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SLPTO LogoThe Second Life Patent & Trademark Office, has opened its doors, offering Second Life users a suite of new intellectual property protection tools. The SLPTO, now in live, free, open alpha-testing, is the brainchild of Second Life developer ‘FlipperPA Peregrine‘ (Tim Allen) and Michael Eckstein, an international IT business consultant and former CEO of a Blue Shield technology subsidiary.

The SLPTO plans to eventually offer a full suite of intellectual property protection tools, including individual item registration, automated DMCA notices and copyright applications, limited edition numbering, and private, time-stamped storage of evidence of creation. The SLPTO’s web site is now live, and users can register and experiment with some of the tools under development. Peregrine noted, however, that the service is in alpha, and that the ToS and Privacy Policy are not yet finalized. “We’re adding new features daily,” he said, “and still finishing our legalese.”

VB interviewed ‘Peregrine’ about the new service. We discussed the tools available at the SLPTO, the recent content creator copyright lawsuit, and Linden Lab’s handling of in-world copyright infringement allegations.

Virtually Blind: What is the SLPTO?

FlipperPA Peregrine: SLPTO stands for the Second Life Patent and Trademark Office. Before anyone states that we are trying to be the government, the most important thing to say is what we are not. We have no legal authority, nor do we have any special power over Linden Lab. However, we are a neutral third party where you can register dated information, some public, and some private, about your creations. We hope to be a suite of tools for content creators to help protect their intellectual property, educate creators on their rights, and add value to their products.

Many Second Life creators don’t have the means to afford the hourly rates of an attorney; we hope to automate some processes, such as DMCA notices and copyright applications.

VB: Why did you create the SLPTO?

I’ve been in Second Life for four years now, and as it has become exponentially bigger, so have the problems with protecting one’s intellectual property. Not a day goes by now where I don’t hear of a problem of intellectual property theft. Second Life's 'FlipperPA Peregrine'Some people seem to think that anonymity gives them the right to steal, as we’ve seen with the World Wide Web. I’m a Second Life content creator myself, and good friends with many: some attended my real-life wedding, and I’m married to a Second Life clothing designer.

Over the years, I have become close to many content creators – and their concerns – by founding and running the popular web shopping portal SLBoutique. The chief concern I’ve heard over the years from creators is protecting their intellectual property. Many Second Life creators don’t have the means to afford the hourly rates of an attorney; we hope to automate some processes, such as DMCA notices and copyright applications. We hope to educate on the differences between copyright, trademark, and patent. We hope to add value by allowing creators to sell their items as registered, numbered limited editions.

VB: Can you comment on the recent IP lawsuit where six well known Second Life content creators are suing Thomas Simon (‘Rase Kenzo’) and potentially others, and how a service like SLPTO might impact a situation like that in the future?

FP: I fully applaud the content creators standing up for their rights. I also find it predictable that the accused are now trying to play the “it is just a video game” card, while they didn’t have any problems while they were the ones making real money off of other’s creativity. The anonymity that Internet based services offer can always be a problem; I doubt either of the accused would break into a self-employed single mother’s home to steal food out of the refrigerator, for example.

SLPTO wants to help educate content creators who might not be able to afford legal services, and serve as a neutral third party which can provide evidence including dates of registration and privately held information describing source materials which wouldn’t be obvious when items are gained through an exploit. We also hope to automate DMCA take down notices and copyright applications, which can be intimidating for a person relatively new to running a sole proprietorship or LLC, as well as offering tools for creators to add value to their brands and products, such as offering digital certificates of authenticity for limited edition items.

SLPTO VaultVB: Can you explain a little bit about the mechanics of the SLPTO? Let’s start with the “Vault.” How does that work? Is it essentially a watermark for any object?

FP: The vault collects information such as the creator’s name, item name, and item key, from Second Life about the creations and automatically sends them to the SLPTO server. Items puts into the vault will then appear under the creator’s account, where they can add information about the items which will be shared with dates of registration upon request. In fact, you can simply drop our script into an existing Shop.OnRez or SLExchange prim, so you don’t have to “double pack” your boxes.

