I stepped down

I logged in today knowing that today was the “Step Up” campaign, as well as Artist’s Voice. I had planned not to blog in support of the day, but realising that the idea of that was censoring me, my voice and it made me actually manic.

I could have locked down my sim for the day, but that wouldn’t effect me because I have to pay the tier either way, but it would effect my tenants and that’s not something I was willing to do. I suggested people don’t log in, but that also means that the place I spend all of my waking time, was actually off limits to me, and sure as hell that would make me even worse.

The thing is that theft in Second Life has effected me so much in the last 8 months, more so than I ever wanted to even admit to myself. I recently left my position at Maitreya because what most people don’t know is that my day to day there was actually spent waiting for, or dealing with theft issues.

Shocking to most it was not a day filled with fabulousness and frivolity, sorry to burst your bubble person that wrote me hate comments when it was public knowledge I was working for them, your hate filled attack at me having a job actually did result in me having to log off for a day in tears.

You see my good friend Onyx was at her wits end having to deal with content theft of hers and her husbands product every day, the fact that less than 24 hours after any release their items were ripped was something so shocking to them, they felt that they needed to have some help…that’s where I came in.

I thought I could help, I really believed that if I took the brunt of the evil, that it would in some way save them from for even a moment feeling sad. Yeah I think I’m Wonder Woman, when in actual fact, all I ended up was a bitter, angry , overemotional stressed out basket case.

It took well up until recently to realise every single thing this effected outside of the day to day tasks themselves, and how it did carry over into my world, my imagination. I was snarky, distrusting, paranoid and an asshole – and you know I mean it because I never cuss on my blog.

For anyone effected by that behaviour since feb this year my heartfelt apologies, but to me at the time I was trying so hard to protect Onyx and Beau and I really felt that I had to grow tentacles and ten heads. I love my friends, with every part of my being, some of those I have lost this year due to things that still confuse me, one particular mess came about because I felt that a friend had lied and manipulated her way into something that put others at risk…but I am going to take it on as my own fault and an overreaction, and again I am sorry.

But lets get back to the theft part.

Each day I would log in wondering what theft my day would bring, imagine that for a moment, not logging in to your friends, or notices about fun things to buy. Not logging in to spend time with the person you love, but just pure and simple THEFT.

It could come in the form of an offline left about a store that may or may not have stolen content, it could be a note card showing pictures of someone wearing hair with an inspect showing it was in fact stolen. It could be drop downs from a theft watchers group I am in reporting either someone to ban, a conversation had with a thief, or a LM to a location full of stolen items.

Or an IM from Onyx with a box full of stolen content that I would have to go through and get information on.

So lets start with the malls, the places that are so seedy that I used to feel dirty just being there, and even worse would constantly panic that someone might think I was actually in a stolen content store to actually shop, because I couldn’t say anything, wasn’t able to explain , just had to get in get info and get the hell out.

Then there are the full blown stores selling every single item you have in your inventory from the original creator, up there so blatant in it’s copybotted glory, that I used to have to stand there for twenty or more hive inducing minutes to rez it all, and then to find out it was even worse because it was all being sold full perms, so the travesty would continue.

I would then have the lovely job of having to IM Onyx and actually tell her either that YAY none of the items were hers, but then that came with the sinking heavy feeling that I was glad something wasn’t but was still standing in a room full of other peoples work, so the joy was momentary. Or worse I would have to let her know that not only was there stolen content that was hers, but NEW content, not the same items we reported on day in and day out, I am sure half of the grid has Loelle, unfortunately many have the copied version.

So that is just two parts of my day, there there was the transferring of all the info that I had acquired to special documentation with pictures, that I also had to grab inspect shots and edit shots of. Even the vendors have to be shown if you don’t have the actual content, and no way was I going to pay them to get it.

So then all of that would have to be sent to Onyx and then checked over, so she still had to expose herself to it, and stop whatever she was doing to do so, yes that means a big pause in creating as well as then fix it all up and send it on to LL at a cost to her of faxes and what not from her own non american country.

Then there was the in store issues, times when I would be doing non theft related things, and happen to see someone suspicious and check in them in inspect and start shaking because not only is the hair they have on stolen but the time of theft was moments ago, meaning right then and there someone was botting in the store, not stealing from rezzed items, but actually cloning a customer.

On two different occasions I caught accounts doing that, and when ejected, and that is so hard to do without freezing up, they will actually IM and complain.

