Update: Answer in Bragg Case; Victory in France; Casino Ad Policy (De)clarification; Sex Toy Copyright Suit; and Coca Cola’s Trademark in Second Life
July 8th, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
Back from vacation, and it’s been a big two weeks in virtual law. Some of these items deserve a longer write-up (and they’ll eventually get one) but there’s hot sun outside, cold Sauvignon Blanc in the refrigerator, and three episodes of Entourage on my DVR. So without further ado, here’s two weeks worth of virtual law updates in one big post.
- Second Life creator Linden Lab filed its Answer and Counterclaims in the Bragg case (for the non-litigators who read VB, this is standard operating procedure in a lawsuit). It’s available as a PDF here. I’ve only skimmed it, but it doesn’t appear to contain any big surprises. One thing did stand out to me: Linden Lab is asking the Court to hold on to the proceeds of the sale of Bragg’s virtual land during the lawsuit. That looks like a smart move that helps them paint themselves as the good guys here, and really, to Linden Lab, this isn’t exactly about the money. It’s also interesting to me because you could argue it’s a tacit admission that there is real value in virtual land ownership. Should be interesting to see how that plays out. There’s a lengthy press release from Linden Lab about the Answer, available here.
- In a good piece of international news for Linden Lab, it turns out French courts are saner than French parental watchdog groups. I was just in France, of course, and since I couldn’t help but notice that topless models grace the covers of Maxim-type magazines for sale at kiddie-eye-level on a number of Parisian street corners, this result seems more than reasonable. Somewhat oddly, however, Linden Lab says that the result “confirms that French law, and in particular the law of Confidence in the Digital Economy, should be applied to Second Life.” Did they just say that French law should be applied to Second Life? All of it? Yes they did. I hate to bang this drum again, but somebody in the legal department has got to start checking these things before they get posted; that looks like Exhibit 1 in a deposition somewhere down the road to me.
- Along these same lines, Linden Lab issued a confusing press release about its casino and gambling advertising policy. Linden Lab acknowledges the existence of “casinos” for “gambling related activities” in Second Life without any qualification (while last time, you’ll recall, it was just “simulated casino activity”) and merely asks owners to “not advertise your Casinos in our classified section.” It then states that “those that have posted classifieds for businesses in Second Life where the posts are related to Casinos or other Gambling related activities will be removed by Linden Lab with no refunds given.” Wait, what will be removed, the ads themselves or “those that have posted” them? Oh, who cares. You’re all advertising “Kasinos” now anyway.
- Something very interesting is about to happen: we’re going to find out whether Linden Lab will willingly comply with a subpoena for information about the real-life identity of a user. Kevin Alderman (aka ‘Stroker Serpentine’ in Second Life) is suing a John Doe (avatar ‘Volkov Catteneo’ in Second Life) for violating the copyright on Alderman’s popular Eros SexGen bed. Here’s a pdf of the complaint. Reuters covered this in a thorough piece that is worth your click if you’ve not read it already. Alderman is a fixture of the Second Life business community. His product is expensive (around $45 US), incredibly popular, and very press-friendly (it’s a piece of virtual furniture that contains sex animations for avatars). As such, this suit is likely to draw some mainstream press attention. Alderman’s attorney’s first move will be to subpoena documents that establish the real-life identity of alleged perpetrator ‘Volkov Catteneo’ from Linden Lab. ‘Catteneo’ claims to have no identifying information on file with Linden Lab (he actually told Reuters, “I’m not some kind of noob,” a comment which I see projected on a great big screen while he’s testifying if this ever goes to trial). “Noob” or not, I bet you a bag of Lindens that he’s got a traceable IP address or two, a PayPal account, and who knows what else Linden Lab keeps hidden in the darker corners of its servers. (And really, don’t you want to find out?) It will be interesting to see what happens when the subpoena hits, to say the least.
- A handful of reports are floating around that Coca Cola is “releasing” its trademark in Second Life. Trust me on this one: it really isn’t. It might be choosing not to enforce the mark in certain contexts, but it’s not “releasing” (the legal term would be “abandoning”) the trademark in Second Life or anywhere else. It can’t “release” it without abandoning it actually, because trademark law is considered a matter of consumer protection in the U.S. One of the ramifications of that is that transferring a trademark requires transfer of the underlying product — which Coca Cola is pretty clearly not doing. In reality, what Coca Cola appears to be trying to do here is issue a free license to the trademark to allow it to be used in Second Life in a limited context. That it can do, but it has to monitor the quality of the goods being produced or it risks an abandonment argument. As a result, a trademark license usually includes provisions dealing with quality control, inspection, and monitoring. The best clarification I’ve seen so far is here (at the reBang weblog) which basically says that Coca Cola is going to exert some control over who makes what with the Coke logo on it in Second Life. While there’s undoubtedly been a breakdown in communication somewhere, it is good to see a big brand talk about working with potential infringers — arguably the smartest approach.
Related Posts on Virtually Blind
- Eros Copyright Lawsuit Update: PayPal to Identify “Some Kind of N00b”: "As VB predicted two weeks ago, Reuters is now reporting that the ..." (4 comments)
- Linden Lab Produces Documents Responsive to Eros’ Subpoena in SexGen Intellectual Property Suit: "Second Life creator Linden Lab is complying with Eros LLC's subpoena..." (10 comments)
- Portuguese Ministry of Justice to Open Alternative Dispute Resolution Facility in Second Life: "Second Life commentator 'Gwyneth Llewelyn' has a press release up,..." (6 comments)
8 Responses to “Update: Answer in Bragg Case; Victory in France; Casino Ad Policy (De)clarification; Sex Toy Copyright Suit; and Coca Cola’s Trademark in Second Life”
Leave a Reply
Notes on Comments: Your first comment must be manually approved, but after it is you'll be able to post freely with the same name and email. You can use some HTML (<a> <b> <i> <blockquote> etc.) but know that VB's spam blocker holds posts with five or more <a> links. VB supports gravatars. Got a gravatar? Use the associated email and it'll show with your comment. Need one? Set it up for free here.