No copy… No thanks!

When I first joined SL, I was fresh-faced, innocent and completely uninformed about the nuances and conventions of virtual life. I was the person who thought it was a great idea to separate shoes and foot-shapers into entirely separate folders, because I really had no idea how things worked! That was a lesson I learned the hard way, and for a while – despite having about a million pairs of shoes in my wardrobe, most of them – having been separated from their vital constituent part – were utterly useless.

I have improved a little since then, thank goodness!

Let’s face it, SL is not without it’s cerebral challenges – I liken it to one of those maze puzzles you have to tilt to get the little ball bearings into slots: As soon as you get one in, three others fall out and within a short space of time, you’re reduced to simply shaking the damn thing frantically in the vague hope that everything will magically slot into place. Eventually, of course, you master the intricacies of the maze, your motor skills become tuned to its complexity, you learn to become very patient, and one day – despite all the odds – everything falls into place. Well, for some that’s how it happens, most of us never graduate from the frantic shaking phase, and we accept that’s how it will always be.

One of the things that involved much shaking and frustration, for me, was getting my head around the permissions system. On the face of it, it seems ridiculously straightforward – Copy/Modify/Transfer – mix and match to achieve the outcome you want, and all is good, right? Er, sort of… The difficulty occurs when you’re working with extended permissions, and making content, calling for you to have to think a couple of changes of ownership down the line, and then there’s all the confusion that having no copy/transfer content in a copiable/transferrable item brings. And why does nobody ever tell you to rez items to change permissions inworld, otherwise they magically revert back to what they were previously, before you spend days banging your head against a wall, trying to work out why nothing ever seems to work?

Even now, I still get caught out by permissions going rogue on me, and I’m paranoid about getting it right, to the extent that I’ll almost always ask a friend to beta test anything I make, just in case there’s a sneaky script or texture lurking inside that makes it impossible for the recipient to use it properly.

There’s also the the ever-present question facing content creators about what permissions to set in the first place. It’s a bit of a minefield: Are you happy for people to pass them on, make multiple copies, do both? What about modifying your hard work? Sometimes, that’ll be essential, other times, a positive disadvantage. Let’s not forget about any licences relating to templates you may have used, or – if you’re happy for others to use your work in their creations, what sort of licensing restrictions are you going to impose yourself?

It’s questions like this that can reduce content creators to a quivering mess, slowly rocking back-and-forth in a corner. And many have stumbled and fallen as a result of getting it wrong, or simply through not reading or understanding the terms and conditions of a licence they may have inadvertently (or even advertently!) breached.

Leaving all that aside, we come to my own pet peeve: No copy items.

When I first started selling on Marketplace, my preferred option was to set my wares as transfer/no copy, which seemed to me to be entirely reasonable, allowing the purchaser the option to pass it on as a gift, or to an alt, should they feel so inclined, whilst ensuring that I wasn’t left out of pocket by some unscrupulous git setting up their own business and flogging knock-off copies of my work at a cut price! However, all that has changed, and now almost everthing I sell is copiable, for reasons which I shall outline in due course.

No copy is, for many creators, the dream permission. Indeed, for years, it was the powerhouse behind gacha: Cheap, often decent quality items, some of which boasted that elusive ‘rare’ tag, which when combined with that ‘no copy’ label, not only produced desirable, limited-edition, ‘must-haves’, but also a steady stream of duplicates, the staple of yard sales and a healthy resale market. No copy equated to profit, not just for the original creator, but also for those willing to invest time and hard cash into building up their own collections, with a nice little earner to fund their efforts on the side.

However, there’s a dark side to no copy items, as I discovered last year when a momentary glitch booted me off SL. Somehow, I knew at the time that this was no ordinary crash – it just seemed ‘different’, and how right I was. At a single stroke, 9000 items had vanished – permanently – from my inventory, and included in that vast swathe of missing bits and pieces were a huge number of no copy items: Items lost forever, in some cases, irreplaceable.

Included were old gacha items – ‘rares’ that can’t now be replaced, or if by some small chance they can still be found on Marketplace, they’re selling for thousands. I also lost items from stores than no longer exist, creators who have left SL, or passed away, and gifts from friends I’ve lost contact with. Even now, a year after that fateful event, I’m still discovering items I’ve lost – often they’ll be essential parts of an outfit, without which, it’s no longer wearable. It’s really quite depressing.

And, that’s why I prefer to sell my own creations now with copy permissions, because I think it’s unfair for anyone to lose something they’ve paid good money for, or which means a lot to them, that they either have to buy all over again, or simply can’t replace. On the flipside, I rarely buy no copy items myself, any more, and if I do there’s always that nagging worry that one day I might experience another glitch, through no fault of my own, that’ll send another pile of cherished items into the ether, never to be seen again. Only this week, whilst chugging around mainland on one of my precious trains, I was rudely ejected from SL, and – of course – when I logged back in, I ended up at home and not where I’d been when I crashed. As for my train, a rare and non-replaceable gacha item, it was still out there, stranded somewhere on the railroads of SL, and I only had the vaguest idea of where. Thankfully – after an hour of trudging around Mainland on foot – I finally relocated it, otherwise it would still be there now!

I think it’s high-time there was some sort of solution to the vanishing, no-copy inventory issue – perhaps a digital receipt, linked to the UUID of the item itself? If the item goes kaput, registers as missing and your receipt acts both as confirmation of purchase, and loss, allowing you to claim a replacement. It won’t solve the problem of being unable to replace items where the creator is no longer around, but it would save a whole load of heartache and expense for many. There must be some enterprising and clever scripter out there up to the challenge?

In the meantime, forgive me for being wary, but once bitten – twice shy!

s. x

What you’re gonna say
What you’re gonna do
Now you’ve missed out once again
But I thought you knew
The Sex Pistols – Silly Thing

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