Or other scenarios of having people just shopping in stolen items from stores I am very familiar with…see that also became a really bad habit, inspecting everyone in either Maitreya, Truth, Magika, O Style, Argrace, LeLutka, Cake, LaQ  or Deviant Kitties hair. Don’t misunderstand me, it is not because I think they are the only ones stolen from, but they are the ones that I saw repeatedly in stolen form. It became an overwhelming habit, I couldn’t go anywhere without doing it, and always fearful of someone screaming at me in open chat because of the viewers telling them I was looking at them or something.

A really embarrassing example of that was while out shopping with Mel I inspected a girl in familiar hair, freaked out in voice started panicking and getting myself into such a tizz, I grabbed a screenshot just before I crashed and the whole time I am like a crazy person while Mel is still in the store, I log back in and the woman has not only changed hair but also added one of those inspect blockers, which to me meant she knew I was on to her..well more fool me.

You see in all that anxiousness I didn’t realise that the creator was in fact that original , the name was not yet fully known to me, just the hair was, but in my head due to SL Gossip and Conspiracy theories, because I didn’t see the name people were saying was the REAL designer behind the brand, the name I did see seemed fake …yes I am embarrassed at this story, but it proves more of how intense this all has been. Yes if I had proceeded without looking at the screenshot properly the girls at would think I was a dead set nutter, mind you if they are who everyone assumes they are, they know that anyway :P.

But imagine that, every time you did anything you mind was always on theft, over and over, no matter where you went it was always there at the core of your thought process. I started sleeping longer because in bed you can hide, I didn’t want to log in when all my offlines were group notices from the theft groups, but it was my job, and it helped Onyx and Beau, and sometimes others.

Others knew what I was doing, so in cases when they would come across Maitreya items they would IM me if I was online so that I could get on it right away, I could be watching a movie with Mel or out shopping with the girls and I would drop everything and investigate, it did definitely hurt my relationships. I would stand in my skybox for hours, not wanting to start taking pics for blog posts – some may have noticed I blogged a lot less for a while – because I may have to run off to do some theft stuff, I wouldn’t want to get dressed up in anything because if I did have to tp somewhere sleazy there was a chance id be botted.

I saw a film once someone took from the theft group of someone else copybotting, and I was screaming at the screen because I couldn’t fathom how the owners of the original creators weren’t IMd and why the Lindens didn’t turn up , because I am pretty sure that if you do an abuse report then and there , there is a small but possible chance they will send someone.  But over all it was just so frustrating.

I had been tpd to a skybox to see inside had a damn shrine built to Miabella and Onyx, and the person owning the items claiming that she was just in love with their work, but had alpha cutout display items all over the place that were NEVER publicly available.

I have been upset seeing people I admire make flippant comments about theft not being as big an issue as a creator makes out, and was so upset by that, I didn’t know how to even speak to that person afterward. The thing is that many content creators don’t say anything, they don’t publicly display stolen content to look out for, they keep it all close and private, and in a way that helps them, but can sometimes hinder too, because in my real life experience of working in banks, if you don’t let the public know theft happens, they don’t think it does, and they won’t pay attention to suspicious situations.

Every time copy bot or theft is brought up in fashion emergency there is a 99.9% chance someone will ask what it is, and be amazed you can steal in SL. During bloggers appreciation week a blogger in the group didn’t know there was theft, that was both shocking and depressing.

I am talking all over the place I know, but it is more because I have to expunge it all. There are times I totally understood designers that don’t get involved, you would hear people make comments about contacting a designer and not hearing back from them, it happened to me too, more times that I would have thought, people on my own friends list..but maybe I should have spoken to them about what they wanted rather than just sending them info on locations of their items that were stolen…hell I had become the bad news fairy.

One of the most devastating, in your face theft issues I had ever seen up until that time, was not a huge scale at all, but the absolute blatant greed of it. We had a wig sent to us from a girl that had seen it on someone and asked the girl for it pretending to be all friendly and admiring etc.

The name of the item was “For My Baby” and when rezzed on the ground it was one of the most recent hairs from Maitreya. Lets pause to take that in for a moment.

Some absolute waste of human space dial it in male, had gifted to his partner a stolen version of hair she liked, because you see this piece of work woman that was wearing it – yes you blondie the dumb slapper wearing hair your so called partner didn’t think you were worth 87c for – and actually was so proud of her partner she thought nothing of passing it on.

That was a damn awful day for me, for Onyx and Beau, and just the whole grid as far as I am concerned, this wasn’t theft to make a buck this was ” I want to keep sticking my xcite part in her, so I best come up with the goods ” and that is actually what is going on more so now than ever, not the xcite part part, but the theft just for the sake of it.

