Content theft hurts everyone. Some creators are closing down shop because of the losses. When you find that too-good-to-be-true deal on Marketplace, look at the name of the creator. This is one thing the content thieves can’t change. So when you see a Utopia dress, for example, make sure that the creator is actually Saby Clary. Love Catwa hair? The creator is Catwa Clip. Educate yourself. Report thieves to both Linden Lab and the actual creator. Getting that “deal” has a ripple effect on the Second Life economy. The person providing the stolen goods is not a creator. As I mentioned, some don’t even have the creativity to redo the product graphics. Don’t be surprised when your wonderful “find” turns out to be an empty box. So what happens when the creators throw up their hands in defeat? Are these thieves going to fill the void? Hardly.
Armed with knowledge and a conscience, Second Life residents can go a long way to slamming the door on content thieves. This in no way alleviates Linden Lab’s obligation to police Marketplace. After all, they benefit from all sales on Marketplace–legal or illegal. Even at the writing of this article, I see a particularly heinous case of content theft still up on Marketplace, in spite of the fact that Linden Lab was made aware of this weeks ago. Weeks! In the meantime, the Lab continues to earn income on these illegal sales, while the true creator wrings their hands in helpless angst; leaving me to wonder … who’s watching the store?
I’ve had a number of people both in and out of the United Content Creators of SL group approach me desperately seeking relief from this growing issue. As creators, we put our soul into our work. For many of us, this is our full-time profession. I work 80-100 hours a week and I know I’m not alone. Seeing our work stolen out from under us is painful. Finding our pieces sold on Marketplace for pennies on the dollar–often using our own graphics is disheartening. As long as Linden Lab considers theft to be a “resident-to-resident” issue and turns a blind eye; content theft will continue to grow at an exponential rate. Sadly, I’ve found that many victims are reluctant to go public with this issue. Some are afraid of retribution by the thieves and others are afraid of retribution by Linden Lab. Finally, someone has found the courage to bring this inflammatory issue to the public stage.
I’m meeting today with SamanthaSJones of LivGlam.
Sabra: Samantha, you have become quite the fashion giant in Second Life. I remember coming to LivGlam when it was only a few rooms and I didn’t get lost. Things have changed in the space of a year. Tell me who you are now.
Jones: LivGlam supports my SL business partner and myself with a real life income. We also support ten staff members that make nice salaries. You are right. We have grown from a quarter homestead to three sims.
Sabra: Samantha, I understand that you are recent victim of Marketplace fraud. Can you tell me a bit about your experience?
Jones: On February 23rd I made a purchase on Second life Marketplace for .::MLX::. Full Perm Mesh Shoes Semi Exclusive – SEXY’s for L$8,999. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/MLX-Full-Perm-Mesh-Shoes-Semi-Exclusive-SEXYs/5793603. When I received my order, the box was empty.
Before I bought this item I talked to the seller for an hour to try to figure out whether or not she was a fraud. I asked for a demo, but she said she doesn’t do demos because they can be copybotted. The warning radar came up and I backed away from the purchase.
She didn’t let me go that easily. She came back with names of two well-known designers and claimed that she made mesh for them. She even linked me to a third-party website and showed me the mesh she supposedly created. I still held back. I wasn’t about to make a L$9,000 purchase without a demo. She was relentless—quick on her feet as well. She then showed me a designer who released a new shoe and asked if I knew of them. I did know them as they are a prominent shoe designer. Again she sent me to a third-party website and there was the shoe. She explained that she, like many mesh creators, purchase unrigged mesh. She then adapts it, rigs it and prepares it for fashion designers to use in Second Life. I was fine with that. A lot of mesh designers do that. The fact that she openly admitted it made me trust her a little more. I told her I’d be interested in commissioning a shoe from her. She wanted L$70,000 and asked for a 50% down payment. I went ahead and bought the semi-exclusive shoe mesh for L$8,999. However, when it arrived, the box was empty.
SamanthaSJones, CEO, LivGlam
I contacted her asking where my shoes were. She had a ready answer. “Oh, I don’t put the shoe in the box because I don’t want to risk it being copybotted. You’ll get it in an hour.”
Two hours later, and in spite of the fact that I still didn’t have the shoes, she asked me for the 50% deposit of L$35,000. Now I’m getting worried. To buy some time, I told her I needed to talk to my business partner to make sure I chose the right model. I said, “While we wait for her would you please send my purchase.” She didn’t even respond.
When my business partner Kim came online, I told her about my interactions with the woman and Kim did a bit of detective work. Apparently, you have to be a sleuth to safely purchase on Marketplace. Kim checked the seller’s web profile and found numerous complaints. She then Googled the image the seller provided for the market place and found the exact image—no modifications—was from an external 3D website. All the seller had done was put the SLINK logo on the picture and posted it to Marketplace.
Kim IM’d her and again asked her to send the item. The woman became angry. “Ms Jones hasn’t paid the deposit. I’m not going to send the item until she does.” Keep in mind we did pay for the semi-exclusive shoes in the empty box and she is now attempting to extort more money from us by withholding delivery of the item we have paid for. We weren’t about to pay for anything else until we received those shoes. The seller told Kim to go ahead and report her to Linden Lab because she knew they would do nothing about the issue.
