Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Justice...?

So This Is The Update Many Have Been Waiting For...

Returned Works? (A)

First, I want to re-cap the events of the last few weeks so that everyone is on the same page regarding the DMCA that was filed against ~*Fresh Baked Goods*~.

On August 19/2008, we received an email from the "Removals Department" at Linden Research, informing us that Linden Lab had received DMCA notification from a copyright owner, or its authorized agent, that we had allegedly infringed on one or more copyrighted works in the Second Life environment. The notification identified the following allegedly infringing work(s): ~*FBG*~ Bright Jelly Tots Necklace Sets, ~*FBG*~ Muted Jelly Tots Necklace Sets, ~*FBG*~ Greyscale Jelly Tots Necklace Sets.

Unable to verify the sender of this email, we contacted LL via a friend & concierge level member who asked if this was a department at LL, to which they answered in the affirmative. We were given just 2 days to respond to this DMCA Notification, by submitted a sworn Counter-Notification to LL via Fax, including our real contact information stating that under no circumstances did we infringe on any other individuals work, and that the claim was unfounded. While Dessert Furst, my co-owner was headed to the post-office to Fax the notice, we both received the most blatantly ridiculous communications from Linden Labs, stating that they needed to view our logs for "Account Testing", suggesting that we had seen something or reported a bug in the SL Environment, for which they had to momentarily disable access to our accounts. Within minutes we received notification that the "Account Testing" was completed. I knew that there were three IMs (sent to me as off lines) and one inventory offer that should have been awaiting me on login, the IMs were gone, and the inventory offer had been accepted by someone. Nothing was missing from our inventory at this time to my knowledge.

On August 22/08 we received notice from LL that they had received our Counter-Notification. They informed us that as required by the DMCA, Linden Lab had to disable the named "works", meaning the necklaces. Even though I had already disabled the in-world vendors and the SLX & OnRez Sales of these items, they were ceremoniously snatched from all of our stores, our inventory, and they even went to far as to remove the Ad Textures from our inventory for 2 of the 3 necklaces. Not only this, but a subsequent email notification from OnRez told me that my in-world drop box was no longer online. Upon investigation, we found that they removed both our SLX & OnRez boxes from our mainstore. We were told that pursuant to the DMCA, the claimant had 10 business days to notify LL of filing Court action. If LL did not receive notification of an action, the work(s) would be restored to our inventory.

During this time, we urgently appealed to anyone who could assist us in this crisis. There have been several individuals that provided us with amazing support and attention, I can truly say that it went a long way to restoring my faith in humanity at a time when we felt very much alone. We knew we had done nothing wrong, and we needed some advice. All attempts to contact LL via the Removals department seemed to be ignored, but for one brief email in response to a question about whether we would be entitled to see the original DMCA documents:

Thank you for contacting us. To answer your question:

Linden Lab will not provide the additional information you request without proper legal process. For more information, please refer to paragraph 6.1 of our Terms of Service at: http://secondlife.com/corporate/tos.php and our Privacy Policy at: http://secondlife.com/corporate/privacy.php.

For more information on our DMCA policy please see http://secondlife.com/corporate/dmca.php, and our recent blog posts http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/06/17/responding-to-questions-about-the-dmca-process/ and, http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/04/11/protecting-your-copyrighted-content/.


Sincerely,

Linden Lab Removal Team


It seems that LL values the privacy of the individuals filing the DMCA, and not those who have been wrongly accused and abused by the process. We attempted to contact several other organizations both in-world and the VIPO, both of which ignored our requests for assistance. Yesterday marked 11 business days so we sent yet another email to the Removals Department requesting the return of our inventory.

Today we received this in reply:

Pursuant to your Counter Notification submitted under he Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), 17 U.S.C. § 512, the following items have been restored to the inventory of Sweetie Pye:
Description of Work(s):
FBG Bright Jelly Tots Necklace Sets
FBG Muted Jelly Tots Necklace Sets
FBG Greyscale Jelly Tots Necklace Sets

Sincerely, Linden Lab Copyright Agent


And this offline message:

CopyrightAgent Linden has offered you 'Sweetie Pye - DMCA Returns - Open Permissions' in Second Life. Log in to accept or decline the offer.

So great, we finally get our necklaces back, we can go back to business as usual. Right? Nope!

Returned Works? (B)

The Box we received from CopyrightAgent Linden (avatar name) contained three of our vendors, one for each of the three necklaces, yet upon investigation, though the necklaces were indeed full perms, the vendor boxes, notecards, posing stands, etc. within the boxes had next owner permissions applied. It took me the better part of two hours to recreate the vendor boxes in all 6 of our locations, as they are all different sizes and sit at different angles depending on the shop layouts, and I had to re-pack the boxes with new notecards, pose stands, and landmarks. We did not receive our OnRez or SLX drop-boxes back, all the items and textures within corresponded with specific listings, and now those will all have to be reset and re-written. This amounts to hours of work.

