August 10th, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
Second Life creator Linden Lab recently clarified its July 25 ban on gambling. The clarification FAQ, linked here, includes the following important passages, some of which clear up questions raised in VB’s earlier post and subsequent comments about the ban on gambling.
What does “wagering” mean according to this policy? The term “wagering” applies to any covered game or activity (i.e. game of chance, sports betting) in which a user contributes Linden dollars (or real-world money or things of value), whether into a pot, at a table game, at a house game, for purchase of a card (such as Bingo), or in any way risks Linden dollars based on whether an event may or may not occur, such as whether a team will win a sporting event, or whether Barack Obama will win the Democratic primary.
Does this policy apply to “skill contests”? This policy only applies to wagering games that involve an element of chance. This includes, for instance, any game involving random number generation, simulated dice, cards, poker, lotteries, bingo, or any other “chance” game. Games of pure intellectual or physical skill, such as puzzles or other skill contests, may not fall under this definition.
What about games in which no Linden dollars or other “consideration” is paid out? If the “payout” involves objects that are more akin to novelty objects that cannot readily be converted into Lindens, real-world currency or value, then that activity will likely be permitted.
Following up on this, Reuters today reported that a number of “Gambling” related offenses currently appear on the Second Life police blotter. Because these things roll off the page and aren’t publicly archived, as far as I can tell, here is one example:
Date: Friday, August 10, 2007
Violation: Terms of Service: Gambling
Description: Terms of Service violation : Gambling.
Action taken: Warning issued.
This is how each of the eleven Police Blotter entries on gambling read; there is a “Terms of Service” violation for “Gambling,” and a warning has been issued.
But there’s a problem, from a contract law perspective: the Terms of Service haven’t actually been changed, and neither have the Community Standards that users agree to follow when clicking to agree to the Terms of Service.
The contract law issue is not a huge one right now because Linden Lab is just issuing warnings. But it is an issue that could well matter from a legal perspective if Linden Lab eventually bans someone who isn’t in compliance with a policy that isn’t set out in anything the user formally agrees to.
In short, anyone punished can reasonably ask how gambling is a “violation” of the “Terms of Service” at the moment. The policy change was announced in the Official Linen Blog, of course, but it seems likely that only a small percent of users read that regularly — I didn’t read it until I started covering legal issues. There’s a fair argument that until Linden Lab formally puts people on the hook for this knowledge in the Terms of Service and/or the Community Standards, they have no business punishing account holders.
There’s always the widely-questioned catchall provision 2.6 (“Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account”) but the TOS are in need of an update if they are to be named as the justification for enforcement of the gambling ban, particularly if the one of the later steps in enforcement involves the banhammer.
Finally, readers questioning the overall efficacy of the ban should consider that the picture above was taken today; it took me three searches and one teleport to find a fully functioning casino in Second Life.
Edited August 11, 2007 to Correct Typo
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