TSR: Accusations, Lies, Bullying?

TSR has been on the receiving end of countless slur campaigns recently.... actually going back quite some time now, since the establishment of the Pirate site and the rise of Coconut. We haven't been very public about our opinion of all this and haven't been running around denying each and every lie because to be frank, it would be fruitless in many cases. But the recent accusation that TSR was responsible for gaining unauthorized access to MTS2 and deleting content is an accusation too far!

So, whether you as a reader believe any of what we are about to say or not, this is our response. If you have no intention of believing it because you are on the Pirate bandwagon then you are wasting your time continuing, nothing we say is likely to change your mind as you will twist it to suit yourself. But if you are actually in two minds, or have the sense to see that these constant attacks on TSR must have a deeper, underpinning issue, then you might take something of value from it. In any case, this is our side of the argument.

Myth: Paysites are illegal

The story: The Pirates want the pay content but they don't want to have to pay for it. It's in their nature. Read their forums, they openly pirate Expansion Packs and they intend to do the same with Sims 3. "I'm going to Arr Sims 3" means they will steal it rather than give EAxis as they call them, any more money. They hide behind an Asian host because they know that what they are doing is wrong and that any Western host would remove them (that used to be a brag on the home page). They hide behind the game EULA which originally stated "non commercial use". This is the game EULA and does not relate to custom content tools which have their own EULA. EA have been quite clear that they have no objection to fansites selling custom content. Many of these sites have been invited to events at EA and are wholeheartedly supported by them.

The Fact: Paysites are not illegal, otherwise EA would have done something to stop them, not encouraged them. This is from the official statement composed by EA Legal (not a forum moderator as the Pirates like to claim), as posted by EA recently:

"...Whether players choose to share their original artistic creations with the community is up to them: some custom content creators design work for a fee; some host their works on sites that organize, store and serve an enormous amount of content for subscribers; some artists request donations; and some artists allow all players to download their creations for free. These artists set their own terms for how they want to share their talents with the community at large. Those terms should be respected by other players."

This is from the company that hold all rights to Sims game code. Does that read that Paysites are illegal to you?

Pay content is about choice, if you want it, and can afford it, then buy it. If you don't want to or can't buy it, go for the free stuff. Piracy is theft. Theft is illegal, selling CC for The Sims games clearly isn't! Anyone with any ability to see sense can work that out for themselves.

Myth: TSR shares PayPal information

The story: Initially it was claimed that TSR and other Paysites shared subscriber's credit card details between themselves to create bogus accounts and take payments for them without the card owner knowing. When we pointed out that PayPal handles the transaction and the service provider never sees credit card numbers, that part of the accusation got deleted because it was realised for once, that someone making something up didn't actually constitute a fact.

The rest of the accusation came from a screenshot of an internal TSR discussion. It contained around a dozen names and addresses taken from our TSR member database that members had provided on signup. Nothing from PayPal. It was just assumed that's where it came from by someone not knowing that we actually take that information from members who offer it. So, are we allowed to have private discussions as staff? Yes, of course we are! Did we share that information publicly? No, you can thank Coconut for that, for half-heartedly blurring a little bit of data and then posting it for all to see for their own sense of power and satisfaction. This information was obtained unlawfully, without the permission of TSR, and distributed without permission also.

The Fact: TSR has never and will never share PayPal information. We don't even use it ourselves; we use our own member database. Further, more of our payments are taken by a Credit Card handler than PayPal.

Myth: TSR place trojans in their downloads to gain information

The Story: In the early days of the Pirates and pay content file sharing, we put watermarks on the files at the point of downloading. This simply applied the TSR user ID, IP and time/date to the .package file of the downloader, so that we could take the files from the booty and see which user shared it. This was done server side, our end. It gathered no information about the user once they downloaded that file. This hardly constitutes a Trojan or virus.

The Fact: TSR, as a professional business, has no desire to add malware to its downloads and takes no part in such activities. The Pirates didn't like that we were on to them so cooked up this story because at the time they didn't know how we were catching them. They hated it even more when they found we used their own shared files against them! Of course they now know, but wont retract their claim because it adds too much value to their smear campaign.

Myth: TSR attacks other sites and tries to take them down

The Story: The latest such case was the take-down of the Reflexsims forum (which later turned into another forum). Apparently, Thomas decided to take down their forum on his own and simply did so by telling them to shut down.

