It will happen to all of us eventually, especially those of us who hunt for bargains. We’ll find a fabulous cheapie on Marketplace, and the ridiculously-small amount of money the creator is charging for it will leave our virtual wallet so fast you won’t see that cash for dust. The item arrives in our inventory, and… whoops.
We’ve just paid for stolen goods.
It happened to me last night. I was just looking through the latest cheapies and freebies on Marketplace, and a lovely blonde hair popped up for just L$32. Since I’d already picked up a few cheap hair gifts (and since it was among a load of other results for other things) I thought “Bargain!” and threw it into my cart. I was on a freebie/cheapie binge, and I just didn’t think. Just glossed right over it.
As soon as I unpacked it, I realised that I’d unwittingly purchased copybotted (stolen) hair. The clues were simple to follow:
- The hair description began ‘LeLutka’ – a well-known designer in SL
- It was full-permission (always a HUGE sign that something’s amiss, especially if the Marketplace description says otherwise)
- Checking the creator properties of the hair took me to the profile of an avatar with an angry disclaimer about not coming to her about stuff you’d purchased from other people
The first thing I did was to check whether LeLutka did indeed have a hair of that name on Marketplace. They do (a demo only), and it’s identical to the hair that I had purchased. Also, the hair that I purchased is full-permission and the Marketplace description where I purchased it from states that it’s no-transfer (a lie calculated to throw off the possibility of it being stolen). So I immediately contacted the CS representative for LeLutka to alert them to the possibility of copybotted versions of their hair on Marketplace. Back came the reply that yes, it was stolen. The CS representative also told me that LeLutka don’t even sell full-priced hair on Marketplace; they only have a ‘demo store’. Their full-priced hair has to be purchased at their in-world location.
She also gave me a useful tip to help spot a store full of stolen hair: if the store features lots of different hairstyles in the same colour, then it’s very likely that it’s all stolen.
To that, I’ll also add a couple more tips of my own: things that I’ve learned from this:
- If the hair is a dollarbie (L$1) then it’s most likely a genuine gift from a hair store. However, if it’s an unusual (but still low) price – such as L$32 – then you should investigate further.
- Check out the full store. You do this by clicking on ‘visit the store’ on the right-hand side of the page, between the store name and store-owner name (underneath the orange purchase buttons).
Things to look out for, and be especially wary if more than one of these applies to a single store:
- Lots of hairstyles, all the same ridiculously-cheap price. A few dollarbies in an otherwise genuine-looking hair store are not going to be stolen, but 50 hairstyles (all at strange prices like L$32) probably are.
- No typical signs of a genuine hair creator: demos, full-price packs (L$150+), no multiple-colour packs (all blondes, all browns, etc).
- Lots of hairstyles, all in the same colour (or, at most, two or three colours). Be aware that some genuine hair designers use the same image for different hair colours, and just change the item name to denote which hair colour it is, so check the item names as well.
- No hair colours listed, just the name of the hair itself. Or, if a colour is listed, it may simply say “[style name] black hair”.
- Lots of hairstyles, all with different types of design. Most hair designers have a ‘signature style’. If you can see a few long blonde styles with wispy fly-away strands and a few more that are more solid and chunky then you’re possibly looking at hair stolen from different designers.
- Lots of styles in the same hair colour but with different textures. Maybe the roots look longer in one blonde than they do in another, or the shine is different. Maybe one black hair is a solid black and another has a lot of highlighted-shine. While some designers do create new hair texture sets occasionally, they’ll be clumped together because the designer will swap to using the new style of texture at a specific point in time. Sort the store by ‘recent first’ to see if the different textures are all located together.
- Styles that look very familiar, because you could have sworn you saw them in Truth, or another hair store, last week! (If you actually own those styles, try them on and then angle your camera to the same way the advert is angled. You’ll soon see if the hair is identical or not.)
- Very professionally-made hair with very simple ads. I’ve blurred out all identifying information in the ad at the top of this post, purely because I don’t want to publicise this seller of stolen merchandise, but all of her hair ads are set against that white background with no store logo, just a simple name in a black font.
- Personal items being sold alongside lots of cheap hair. In this case, I found gacha resale items being sold at the end of the listings.
What to do if you’ve spotted (or unwittingly purchased) stolen hair:
- First, verify as much as you can that it is stolen. The above hints will help you, and if you’ve actually purchased the hair, look for clues such as:
- The item name including a well-known store name, but the creator name not being associated with that store (either its owner or a store alt).
- Defensive words in the creator’s or seller’s profile about their items.
- Different permissions on the item you’ve purchased (usually they will be full-permission) than the permissions listed on the Marketplace page.
- No store group listed in the creator’s (or seller’s) profile, and no store or contact info in their picks or main profile.
- Contact the genuine store owner/item creator (or their CS representative; check their profile for their preferred point of contact). Send them a notecard titled something like “Possible copybotted [store name] hair on Marketplace” and give as much info in that notecard as you can. Make sure you include a Marketplace link to the stolen hair..
- If you receive confirmation that the hair is, indeed, stolen, ask the creator (or their CS representative) if they want you to leave a review stating as much. If they say that’s fine, then go ahead and leave a review. You’ll have to give at least one star in order for the review to be posted, but you can state that it’s a no-star review in either the review title or the main review text. Simply state that it’s copybotted (stolen) hair and advise others not to purchase it.
- If you unwittingly bought it, then trash it. Don’t walk around wearing hair that someone else (who likes it!) can inspect and then purchase from a thief.
What will happen next:
- The genuine creator will file a DMCA request, to have that specific hair taken down (and any other stolen copies of their hair on that Marketplace store). Only the original creator (the owner of the Intellectual Property, or IP) of an item can file a DMCA request.
- The genuine creator will probably post a link to the store in one or more large designer groups, so that other designers can check it for their hair that may have been stolen. In my case, the store had hair from Truth and Lamb, and very likely several other stores. Those designers will also file DMCAs.
Eventually (with a bit of luck) the store will be removed entirely by Linden Lab. Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t usually stop the worst culprits. Most copybotters will have a new store set up under a new alt account within a few days. DMCAs are a way of life for many creators, both in the virtual and real worlds. All we can do is to help out where we can, by letting them know when we’ve spotted thieves selling their work for a quick (Linden) buck.