We have public and private description areas. Let’s say you make a shirt. You may want to publicly describe it as a “Red velvet shirt with gold buttons.” However, in the private section, you could enter “The original layered graphic file for this shirt is 15 layers.” If a dispute ever arose, the creator could then provide the original layered file, as well as the date of registration (and the fact they said the file had 15 layers) to Linden Lab. The potential thief would only have a file with one layer.

This system allows content creators to sell fully registered limited editions. Every time a sale is made, the text above the prim is updated with how many copies have already been sold.

VB: What about limited editions?

SLPTO Web Interface (from The limited editions may be the neatest part of the system. It allows content creators to sell fully registered limited edition items. In the past, content creators would often sell limited editions for a certain period of time. With this new system, a prim is packed with a creation just like a normal “for sale” prim is now, and the SLPTO Limited Edition script is added. It automatically pulls the price and total quantity available from the web site (where the creator enters those values). Let’s say the creator decides to sell 50 copies of an item. Every time a sale is made, the text above the prim is updated with how many copies have already been sold.

Additionally, if the seller has multiple locations, they can put out multiple copies of the limited edition “for sale” prim. Once 50 copies are sold grid-wide, the prims will automatically stop selling. Every time a sale occurs, the buyer is registered on the SLPTO web site, with their avatar name and key, and which number they purchased, in this example, between 1 and 50. They will then be stored in the database – a certificate of authenticity, if you will!

After filing a DMCA, the only thing Linden Lab will do is remove stolen copies of content that are in-world. That is not good enough. If a creation has been stolen, it needs to be removed from the virtual world, the thief’s inventory, and anywhere it may have been passed on to.

VB: What’s the SLPTO business model; how do you plan to make money with it?

FP: We are still working on this. Right now, it is entirely free. I want to see how people decide to use it first. I have a hunch that the limited edition code may appeal to the Armani’s of the world, and that may be the best way to capitalize.

VB: Are you hoping to see something like this integrated directly into the creation tools at some point?

FP: That would be fantastic! The more automated tools we can put in the hands of content creators to protect their intellectual property, the better. We are seeing more and more cases of Second Life content creators having to resort to the legal system to protect their content. I’d like to see Linden Lab take a somewhat more proactive position as well; from what I have seen, after filing a DMCA, the only thing Linden Lab will do is remove stolen copies of content that are in-world. That is not good enough. If a creation has been stolen, it needs to be removed from the virtual world, the thief’s inventory, and anywhere it may have been passed on to. Something I’m happy to be seeing now, and trying to help with, is content creators working together as a team, supporting one another, and sharing knowledge. We hope to be a suite of tools to help in this collaborative effort.

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17 Responses to “SLPTO Offers Second Life Content Creators Suite of Intellectual Property Protection Tools”

  1. on 29 Oct 2007 at 5:15 pmKyzaadrao Skall

    The only useful thing I see here is helping automate the DMCA process.

    This is yet another “lets take a real world business model and call it SL something or other”. As in patent and trademark office? Are there virtual patents now? Not yet anyway, nor should there be.

    I believe this will spawn more conflict than we currently have. Griefers and competitors use DMCA now as a malicious tool rather than a protective one. This only serves to make matters worse. I registered it first, therefore….

    While I’m not putting the idea down, I really have to frown on anyone cashing in on content creators, other than providing sales vehicles and perhaps some convenience services.

    At some point the content creators continue to make micro payments and the companies that provide said services feed of the content creators hard work. My vote is thanks but no thanks.

  2. [...] SLPTO Offers Second Life Content Creators Suite of Intellectual Property Protection Tools The Second Life Patent & Trademark Office, has opened its doors, offering Second Life users a suite of new intellectual property protection tools. [...]

  3. on 30 Oct 2007 at 3:45 amTamiko

    Coming from the establisher of inworld group, the MMO IPO, that has for some time now offered the same functions as those being advertised in this article, I can say that the issues which arise surrounding such services require much more than an opening of doors. I think I’ll contain my excitement until I see the ToS, Privacy Policy and legalese so casually referred to.