Sabra: I gather things went from bad to worse.
Jones: Indeed. She threatened us. She said we should be ready, because she has many alts and she will bring them to our store and copybot all of our new items and sell them on the marketplace for L$0. She said if we ban her, she will simply create another alt, and another, and another.
Sabra: Have you involved Linden Lab in this situation?
Jones: I contacted Linden Lab to report the buyer and was told to submit a ticket, which I did. They responded by saying that it was a resident-to-resident issue and were not going to take any responsibility. After phoning them twice, to no avail, I told them I was going to take this issue public. I was going to make sure that people knew about it. They’ve had the ticket for 48 hours. I asked the Linden Lab employee, I spoke with on the telephone, how soon I could expect a response. She said it could be as long as 72 hours. I told her that in the meantime, I’m going to go public. I once again asked her what the Linden Lab policy was in these cases. She said they don’t get involved. Just ten minutes later they refunded the money. No communication or answer to the ticket, just gave me back the money.
Sabra: How do you feel about the fact that you had to issue threats to get a response from Linden Lab?
Jones: It’s not up to us to be fighting these battles. Linden Lab provides the service and they should take responsibility. They can’t just sit back and say it has nothing to do with them when they make a percentage profit from sales on Marketplace. That puts them squarely in bed with the people conducting the fraud. Perhaps they don’t want to make Marketplace secure because they actually benefit from the fraud.
Sabra: How much money do you think you’ve lost in Marketplace fraud over the past year, Samantha?
Jones: Between L$60,000 – L$70,000.
Sabra: Have you talked to fellow creators that have shared your experience? Have they put a price tag on their losses?
Jones: Yes, I have. I cannot mention the person’s name because I don’t have permission, but in the last week alone, they were scammed out of over L$40,000 on Marketplace. There are only really a handful of good mesh people out there. They really should indicate right on their Marketplace page, and boldly so, that if they are not listed as the creator then it’s fake, fraudulent. Many of these scammers don’t change a single thing. They just copy the picture and the verbiage and re-post it on Marketplace.
Sabra: So a note to our readers, be sure the creator name is listed on the market place listing. This is the only thing that a scammer can’t change. I’ve actually started doing this myself after becoming aware of the rampant, unpoliced fraudulent activities on Marketplace.
Sabra: How do you feel when Linden Lab says Marketplace fraud is not their problem, that it is a resident-to-resident issue?
Jones: I’m horrified. I’m not buying a pair of shoes or a skirt for a L$100. I’m spending a lot of money on pre-made mesh—thousands for a single item. A lot of mesh designers don’t have an in-world presence. So the only way you can buy is on Marketplace. There has to be some kind of protection when you spend big sums of money on items. Someone needs to do something about Marketplace fraud.
We have a budget. We support three sims and several staff members, If I lose this month’s budget due to fake mesh; I won’t be able to make new, exclusive designs to release in my stores and that in turn affects my sales. Is that going to stop Linden Lab from shutting me down if I can’t pay my tier because they fail to make any effort to stop the increasing illegal activities on Marketplace? No, of course it isn’t.
Sabra: How do you think Linden Lab’s attitude affects the security, or at least the perceived security, of Marketplace? Do you feel confident that Marketplace is a safe place to purchase items? It does seem as if no one is minding the store.
Jones: It’s not safe. It’s really not safe. I’m not going to make any more major purchases from Marketplace. It’s a sad state for new mesh designer who comes to Marketplace to sell their wares. No one is going to know them, trust them or want to buy from them. We constantly have to try to find the next mesh designer for our store’s Now, you can’t trust anyone and you have to stick with a small group of people. The whole of Second Life is about creating and being creative—or at least it used to be. The essence of Second Life is dying. Everything is about stealing.
The cheeky thing is the thieves know they will get away with it because Linden Lab will do nothing, and that makes my blood boil. This problem will grow exponentially as thieves become more brazen, like the woman I dealt with, and more confident that Linden Lab will do nothing to stop them. After all, why shouldn’t they be confident, Linden Lab has made it a policy to do … nothing.
Sabra: What actions do you suggest that Second Life creators take to protect themselves? What do you think Linden Lab should do to protect Marketplace users?
Jones: Until Linden Lab takes charge and makes Marketplace secure, I suggest we boycott and don’t make any more major purchases on Marketplace. Build relationships with mesh designers. LivGlam creates so much content it’s really difficult for them to keep up with us. Not having access to trustworthy new mesh designers is going to hurt the Second Life fashion industry.
Sabra: What actions will LivGlam take to protect itself from future Marketplace fraud?
Jones: LivGlam will not buy any exclusive or semi-exclusive mesh that does not have demos available.
Sabra: Samantha, you are, by far, not the first creator I’ve had this discussion with. The others will not take this public where it can have a bright, cleansing light shined upon it. They are too fearful. They fear retribution from the thieves and even more so from Linden Lab itself. Why are you sticking your neck out?
Jones: I paid Linden Lab good money. I pay the Marketplace vendors good money. I work hard for those L’s. I want what I paid for. It’s just wrong.