PostHeaderIcon Forget Linden Lab, Call Your Lawyer

Court of Appeals, Texas State CapitolKevin Alderman (stroker serpentine) basically started the virtual sex industry in Second Life. Surely someone would have, it just turns-out to be him. He also more or less kick-started the practice of real life law as it pertains to virtual worlds. The ultimate in Intellectual Property paradigms and definition with regard to ownership and copyright.

He created a few scripts and three-dimensional descriptions that appear to the user in the Second Life environment, while using a Second Life "viewer"to be a bed (among other things) and the scripts allow users' avatars to appear to be... embracing in many different ways. Most of which in ways not fit for real life public display.

Because this is just computer code inside more computer code, the parent system (the Second Life Grid) was compromised in such a way as to allow others to make unlimited copies of the "SexGen Bed". Thereby, allowing them to resell the bed, keeping all the money earned.

This is not theft, but it is plagiarism. The original creator who's creativity and hours of work are going unrewarded. So Alderman sued. In real life.

To make a long story short, the case was settled by default and Alderman came-out ahead. This is only among the most prominent of cases because of the humorous nature where 'virtual sex' is involved. Of course, most people who read these stories haven't the faintest idea of the real life money that can be involved.

So the real life world of law is becoming baptized by fire in the realm of virtual worlds. Just as they were baptized by fire regarding anything Internet, when the world wide web was still in it's infancy.

It's not a predominant area in law yet. But it's coming. The simple fact of the matter is Linden Lab, try hard as they might, simply is not equipped (logically, technically they are - but there are huge logical ramifications involved) to deal with all the complaints regarding Intellectual Property 'theft'.

The best thing to do at first is simply contact anyone infringing against you. be polite, friendly and cordial. Inform them to please stop as they are knowingly or unknowingly abusing your I.P. rights. Even better, make a deal. Ask them to send you a commission on each sale and to go on and keep selling.

If they refuse, then send a cease-and-desist notice. You can do this yourself or hire a real attorney to do it for you. Then you can pursue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) "take-down" notice. because this is an actual legal maneuver, it is slow and complicated. However, Linden Lab will then be required to "take-down" or remove the alleged infringing content. Unless a counter DMCA is filed - in which case, they put it back-up.

That's when you call your attorney or learn to live with the alleged infringement. But have no doubt, this kind of thing is on the ramp-up. For instance, the use of the word "Taser" by user residents in the virtual world has brought a lawsuit by Taser International against Linden Lab directly, and certainly the possibility of that suit being expanded to include those individuals directly infringing.

As do be careful when using what you might think are common lexicon phrases or words and do be especially careful with recognizable artwork. Even if you draw it yourself. Play it safe, create everything - including the design from scratch.

Even if it's 100% indigenous to the virtual world.

Occasionally these attorneys deal with disputes that arise inside multiplayer video games, such as World of Warcraft. But most often, these attorneys are focused on Second Life, a free-to-join 3-D environment that looks like a video game except that it has no set goals, nothing to win or lose. People log on to hang out, do business and hook up (hence the popularity of Alderman's sex bed).

Besides its lack of missions and scores, what distinguishes Second Life from video games is that Linden allows users to buy virtual property and create objects that are protected by intellectual property rights.

These characteristics, along with a virtual currency that can be traded for real U.S. dollars, make Second Life the main stage for virtual law's development.

Although some of the buzz that accompanied its 2003 creation has subsided, Second Life continues to grow. Monthly transactions between users increased about 30 percent in the past year, to 25 million in March compared with 19 million a year ago.

As transactions grow in volume, it's inevitable that disagreements will crop up. Linden says that although it will enforce its terms of service, including its ban on violating other users' intellectual property, it can't settle most disputes for users.

"Residents who find themselves in a disagreement with another resident are encouraged to resolve it directly as they would in any other context - online or offline," wrote Linden Lab's general counsel Martin Roberts in an e-mail interview.

[From Avatars, attorneys in new world of virtual law]
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