  4. on 30 Oct 2007 at 5:14 amAndy Tir

    I’m sick to see all this buzz around IPR & DMCA & whatnot… what _property_ you are talking about, huh? in meat-world you have entities, so if you sell out 3 items, you have 3 items less, but money in return – hence the reason for monetary exchange. in digital world you can copy those objects at negligible cost with speed of light – and you want to stay at the edge of Sahara and sell us sand? Oh, please… DMCA and all those IPR laws shall be repelled and substituted with something more logical and sustainable as economical model than pretendeing for monopoly on all Sahara sand…

  5. on 30 Oct 2007 at 8:30 amBenjamin Duranske

    @3 – any lawyer will tell you to read the fine print, and I do agree with that too. I suspect they’ll have something up fairly shortly now that they’re getting some attention for this.

    @4 – I’m never sure why there’s so much general dislike for protection of digital intellectual property (though I suspect we have the RIAA’s heavy-handed tactics to thank for it to a great degree). The fact that it is easy to steal something doesn’t, at least to me, amount to an argument as to why it ought to be okay.

    In reality, *all* IP (not just digital) can more or less easily be copied. If I write a great novel, it is pretty trivial (by comparison) to make copies of it and claim they are your own. Nobody ever argues that books shouldn’t have copyright protection on those grounds.

    There are all sorts of problems with DMCA, but the core idea — that people’s original creations deserve protection from copying — seems rather less offensive than the particular aspects of the implementation (e.g. potential takedown notice abuse, etc.) as pointed out @1.

  6. on 30 Oct 2007 at 10:17 amTony

    @4 Just because the copy has negligible cost to copy (some processing power and CPU cycles) that doesn’t mean it didn’t cost to develop it.

    If a business has an employee spend 3 days to make a product so they can sell it in the virtual world, shouldn’t they be allowed to sell it? If they don’t charge for it because it’s “free to copy” Why would they ever produce anything else?

    What if it’s a complex scripted product that takes 6 months to complete?

    I’m not a fan of software patents myself, but being able to protect your property (and prove in court) against those who would like to profit off your own hard work is important for industry as a whole.

    Not sure if services like these would stand in court, though? Is there a case where someone used a registration service (other the patents or registered trademarks) to stop someone from selling copied items?

  7. on 30 Oct 2007 at 12:39 pmAndy Tir

    @5 apparently you never sure because you don’t dare to challenge how much one can apply rules of real world to virtual one… probably because you have nothing to substitute if someone pulling out a blanket of usual world perception from under your feet – you just got used to normal way of living and any challenge to basics of your living momentarily justify protection-of-your-little-pond.

    what you consider as stealing in material life, it is just one of many forms of behavior within framework of sustainability, economy and (relatively) simple math. stealing stands for unfair withdrawing by person A from person B of X items without giving back of Y compensatory items. This formula is good when we do trade in finite real world. Now assume that B has infinite resource and A has finite one (B is e.g. music label and A is peasant with amount of harvested food for trade). Granted that B can next to infinite amount of music, while finite number of peasants can not (have no physical means) to produce equivalent of food for return. In other words B has unfair conditions before deal and thus has means either to rip off A or force them by monopoly of “right of property” to unfair price. Don’t you see relativity of rights?

    Few hundreds years ago Russian mathematician and genius Mikhajlo Lomonosov said – math should be learned just because it brings order into human brains. Your way of thinking makes me almost sure that you are one of those humanitarians who is ready to sacrifice abstract order of math for sake of law/legal/and other manipulative subjects ;)

  8. on 30 Oct 2007 at 1:43 pmBenjamin Duranske

    @7 – So basically, “from each according to his ability to each according to his need?”

  9. on 30 Oct 2007 at 5:16 pmAndy Tir

    @8 very creative, indeed… tho what could I expect from person whose raison-d-etre had been challenged in first place? i am sorry to waist yr time.

  10. on 30 Oct 2007 at 6:00 pmBenjamin Duranske

    @9 – Not a waste of my time at all, and I’m glad you commented. I do think, however, that we have a first principles disagreement and that quotation seems to highlight it.

