Written By Bunni DeLunari
Photography Provided by ScarySpice Photography
The latest craze to sweep the circles of home & garden social media is the creation and marketing of pre-furnished, stylized homes created by interior designers from all walks, styles and verses. You can buy a pre-furnished skybox with adult themed furniture, or a premade baby shower banquet complete with dispensing food, twinkly lights, and all the fixings. You can even purchase premade landscaping, ready to turn your 64x64 inch parcel into a tropical oasis in a matter of minutes. All without having to track down and purchase the furniture, the rocks, the plants, the trees, or having to do any of the heavy lifting of putting all of those books on that bookshelf yourself. For those of us whose passions include all things furniture related, the idea of purchasing anything pre-furnished, sounds like taking all of the fun out of buying a new house on Secondlife. But for every person ready to fill their house top to bottom with their favorite furniture, there is another person who is dismayed with the daunting task of putting together yet another living room, just because they want a scene change.
As an interior designer here on the grid, a good chunk of my clients tell me they love furniture, but just do not have the time or energy to decorate a whole house. Some of them are store owners, who want somewhere lovely to spend their off hours, or bring their friends, but don’t have time with the event release schedule to decorate the new home they absolutely had to have. Some are new to Secondlife, IMVU transplants who are still learning and building their inventories, who want a lovely home to take their cute pictures in. Some are just looking for me to do my thing, and turn their house into a masterpiece fit for a home & garden catalog so that they don’t have to.
The truth is, there’s tons of reasons why people hire others to decorate their homes, landscape their land, and build their event set ups. However, as the demand for custom built, magazine quality homes grows, tons of designers, myself included, have begun offering premade builds to meet the growing demand of clients, while still being able to build at our own pace and keep our sanity. But pre-made home and garden creations whether they be landscapes, skyboxes, or on the ground homes seem to be causing much heated, yet rarely discussed in the open debate. In an effort to shed some light on the subject, and talk about it, I decided to do a little bit of a deep dive into the subject and get the opinions of my fellow grid walkers on all sides of the debate.
For many designers, premade builds are additional income. Many offer custom services, which can often take weeks, or even months to complete depending on the project, and the designer. Even more designers, like Kat Carson, outline upfront that they will only take things within their skillset, and on a limited basis. Meaning you could be waiting even longer for a custom project, if your desired designer doesn’t have space on their immediate calendar. Premades offer a great solution for both designer, and resident if they want something high end, but not necessarily custom built. I got a chance to speak with Kat a little bit about her brand “Kat Carson’s Decorated” and the options she offers to clients. “I offer Premade Skyboxes & Backdrops, I do custom backdrops and skyboxes as well.” Specializing in Hype Beast and Modern styles, she offers a variety of options for both backdrops and skyboxes, and takes custom projects as well. When asked how pre-mades have impacted her business, Kat stated “Well it’s made me a lot of money haha. But it has also made me better at decorating, making it something I want to do in real life”
However some in the designing community are not as supportive. Many question the validity of pre-decorated builds, and argue that pre-decorated builds open the door for scammers to take advantage of others, or that selling copies of furniture is detrimental to home decor & landscaping store creators, or even against LL terms of service completely. One of those especially critical of the sale of premade home is BONAIRE Architect’s creator, Benjamin Buttonss, I got a chance to talk with Benjamin about his feelings on the subject of premades, custom designs, and the linden labs TOS and he had a lot to say.
“From a legal point of view the matter is not easy. Linden Lab invented the permission system as a tool for creators to control their rights, but this does not cover any possible case, such as prefabs. LL says the permission system is to keep things simple, but in my own opinion they are just trying to keep out of the fire line.
There is an existing knowledge base article that says copies or purchased items are for personal use, which from my point of view means, that every product you purchase is strictly for personal use only and must not be commercialized in any way, unless a end user agreement provided by the creator states something different, e.g. in cases of full perm products (but even with full perm products you have some rules to take care of).
I will go even further. Whatever LL's TOS says, we fortunately have a judicial system and the US Copyright Office, which clearly says that a creator's digital art or content is protected by copyrights the moment it is created. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to make copies, sell or distribute copies, to prepare derivative works, to perform the work and to publicly display the work, unless permission is given to the end user. For me that means, the fact that most products are copyable in SL is to offer the client a personal backup. It does not give you the right to excessively rez it or make money out of it!
We as creators have faced this issue since the beginning of SL and it has triggered a lot of discussions with LL in the past, because there is no real mechanism for copyable items to avoid fraud. Many of us, though, are ok with some forms of commercial use without even stating that in an end user agreement. Like rentals, or personalized interior projects, where an interior designer works on a client's home for a week or two. But having premade homes in your inventory, that you rez 10 times a day on other people's land is different and definitely something creators do not need to tolerate.”