ReturnedWorks? (C)

Did we receive any apologies or explanations from LL? NO
Did we receive any information about the items we are alleged to have infringed upon? NO
Do we have any idea who filed the DMCA against us? NO
Has LL answered any or all of the questions we have sent them in the last weeks regarding this case? NO

I am not posting this to paint a woe-is-me picture of what happened to us. I am not merely whining. I am absolutely appalled with the treatment we have suffered under this so called "DMCA Process" as carried out by LL, and I don't think anyone who has not been through this has any idea what it feels like to be accused of something so heinous as IP Theft and then treated as a lesser member of the Second Life Community by LL on a mere accusation. No case was filed, evidently, and now it is up to LL to pursue false filing claims, which we will absolutely urge them to do. We have no intention of playing shrinking violets and pretending we are merely satisfied to have our things back and our names cleared. We will be seeking legal counsel to determine how we can see the original DMCA as filed. If we can stop this from happening to one other small business person in SL, then we will have turned this awful series of events into something positive, and that is all we can hope for.

Again, I thank each and every one of you for your support, encouragement, and advice over the last three weeks. Every comment, every suggestion, and every purchase you have made has kept us afloat. I hope that we can open up a dialogue on this situation, perhaps in a better forum then this little blog, to address the issues that exist for both the Infringed Upon, and the Falsely Accused so that the right things happen for the right people.

Yours With Most Sincere Gratitude,

Sweetie Pye
Dessert Furst
Sugar Babii
(Co-Owners - ~*FBG*~)

All Previous Communications From LL, and Posts Regarding This DMCA can be found on the ~*Fresh Baked Goods*~ Blog.

11 comments:

Ana Lutetia said...

I am happy to see that LL returned the necklaces to you

momo said...

that is scary :/
and so frustraiting
not fair at all
(hugs)

Jhuzen Ketsugo said...

Glad you got your stuff back Sweetie, the whole thing sounds like a nightmare, not sure I would have been able to handle this with grace and dignity and still have any desire to produce anything. Hope you get some answers soon, and don't let the man get you down.

~ Ketsy

Tuli Asturias said...

I'm glad you have them back, and what an unprofessional attitude of the copyright division of LL.
Infuriating.

Anonymous said...

First: I am NOT a lawyer, but I work with the DMCA a lot.

Linden Labs has done you a great disservice -- and not returning your items to you in their original condition is absolutely appalling.

You SHOULD need only ask for the original DMCA Notice, and LL should provide it to you. We know this is not the case with LL as you've already asked, and been told no. You might try asking them again and specifically tell them:

"I am a direct party to the legal DMCA Notice your received, and therefore I have a right to see the notice."

Should that fail to work, I would discuss with your lawyers the possibility of taking Linden Labs to court to obtain the notice. I would hope that a court would look at the law and realize that your 6th amendment right to face your accuser is being unjustly withheld - though that might come down to an interpretation of "criminal proceeding". Further, service providers HIDING the notice from the accused only serves to assist fraudulent claims. This is injust treatment.

Failing that, you can also file a lawsuit against "John Doe" and obtain a court order compelling LL to turn over the Notice such that you can amend the lawsuit to be against the actual parties. Then you take your fight directly to them.

I wouldn't wait for LL to do this. They are NOT going to file a lawsuit on your behalf because someone sent in a false DMCA Notice. (In fact they shouldn't, it's not their fight, it's yours.)

The point is that the person who submitted the DMCA Notice has now perjured themselves under the laws of the United States -- and that means jail time. Perjury is a serious offense, and when you submit a DMCA Notice you swear under penalty of perjury that the notice is true.

I look forward to reading how this progresses for you. Bravo for not sitting down and taking your lumps quietly. Bravo for standing up for yourself!

Anonymous said...

Wow... that is so wrong on so many levels. LL needs to support their customers much better than that. Just because there's no competition for the unique world that Second Life is, gives them no right to treat customers that way.

This whole DMCA issue, guilty until proven innocent makes me wonder what's happened with this world sometimes.

Cerrie Janus said...

I am so happy that the outcome, though a bit wonky, came out in your favor. My fear would be that this would happen again, but maybe the other party was just out to cause trouble?

Congratulations either way and good luck with the next steps you take! I think you will have alot of people gathered behind you in support!

Elizabeth Hallstrom said...

Unfortunatly this SOP at LL regardless of whether its a DCMA filing or an personal abuse report - basically you're guilty until proven innocent. I know this from personal experience since I was booted from SL for two days for an "abuse" report. I filed an appeal and after two days of wondering what I did wrong, I receieved an "oops sorry we were wrong email" from LL and "oh this isn't on your record anymore" statement. About a month or so later, the person admitted to filing the report and also confirmed I had not contacted her in over a month and half prior to the report. Thanks LL!

Elizabeth Hallstrom said...

oops typo - this is SOP...

Vixie Rayna said...

this is one of those unfortunate things that the average SL consumer has no idea happens. the treatment of LL is appalling, and its any wonder that we have designers left. :(((
we all support FBG and the wonderful creators in their fight against the MAN! you completely have rights to face your accuser, please keep us posted as this unfolds.
i know hugs don't make up for all of this headache, but i send them in friendship. HUGSIES!!

Tenshi said...

I would still find out and call out the asshole who did this to you. But that's just me.