    I fundamentally believe that when people are economically motivated to code software, make sculptures, paint portraits, write books, and play guitar, society is better off. That does mean giving artists a temporary monopoly over their works, but I think that should not be a dirty word here since they came up with the thing we’re talking about in the first place. It is theirs, not yours, mine, or your noble farmer’s, just as the potatoes he grew are his, not yours or mine.

    And when artists aren’t compensated — when they are told that their work is freely distributable the second they set it down to paper (or tape, or hard drive, or whatever) — society is worse off.

    I fundamentally reject the idea that the output of artists is everyone’s, to do with what they will. If you value art, you should too. Relying on the creators to keep doing what they do out of the goodness of their hearts is asinine, and telling them to do it at the point of a gun (which is exactly what you will find at the bottom of Marx’s slippery slope) is evil.

    A better argument, I think, is over how long the monopoly we acknowledge artists should have should be. And you’d be surprised where I fall on that — for software, for instance it should be a fraction of what it is (right now, software is so obsolete by the time that it enters the public domain that it has literally no residual value). I don’t even think books, music, and movies should be protected as long as they are. Not by half.

    But when you come in saying that based on the fact that it’s easy to copy the book that I am right now spending 10 hours a day writing, everyone should be able to make a free copy, and change whatever they want, and publish it with their own name on the cover, I have to figure we’ve got very little to talk about.

  11. on 31 Oct 2007 at 8:00 amErasmus Hartunian

    Sometimes I wonder how valid is the assumption that one’s intellectual creation ought be considered property. How did the world get by before copyright?
    Copyright came about with the industrial age, a very long time after Gutenberg. Mankind went through the Age of Enlightenment just fine without copyright … one could even wonder if copyright killed it more so than the industrial age itself.
    Maybe it is time to move on to a new reward model, or revert to the former model that lasted centuries longer than the current one where creators were rewarded for their performance rather than their legacy.
    … just wondering!

  12. on 31 Oct 2007 at 10:57 amBenjamin Duranske

    @11 – Erasmus, I think that was because pre-industrial revolution, there was literally no way to mechanically copy most intellectual property. Protection just wasn’t needed when it took nearly as long to make a copy as an original.

    That said, you’ve got me wondering. I suspect many artists would be glad to give up some of their IP rights in return for patronage. You know anybody who’d like to pay me to write my novel, whether it sells or not? Because I’d consider giving up the copyright to it for a house for me and my family, dinners at the castle with some regularity, and a personal squire for the rest of my life.

  13. [...] infrastructure within Second Life for intellectual property policy enforcement. But its actually an in-world IPP-protection tools startup calling itself the SLPTO. I’m tempted to argue that they’re infringing on the [...]

  14. on 09 Nov 2007 at 5:03 pmNicholas Weston

    The SLPTO could well be illegal in Australia. See relevant article on the Australian Trade Marks Law Blog at…-illegal-in-australia/

  15. [...] Second Life players FlipperPA Peregrine (aka Tim Allen) and Michael Eckstein have opened up a virtual Second Life Patent and Trademark Office (SLPTO) within the video game. This comes on the heels of six Second Life gamers suing Rase Kenzo [...]

  16. on 11 Jul 2009 at 1:13 amGetty

    I think what’s been most instrumental in giving IP a bad name is the frivolous/predatory copyright practices that big corporations have engaged in. They try to patent everything they can, whether it’s obvious or not and whether they actually invented it or not. If it’s not yet patented, and a patent clerk can be convinced, they gobble it up.

    I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous patents too, especially software patents. You never know if some of the clever tricks you think up while programming are actually someone’s property. It’d be like if someone patented using a stick as a pretend sword and then went around suing every young boy who one day finds a stick and “steals” this use of it.

  17. [...] Virtually Blind has an interesting report on Second Life’s* new Patent & Trademark Office, the SLPTO. No word on whether the SLPTO and the Second Life legal system generally will allow for any permanent injunctions. Right now it appears that the SLPTO will be heavily skewed toward copyright and trademark, which makes sense in a virtual world. And before we learn whether the SLPTO has any enforcement mechanisms, Blawg IT is offering to represent virtual clients before the SLPTO. I would get a retainer up front Brett – virtual clients can be difficult to track down when the bills are due. [...]

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