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Virtually Blind periodically features “Three Things” — quick lists of places, people, or issues important to virtual law. Because there are so many first-time visitors to the site this weekend (VB was linked in Regina Lynn’s “Sex Drive” column on Wired yesterday) I want to provide a quick overview of virtual law for our new readers. So though it’s a bit of a retread for regulars, here’s an update on the three top legal issues facing virtual worlds.

Knock-off 'Nike' Shox in Second LifeTrademark Issues - VB covered this extensively yesterday (summary: there’s an awful lot of trademark infringement in Second Life). The post has accumulated some exceptionally well-reasoned comments from readers who come down on both sides of the issue. Some think it’s no big deal since most of the companies in question aren’t in the virtual world yet anyway, others agree with me that we’re close to a crisis point, and one (‘Lourdes’) makes the excellent point that companies who are looking into this should find a way to work with infringers rather than immediately releasing the hounds, er, lawyers.

Video Store with Current Hit Movies in Second LifeCopyright Issues - Close on the heels of the trademark problem in the race to see which draws a lawsuit first is widespread copyright infringement in Second Life. Everything from unauthorized copies of sexually explicit scifi novels, to unlicensed streaming music, to a simulated Wizard’s Alley lifted straight from the Harry Potter books, to hit movie downloads (see image), is available in Second Life. In terms of sheer volume, copyright infringement likely outweighs trademark, but I suspect trademark issues will attract the interest of huge companies with lots of attorneys before Hollywood and the RIAA start paying attention to virtual worlds.

Casino, er, 'Kasino' in Second LifeGambling – Last month, it was widely reported that the FBI visited Second Life’s “simulated casinos.” (Just what, exactly, is “simulated” about playing blackjack for a currency that can be instantly redeemed for U.S. dollars, you may ask? Well, nothing, really, according to two law professors, though that’s still the subject of some debate.) The feebies were just visiting mind you — Linden Lab went to some effort to make it clear that in spite of reports to the contrary, they knew of “no law enforcement agency that has opened an investigation.” After the visit, however, Linden Lab changed its advertising policy, prohibiting ads “that appear to relate to simulated casino activity.” It took a while for the change to have any impact (VB reported finding hundreds of ads when searching for “Casino” two weeks after the change was announced). But now, if you search for the word “Casino” in-world, you find absolutely nothing. In an unrelated story, a new game called “Kasino” appears to be taking the grid by storm.

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2 Responses to “Three Things: Hot Issues in Virtual Law”

  1. [...] UPDATE: More on Second Life gambling here. And perhaps recognizing what lies ahead … a Second Life Bar Association has taken shape to represent the virtual people in presumably any court. [...]

  2. on 17 May 2007 at 9:21 amstorey auer

    I read the Wired article. I have never heard of anyone being raped in Second Life and don’t understand how it could occur. Some kind of script that animates your avatar without your permission?

    Most people feel safe from that sort of attack, so I’d like to know if it really is possible and discuss practical and legal ways to: (a) avoid it; and (b) punish it.

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