When asked about the impact to his store directly, and what he’d like designers to keep in mind when using his products for their projects, Benjamin says
“When the pandemic started I decided to make SL my RL income, since I lost my two RL jobs in a marketing firm and writing a column for a magazine. It was a risk and fortunately it worked out. In real life I have my mother living with me, who needs 24/7 care and nursing and I was like ‘Damn Benjamin, you need this project to work’ Because it is not just about me, but about someone I love and owe so much and who needs my monetary support.
This said, as much as I love my second life, my family and friends here, the fun, empathy and passion around me, SL is also my source of income and I work very hard for it. Mostly seven days a week to serve new and exciting products. I pay tax in real life and have my business registered. Means it is a REAL business and like any other RL company and any other SL creator I deserve that my copyrights are respected.
As I said before, I love and appreciate talented interior designers working on custom home projects and best case sharing the process and final result on social media. Even though this is actually a breach of copyright, me and many other creators tolerate this kind of commercial use because it is a win-win, because of the publicity and sharing! It is almost like blogging for us. In comparison premades do not benefit us in any way except losing a sale.
I meet interior designers that sell premades, some even approach me to ask me things about our products. This shows me that they are actually not aware of the entire issue, copyright laws, and its effect on creators..
I am not the type of person who would instantly report this. Instead I am trying to spread awareness and education about this important topic. And the response is mostly positive. Some designers I know do not offer premades anymore but focus on customized projects. Which I find an amazing move and good development for the entire market. Mutual respect and appreciation is key here.
Also I would like to tell the customers that there are so many talented interior designers that would be happy to develop a personalized project for your home, having in mind your needs and taste. Working on something like a family home with a professional is so much fun even though the process takes longer than a pre-made one. But it makes it your own...your crib!
I would always choose this option instead of a premade one dropped on my land, which looks exactly the same as my BFF's one. Enjoy the process of creating a home with the help of a professional!”
However not all creators are against the sale of premades. When I reached out to the creators of Krescendo, they had this to say:
“One of the things we love about Second Life is the endless possibilities and creativity, and seeing what people do with the things we make gives us eternal pleasure! So we really appreciate the hard work of interior designers who set up pre-decorated homes.
Does it impact us as a store financially? A lot of the people who hire interior decorators have little motivation to purchase and decorate themselves, or they lack time to look around shops to find what they want. So an interior decorator offers a very important service being able to introduce people to stores they might never get to see or experience and showcase their work to a high standard thanks to their decorating skills. On top of that, it’s great advertising as a store that a designer would want to use our items and have them on display for people. So I think it balances it out financially, but more than that it adds a method of creativity to the game we’re really happy to be part of and encourage. As a creator, you can’t dictate how your items are used once they are purchased within SL and it’s wonderful to see the many ways people make use of them, from rental properties to clubs, to their own homes. “
In its current state, Linden Lab’s terms of service only calls out the use of their trademark for the sale of merchandise in the real world, and offers creators the option to file a DMCA complaint for instances of infringement of real life copyrights. The average user sifting through LL’s TOS, and subsequent wiki pages will turn up very little on anything that actually outlines the sharing of furniture as a violation. By its nature interior designers sell a service, not the actual items themselves. Even sold as a premade home, the furniture all still belongs to the decorator, and will only remain on the land it is rezzed on for as long as the land owner allows. No items are transferred to the inventory of clients, and ownership doesn’t change hands.
For now, things like premade homes, custom interior design projects, even sharing furniture with your friends exists in a gray area in which many fall on all sides of the fence. Until Linden Lab’s speaks on the subject directly, things may continue to exist in limbo. BONAIRE Architect’s creator, thinks that topic may come up on LL’s docket sooner rather than later saying
“We as creators talk entre nous and with LL. And we know that LL is aware of the entire thing and is taking it seriously. Metaverses are in the public focus at the moment. There is a reason why Facebook is called Meta now. And I strongly believe that metaverses are the evolution of the internet. LindenLabs and Secondlife have the potential to become a big player in this because of their more democratic approach (making metaverses accessible on mobile devices in the future), while Meta focuses on VR. This means that LL will definitely revise the entire copyright thing and create mechanisms to protect the work of creators better. Because they simply cannot afford to ignore that if they want a broader audience to use SL in the future.”
Until then, we can hope the community as a whole will continue to approach each other with mutual respect so that everyone gets to enjoy the very best out of Home & Garden in their Second Life.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THIS? WE ARE INTERESTED TO KNOW MORE FROM BOTH SIDES