audience,” Pichot said. Among those who have bought the book, there are people from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France, Canada or Germany.

The 100 page ebook is based completely on reporting done within Second Life. Pichot profiled 15 people “who are making real money with business ventures inside Second Life,” as she described on an interview.

When she found the avatars that she wanted to profile, based on her own experience: she discovered successful businesses, sometimes as a client herself, or even by recommendations after she started talking to avatars, and started working on the book. When conducting her interviews, she encountered the same obstacles and difficulties a reporter may find in real life.

“Some were uncomfortable giving specific income figures because of the proliferation of copybots. But I worked with them to put their success in terms the reader could understand…” Pichot said. As a consequence, Pichot conducted some interviews in SL, but sometimes had to use the voice chat as the interviewees felt more comfortable with it.

Among the avatars she profiled there are some supplementing full-time jobs, retirement incomes and, as she described, a stay-at-home mom of two autistic kids whose business in SL is helping her raise her family.

She chose to profile people such as Anthony Hocken, of Crystal Gadgets or Craig Altman of Bits and Bobs, because she knew how popular they were.

You might wonder now, as I did, why Pichot decided to sell her book exclusively online and how is she protected from plagiarism, for example. Well, here’s her answer:

“I first filed copyright with the U.S. Copyright office and then released it for sale,” Pichot said.

Just like any other writer or reporter, she is aware that once the content is out there, it can be plagiarized, copied and manipulated. Both in real life and in Second Life. But, while in real life it’s easier to know, either through your country’s regulation or, if you are a journalist, through education, training and the organization you work for, reporters Second Life are most times unaware of what to do when their copy rights are violated.

“No one in SL has given advice on copyright,” she said.

The only contact that this writer has had with copyright issues is from other avatars or the ones she profiled for her book. From stolen scripts to copyright complaints, there are as many examples as there can be in real life, but SL users are still wondering whether copy rights within the virtual community will be regulated or not.

For now, avatars can get a lawyer both in Second Life and in real life but, who do they report to?

In my next post, we’ll discover more about what to do when your creations in Second Life have been plagiarized. Stay tuned!

And if you have any comments or experiences you want to share… you are welcome to do so!

A question for you

•July 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

While exploring copyright issues in Second Life, I ran into this story:

The video hosting site Vimeo banned certain videos, those which are not under the “creative expression” category, from the site. All these videos will be removed from the site on September 1st.

The characteristics used to determine which videos will be taken down is whether the video contains “game walk-throughs, game strategy videos, depictions of player vs player battles, raids, fraps, or any other video gaming videos that simply depict individuals playing a video game.” Most videos captured from video games sessions fit this description, but what about Second Life videos? How is a video you have taped while in Second Life different from a video game?

I posted myself a video from Second Life that I hadn’t recorded but was posted on YouTube and, at that moment, I wondered what the limits of creativity are when recording, for example in a concert, the art that others are making by creatively moving their avatars? Is this the same as broadcasting a live concert on TV?

Please let me know what you think -both here and our discussion board!

Describing this site for you

•July 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Now that you know how this site will be organized, it’s time to define it a little better.

This blog is part of my effort to discover the use media from other countries are using Second Life to do reporting, cover events and publish information in an alternative way. The site is an appendix of My New Media Blog, which you are welcome to visit.

Furthermore, time spent in Second Life has been a source of questions and interests for me. I will dedicate this blog to find answers to issues such as censorship in Second Life, why mainstream media reporters have left the real world to report exclusively from SL, what are the different media cultures in SL -depending on the country where avatars are from, some refer to it as the “3D” world, the “virtual” world, or the “in-world”- and what are traditional reporters saying about all these issues when covering SL for mainstream media.

Posts will be the core of the site: I plan on interviewing SL reporters and journalism experts as well as members of the Second Life Bar Association. Through my conversations with them I will not only gather and add content that is relevant to the topic, but also analyze everything I learn about media in Second Life. My analysis will be completed with reader’ comments and my reflections on them.

I will also post my personal impressions about what I learn so this blog is also a journal that can become useful for those starting in SL.

In order to engage readers in discussions with me, I have already started a Discussion Board. Today’s topic is “Why did you become a reporter in Second Life?” If you have any other questions you would like to ask or want to participate, you are more than welcome to post your ideas!

I will update the different pages I create so they work as a guide to all the content. I will update the site through different postings, but it will be the pages, working as a category wrapper, that will guide readers the idea of how everything is structured.

I have started posting links to relevant sites and blogs about SL. As I go ahead with my interviews and postings, I will add more so you join me on my trip to discover the SL community and create one here too.

Take a look at my del.icio.us badge, there you will find more links and stories too. I will also Twurl them so keep an eye on twitter!

 
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