((posted on behalf of several bsg sim owners and fans))
ATTENTION BSG FANS
Recently Universal Pictures has incited a situation that has destroyed a large portion of the bsgverse and its fanbase. Universal has recently invoked copyright law, stating that several fan communities are violating and infringing on their protected IP. As FANS, we confused as to how this action supports the fan community who does its best to keep this series and the concept behind it alive.
Put your geek hats on, its time to dive into the pile. Since 2005, several BSG fan groups have existed within the virtual space metaverse venture known as Second Life. Second life is developed and facilitated by Phillip Rosedale's Linden Labs (LL). As of last week, our bsg community consisted of nearly 500 regular members as well as several hundred other part time members. Our global community was dedicated to telling and role playing stories based on the mythology of RDM bsgverse. The term role play in the context of our groups would be roughly defined as is a form of creative expression involving each participant taking on the role of an original fictional character and collaboratively with other players creating stories. These stories are then played out via a type of improvisational acting or extemporaneous writing. The improvisation is done via text based chat between actual people (known as IC chat) while the avatars themselves are visually represented in the metaverse engaging in virtual activities of the theme as best can be duplicated. For those familiar with forum based role play, we are essentially that with the visual setting of a 3D environment. We are not anything like a MMOrpg. Most of us will vehemently argue that the letters rpg should not be listed near MMO as there is no actual role play within a combat game.
Consisting of 5 unaffiliated groups, the community owned 9 separate land holdings known as sims. Owners paid Linden Labs a direct tier payment and, depending on time of purchase or grandfathered land title, that was around 300 USD per sim. Roughly, our community pays 2700 USD into Linden Labs per month. As sim owners, outside of donations which are applied directly to the land holding tier, we exchange no actual money between our "players" and Linden Labs. Every sim does contain a "mall" but regular SL commerce such as clothing, hair and avatar skin sales take place there. No products are related to Battlestar Galactica (tm) -in any way- are allowed and the rent paid by vendors is applied directly to land tier costs. In fact, as sim owners we have spent thousands of dollars, rather than made any profit, in the creation of these 3D battlestar environments. All environments are created from scratch via prims, sculpts and texture creation. All flight scripts for our viper and raptor props are based on open source code that originated within second life to facilitate free airplane flight sims. Real video game flight is certainly not our goal or even possible due to the limitations of second life itself. We are basically a community of people playing pretend within the visual framework of Battlestar Galactica (tm).
Universal contacted LL two days prior to Thanksgiving and demanded all material be removed. Sim owners contacted Universal and were told that licensing fees needed to be collected in order for our communities to continue. As sim owners, we all agreed and offered to pay into Universal directly in order to keep our communities alive. Universal attorney Mark Kalmansohn quoted sim owners a rough figure of 8% of all tier fees as necessary to secure licensing. We agreed to this and were told by Kalmansohn that Universal would be speaking to Linden Labs attorneys. In the interim, Linden Labs deleted half of our communities' creations without proper notice. Unfortunately due to our community members having real lives (or first lives as some make the distinction), most were not even online to attempt to comply with Linden Labs directions prior to the mass deletion. Universal next responded by saying they had decided to seek global fees from Linden Labs. Linden Labs replied by refusing to act as intermediaries and collect an 8% fee or pay global fees directly to Universal.
As a result of this money play, our communities are destroyed. Thousands of real dollars have been lost by owners and creators, as a result of upload fees paid directly to Linden Labs. It should be noted that second life is hobby for many real people. We are professionals in the real world. Doctors, lawyers, police officers, active U.S. service members, teachers, social workers, and non profit workers who do real work and fight real injustice every day. Second life, and specifically our bsg community, is also "home" to many who live with physical disabilities or terminal illness. We spend thousands of hours within this community for no other reason than our shared love of bsg. Despite our own money spent on these endeavors we continually advertised universal projects related to bsg. We required new members to have series knowledge and that resulted in nearly every member of our community purchasing the dvd sets. We were probably the only people to watch and buy Caprica in every format it was available. In our welcome areas, the area where every member or visitor teleported into the sim, *every group* had an immediate redirect to syfy, universal and battlestar galactica online. Series actors like Edward James Olmos and Richard Hatch and been in direct email contact with our owners throughout our groups' history. Hatch even promoted the sl bsgverse by participating in a fan video at CarolinaCon. We *are* the die hard fans who played every game and purchased every product affiliated with this franchise. We are for Universal what trekkies are to Paramount.
As a result of Universal's actions, as well as Linden Lab's refusal to assist its long time consumers, we as fans are devastated. Many are planning to stop supporting Universal endeavors, including its future parent company Comcast, as well as boycott the latest bsg series. Universal will actually lose money as a result of this action. Not millions but certainly thousands as when die hard fans decide to stop their support, they generally stick to it in every venue possible. Three separate group owners have decided to leave second life entirely causing a direct loss of revenue to Linden Labs. As sim owners, we respect the system of business. We respect that money should be made by these two companies if there is money to be made. However this recent action contradicts good business practices and has resulted in direct losses. And we will state again, for the record, we as fangroup owners were willing to pay the 8% licensing fee ourselves. Is it really worth Universal's time to destroy its fanbase? Should they target fan communities on the forums next? Modded games like Disapora or other homemade and free fan offerings? Programs like bsgcast or capricast that serve nothing but to hype and promote Universal's product? As it stands now, it is likely you are next.
If you are willing to support us in the cause to bring back the bsg fandom to Second Life and support other bsg fandom's continued existence across the internet, please make your voice heard. Please join us in our letter writing and publicity campaign. Protect our hobbies. As it is, the real world is a crappy place. When corporations destroy our hobbies and our ability to relax in an environment of our choosing, especially in a *fake* world, they have gone too far. Please feel free to repost this article and post your support in every online gaming, role play, and fandom forum you can think of.
Exodus Role Play Community
within Second Life (TM, Linden Labs)http://slurl.com/secondlife/Exodus/47/41/3803/
Contact Information for Universal
Universal Legal Rep:
Mark E. Kalmansohn
Kalmansohn & Andersen, LLP
24th Floor, 1801 Century Park East
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Email: [email protected]