It’s like all these online games or pc games people have, and they cannot wait to find a way to cheat them, but somehow that mentality has come into SL too, and I am sorry but you are cheating a lot more than you think.

I actually met Ashia Tomsen at a protest against content theft, the thief selling stolen skins while dozens were outside his store would only let her and I in to talk to him, this man on voice with Ashia and I while his childred were playing in the background..this man was stealing peoples work and their livelihoods and had a family of his own, that blew my mind.

The final straws for my job for me, were over a week or two. You see Emerald viewer gave us this incredible function, the ability to see last owner on items in edit, yes that means that now not only were you able to see who copybotted it , but also could see who had it in their hot little hands last, and not the original , no the actual stolen item…. yes yes little thief enablers the trail to your door just swung wide open.

I have even talked in office hours with Lindens about making that a permanent feature on the regular viewer, so that theft trails would be greater, and maybe some of you would stop the stupid. Yes now I am talking directly to you. You see the week before I resigned I got passed 9 folders of stolen hair. NINE , say it with me NINE!

Each folder had the maximum number of items you can pass that way, yes do the math, that’s nearly 400 wigs of stolen content. The fun part was rezzing every single one of them to the ground, because not only did the copybotter change their names, but there was no way to know who’s items they were, without rezzing them.

Six hours it took me, to rez all that hair, wait for it to rez, try and work out who’s hair it was, and move it to a folder containing that brand so that I could then let the original know, as well as get the info of who botted it and who owned it last.

Now the fun part, the list of names of people that had owned that hair in the past STOLEN HAIR , and then passed it on to either friends or had sold it or whatever, and then it ended up in some lucky chair all together in one big box.

Guess who’s names kept coming up, not the copybotters as last owners , oh no, not people we knew that were resellers of stolen items and what not, that would have made sense, someone buying from those full perms places to then use themselves.

No these names – not all but enough to make me very upset and disillusioned with sl – were ames I knew, and you all know I have been active in retail and fashion for the past three years full time, so this was devastating… I wanted to make every excuse, that maybe they had reported it to the owner , but that didn’t cover the fact that the hair then went on to be still out there with their name on it.

Then it got worse because it was repeating, same names over and over, meaning they had in fact had all this stolen content and then passed it around, to either one or more people. There was a post done on SCD in the past of a well known modeling agency giving out hair and skins to their models for free full perms..and that was shocking as well. But this last big box of hell was a definite straw for me.

I resigned shortly after that and Onyx and Beau both understood why, they had been living it for two years, every day spending most of the day creating something they knew would be stolen by someone, it would only be a matter of time. My heart aches for them both still every day, but I couldn’t do this any longer, I still have to stop myself from inspecting people when I am out, I get worried about the stress and ordeal taking it’s toll on friends every day.

Onyx and Beau are only one store, I have spent hours in IM’s with designers wanting to leave, having had enough of it all.

I have begged them to stay, but it got to the point for me after 8 months were if someone had gotten in my IM  box that week and said that, I would have told them to do so…and that is not something I ever want to say to anyone.

Second Life is a passionate place, one filled with hope and excitement for those looking to be immersed in it, it can be scary too, and filled with hate and drama, but at the end of the day, I am surrounded by the most incredibly talented people, whether they came in with it, or they were so inspired to do something here that they gained it along the way.

I hope that people continue to educate their customers, I have always hoped that LL would do something at sign up that you have to watch and agree too with a small test, before you get in the door, to educate people in knowing that what is here is made by you , not them.

I wish instead of hiding theft away, or being not vocal about it in fear of the repercussions more designers would actively be heard. Tell us your story, why you are here and what SL does for you and yours.

I think that often the case is that the thieves believe you are like big business, and stealing from you is like pocketing some gum at the local petrol station, it’s a small thing and wont matter. But if they knew what many of us do know, that you are in fact working your bum off to pay bills, or you may even have a disability that doesn’t allow for you to work in RL but gives you a chance to share your talent with many and add to your small income.

Then just maybe they will realise that what they are doing is personal, they may not all stop, but some may just realise that the slapper that wants your hair should get off her backside and do something to earn the money to buy it, and while she is at it, she best be trading in that good for nothing stolen dante wearing, poor excuse for a male into someone that would educate her and possibly inspire her to become a valuable citizen in Second Life.

Feeling much lighter for getting that off my chest.

Again my apologies for the last 8 months or so, theft does have an impact, it’s just different for everyone involved.