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I’m back from vacation, so things are returning to normal around here. Next time I take a break, I plan to invite guest bloggers to step in. Let me know if you’re interested in writing a piece or two for the site; I’ll slot you in over the next couple of months, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

I want to get caught up but don’t have time to do a dozen posts, so here’s a month and a half worth of legal developments in virtual worlds — presented in the format of VB’s regular feature, “Quicklinks.” Enjoy.

  • Chinese Government Limits Gameplay Time – The People’s Daily Online reported that the Chinese government has given game operators in China until July 16th, 2007 to put software controls in place to “encourage” players under 18 years old (they’ll now require a state ID to play) to put down their controllers and go play soccer with Iranian kids, join a communist youth group, or get even better than western kids at math than they already are. Games that don’t comply get shut down. Interestingly, they’re using a sneaky capitalist trick to pull it off: games must generate half-points after three hours, and zero points after five. Lots of questions come to mind, chief among them, “Does the Chinese government really think that modern games award points?”
  • Results of 'Casino' Search in Classifieds in Second Life, April 17, 2007FBI Visits Second Life Casinos - In regulation news closer to home for most readers, Reuters reported that the FBI visited some Second Life casinos, but has not opened a formal investigation or taken a position on gambling in Second Life. There’s good analysis of the issue on Findlaw, from Anita Ramasastry, an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. If you’re feeling lazy, here’s a quick summary: caveats aside, under 2006′s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), it is almost certainly illegal for casino operators to accept bets in Lindens, and moreover, Linden Lab could be held liable for aiding and abetting gambling. Another professor, Christine Hurt, from the University of Illinois School of Law, flatly states that users, “would be violating the Wire Act by gambling on Second Life.” A few days after the FBI’s visit, Linden Lab announced a ban on casino advertising, but at least so far, the new restrictions appear ineffective (see screenshot, above, of a Second Life Classifieds search for “Casino” two weeks after the advertising ban was imposed).
  • World of Warcraft Glider (“WowGlider”) Litigation Goes Forward - Terra Nova recently ran a “Law and VW’s” update on recent developments in virtual law. Among other things making it well worth your click, it includes a nice set of links to documents in the WoWGlider case, as described below:

If you’re interested in the case documents, the original declaratory judgment Complaint is here. Counterclaims are here. A proposed joint case management plan can be found here. The case management plan is an interesting document for non-lawyers to read, since it offers brief and readable statements by both sides of the facts of the case and the nature of the legal claims.

  • Indiana Law Journal Runs Article on Virtual Law - I also want to highlight this from the Terra Nova article linked above, because it will be particularly interesting to VB readers: the Indiana Law Journal ran an article entitled On Virtual Worlds: Copyright and Contract Law at the Dawn of the Virtual Age. An Acrobat PDF of the full article can be downloaded here. The article is by Erez Reuveni, who is clerking for the Chief Judge of the District of Massachusetts.
  • Linden Lab Removes Corporate Counsel Listing – Linden Lab, which had been seeking applications for a position as “Corporate Counsel,” recently removed the listing from its jobs page. VB contacted Linden Lab seeking further information, and will post anything we learn.
  • Department of Homeland Security Considers Second Life OfficeGovernment Computer News reports that the Department of Homeland Security is considering setting up a location in Second Life for training simulations and to use as a virtual meeting space. On one hand, I hope they don’t, because the more the U.S. government pays attention to virtual worlds, the greater the risk that some idiot will try to import the Chinese plan discussed above. But on the other hand, after seeing what griefers did to John Edwards’ Second Life headquarters, I imagine that the DHS office would quickly become my very favorite place to hang out in Second Life, just to watch the round-the-clock fireworks.
  • Context-Specific Ads are Funny - In site news, I’ve gotten some mail about the ads on VB, and want to clear something up: I don’t get to pick the products. Google and Amazon get it right about 95% of the time (interesting-looking smaller MMO games, law firms, books on virtual worlds, legal search services, networking equipment, etc.) but occasionally they run some pretty random stuff. Some examples: vertical blinds (nice work, context monkeys), Garth Brooks albums (because of his hit, “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association”), and the new Harry Potter book (because, well, because Amazon is flogging that one everywhere). And yes, I know I’ve just made them all infinitely more likely to show up going forward, but your clicks, dear readers, have netted the site a grand total of $2.84, so I’m not too concerned… and besides, maybe some of you actually need a Garth Brooks greatest hits CD more than another copy of Snow Crash. Another oddity: in Mexico (where I was vacationing) Google doesn’t even deliver context-specific ads, at least not for this site. The Google ads that run on VB in Mexico are for building supplies, industrial solvents, and — I am not making this up — something called a “ball transfer unit.”
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One Response to “Quicklinks: Chinese Gaming Limits, FBI Visits, WoWGlider Suit, Virtual Property Paper, Linden Lab Corporate Counsel, DHS, and Google Ads”

  1. [...] Readers with good memories will recall that about three months ago, VB ran a short piece on an odd item from the international desk.  China planned to impose a new law which would require that online computer games generate half-points after three hours of play, and zero points after five hours.  Games that did not comply would be shut down.  [...]

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