Fact: The owner of Reflexsims approached Thomas privately about the growing piracy situation, asking for advice on how to deal with it. Thomas' first advice was, quote: "you need to stop allowing them to trash paysites in bigforums such as yours". She tried just this and in return got kicked out of the very forum she started! What happened after this had nothing to do with Thomas nor TSR - the person she gave the forum to a long time ago was the person who pulled the plug on the forum as a courtesy towards the previous owner. To try and blame TSR for this, Coconut faked a photoshopped "forum post" where Thomas seemingly does a countdown for the forum to go down. It's that easy to manipulate people into believing something! (see screenshot section at bottom)

Myth: TSR hacked an account on MTS2 and deleted content

The story: Delphy initially accused Thomas of gaining unauthorized access to an account on MTS2 and deleting content. This was based on 2 IP addresses and screenshots were posted as "conclusive evidence", claiming that they are Thomas. In fact, both these addresses are used by 'Hide my IP' cloaking software and also appear in TSR's member database hundreds of times, over several accounts. An account on TSR used those same IP's the same day on TSR using the same browser details as the screenshots posted by Delphy on MTS2, we know that these are cloaked IP's and are not enough to accuse anyone. After several discussions and cooperation between our sites, Delphy is no longer sure that TSR was involved and has retracted his allegation. We continue to investigate the source of the attacks on both our sites.

The Fact: TSR had nothing to do with content being deleted from MTS2. We have had someone gain access to FA accounts and delete their content several times too (fruitless, as we just restore them from backups). We didn't go accusing anyone of it even though we have a pretty good idea who is behind it. We don't play offensively, we aren't out to damage the Sims community, we try and keep ourselves to ourselves and act professionally! We will continue to work with MTS2 to resolve this if we can.

Myth: TSR's security breach has compromised everyone's account and identity

The Story: This is the newest one, and a direct result from my chat with Delphy. He informed his community that TSR was subject to a security breach early this year. He doesn't know the details and never actually claimed to in his post, but it has been twisted and turned into the "fact" that all TSR member accounts had been compromised and that TSR did nothing to inform or protect them. Its now even suggested that subscribers credit card details are included.

The Fact: The only accounts affected were FA and staff accounts. All FA passwords were immediately changed by us (even Coconut posted about that happening). No user accounts were compromised and therefore no announcement was necessary. We know this because of the information that was obtained. Nobody's credit card details are at risk because, wait for the shock.... we don't get credit card details from our "secure payment service provider" (the clue is in the name).

Myth: TSR is "in bed" with EA and have some kind of business relationship

The story: TSR has been invited to all of the fansite events at EA in Redwood Shores and on the odd occasion, to other events and meetings too. We have a great working relationship with EA, as do all the other sites that regularly get invited to these events, TSR is not the only one! I can't explain why we get along so well, but I can guess that it's because for the past 9+ years we have encouraged and supported the Sims community to grow, we have supported EA in what they do as any fansite does, and we act professionally in what we do. We don't allow bashing in our forums, we don't have sick game hacks in our databases and we are enthusiastic about the game and custom content. Like all those other sites that get invited back, we are a fansite supporting The Sims games. That's all.

Fact: EA does not sponsor or endorse TSR any more than it does many other fansites. We have the same "not endorsed by or affiliated with" disclaimers on our site as any other. We don't pay EA backhanders, we simply talk to each other, and that's the extent of our professional relationship.

What about the rest of the rumours circulating?

There are other accusations of course which are not covered here. That doesn't mean to say that they are true or that we have no response, we just find it absurd that we have to spend our time on such stupid, ridiculous lies that quite frankly, anyone with any common sense should be able to see are unfounded. In most cases, TSR have neither the influence or motivation to do what we are accused of and that includes closing down other sites forums. Really.. It's pathetic.

So what about this "coconut"?

Someone who attacks TSR for being dishonest and being involved in shady activities. Someone who, through unethical and probably illegal means, gains access to areas of our site where they should not have been (and others as it may turn out), who reads people private emails right off their mail server, who posted our private, internal discussions publicly, who create fake so called "screenshots" in Photoshop to spread lies, who turns their own assumptions into "facts" for their own satisfaction… someone who themselves does all the things they accuse TSR of! They even have to hide now behind the Pirates dodgy hosting because they have been kicked out from all the legitimate blog hosts they ever used for breaking their terms of use. A real inspiration! Use your own common sense and decide, is this someone acting in the best interest of the Sims community?

If our information is correct we actually know who she is, and given that she once wanted desperately to be an FA at TSR but didn't get it, we think it explains quite a lot about her bitterness towards us, don't you?

Faked screenshots

To demonstrate how easy it is to create a fake screenshot, take a look at this update from Coconut that was up for an hour and then removed (or was it?). This goes to show how much you can trust her "facts" and "inside intel" not to mention her "screencaps". Click on screenshot below for a larger image.

What about TSR now and in the future?

TSR is a professionally managed organisation. It has been owned and managed by the same staff for almost 10 years. We have been around longer than any other Sims site and we have seen it all in this community. And now, enough is enough. We will defend ourselves against this barrage of attacks, abuse and insults.

We will also continue to do what we do. We won't be beaten down by the bully element in this community who brag about their achievements of having Sims sites closed down with their accumulative actions. Bullies are the lowest of the low, and we don't think they have a place in a Sims game playing community! We do, and we aren't going anywhere!

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TSR responds to myths & lies. TSR: Accusations, Lies, Bullying?
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