I hope to find out later today if Linden Lab is going to join PayPal in voluntarily complying with the Eros subpoena [it is], but in the meantime, American.com has an interesting article up suggesting a change in civil procedure to make it harder to force companies like Linden Lab to comply with requests for the real-life identities behind avatars. From the article:
[W]hen lawsuits involve subpoenas to uncover the identities of virtual avatars—or, for that matter, pseudonymous bloggers and blog commenters—both state and federal rules of civil procedure likely need to be reformed so that plaintiffs will need to satisfy some clear standard before they can force pseudonymous Internet users into the open. My suggestion: Plaintiffs should have to discuss the merits of the case itself in a fashion specific enough to survive a motion to dismiss—and thus to justify discovering the identity behind a particular avatar.
A plaintiff can currently file a complaint against a “John Doe” defendant, and immediately subpoena service providers seeking the real identity of the user behind the avatar. The providers can move to quash the subpoena, but the grounds for doing so are fairly narrow and important information is at stake. On the other hand, setting the hurdle higher would make it more difficult and more expensive to bring lawsuits based on in-world actions.
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