So before I break into big blue I thought I would jump on my object soapbox yet again and yap about object ownership and all this sense and nonsense that’s floating around about objects being stolen (feel free to skip this post if you feel the need to go sort your socks or some other more important issue).
First off, any object created currently is always based off of Maxis’ work so it’s considered a derivative of their efforts. Now, Maxis has given some sources objects that are not to be copied because not only the object was passed onto the party, but the right to do what they want with it as well. This was the case of the birthday cake from the 200th issue of CGW. It was thiers to do with, a present from Maxis (they could have just as easily kept it to themselves, but they published it on their magazine for those that bought it to enjoy). With that said, Maxis has also given everyone creative freedom to do what they want with objects and the end result (a modified clone of the original) can be distributed in whatever way the author sees fit (or not if that’s the case). So those that are claiming the objects is theirs and theirs alone, are half right. They have control over redistribution or cloning rights but when it boils down to it, without Maxis making the object in the first place you wouldn’t have much to work from.
There are a few different definitions of object theft that I think needs addressing. First off, there’s the blatant thief. This is some guy (or girl) who takes someone elses work (including Maxis’) and simply slaps their names on it and puts it up on a website. These people need some psychiatric help and shouldn’t be allowed to lurk on the internet in any form. Then there’s the pixel thief. This little guy takes other peoples work, colors a pixel here, moves a pixel here and voila, an original piece of nothing. Again, lock these guys up and throw away the key. Then we find the patch thief. This guy takes a half dozen of someone elses work (could be multiple sources) and patches things together. An eye here, a lip there and there you have it. A new Sim is born. These guys are crafty and somewhat talented I’ll give them that. However, it’s nothing short of taking a stack of Stephen King novels and ripping out pages, pasting them into the new horror novel of the century (changing the names where needed). Not quite original but they get an A for effort. The new breed is the re-distribution thief. Here’s a fellow who takes other peoples stuff, posts it for all to enjoy and either a) goes to the effort of saying the work is original (claiming ownership) or b) fails to credit the original artisian and plays dumb when asked about the original author.
Now something to remember about this type of creature. There are dozens of Quake, Unreal Tournament and Half-life sites that do something similar to this. Post files (or allow you to post them) to their massive libraries of prefabs, levels and textures. Nothing new here. The twist is of course, none of these sites claim ownership or (gasp) copyright of the uploaded materials. The fact that most level authors don’t have a personal website is another factor so all they want to do is get their work out there. The Sims is a different world and such, different rules apply. Most sites are run by individuals or groups and have a solid following for distributing good quality objects, skins, etc. There doesn’t seem to be too many people that simply create one or two objects and for those, there are a few places like TSR where they can upload their work much in the same vein as the sites above do (getting full credit of course in the process). Somehow though, when Sim fans (I almost grapple with calling them that) get online, all morales, scruples and ethics go out the window and they’re hunting down the best sites stealing what they can and slapping it up onto an equally pathetic site with their name firmly attached. What balls some of them seem to have. And when confronted with this, it’s as if they were caught speeding by the radar gun and they firmly stand innocent of all charges. Go figure.
So what can you do about all this? Do you care? Does it affect you? For the artisians that pour their bytes, skills and techniques into their work, it means a lot. Protecting your work on the internet is no different than protecting it in the real world. A copyright notice on your website is legally binding enough to protect your creations so this is a good thing. However, my advice is not to go flying off the handle and taking matters into your own hands. Don’t try to enlist the help of the internet in your cause (as just as it may be). Instead, deal with the site in question, their ISP and other methods to deal with the situation. You’ll never know what results you get. As for the end user, the best advice I have is to stay informed of the community and keep in touch with what’s going on. If you enjoy objects/skins/whatever from a certain site, keep downloading from there as your primary source. Various forums on TSR and SimFreaks (to name a couple) will keep you up to date with any goings on. There are some efforts to make these kind of obsenities more public so keep an eye open for these as a good source of what’s hot and what’s not in the community.
Okay, enough babble for tonight. Enjoy your evening.