Virtual Law Quicklinks: Kenzo Judgment, Alpine Meadows, Game Entourages, Virtual Biglaw, Fair Use, DMCA Drama, Army Games, RMT in IEEE, and More…
January 20th, 2008 by Benjamin Duranske
Virtually Blind periodically runs “quicklinks” — items that are not long enough for a full story, but are worth a click. We have a huge backlog at the moment, so here’s an extra large batch.
- The Honorable Sandra L. Townes, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, signed the consent judgment against Thomas Simon (Second Life’s ‘Rase Kenzo’) without modification, and the judgment was entered earlier this month. This concludes the case, brought by six Second Life content creators alleging trademark and copyright infringement. The consent judgment states that Simon profited from the “unauthorized copying and distribution of plaintiffs’ merchandise,” and enumerates Simon’s obligations going forward, as noted in an earlier post.
- IEEE Spectrum weighed in on real money trading (RMT) and real cash economies (RCE) a little while ago in an article entitled Playing Dirty. Interesting piece. Gets some of the legal stuff right and some of it wrong, but worth a click.
- The Confederation of Democratic Simulators (one of several “microgovernment” projects in Second Life) is adding a new sim — “Alpine Meadows.” The theme is “Alpine Rural Antique,” as set forth in the covenant. There is a video featuring Alpine Meadows (and the other CDS sims) up on YouTube.
- WIRED’s Danger Room blog reports that the U.S. Army recently established an internal “games” office which will “focus on using videogame graphics to make those dull military simulations more realistic, and better-looking.” Serious business indeed.
- Also in the serious business department, the current print edition of WIRED includes an article by Julian Dibbell on griefers and griefer-haters. Summary: somewhere between releasing pet dragons in the middle of a role-playing wedding in Ultima Online and messing with somebody’s real world income is a line. Where, exactly, the line should be drawn is up for grabs, but Dibbell comes closer than most to pinning it down. My feeling? It’s entirely situational. It can go overboard, and may even be actionable in extreme cases (as intentional infliction of emotional distress), but comparing it to terrorism is absurd.
- Dibbell also gets a round of applause for making My Tiny Life, his exploration of early text-based virtual worlds, available for free as a .pdf file. While I’m as happy as the next guy to see it out there, I vastly prefer physical books to reading on the screen, and am willing to pay for them — particularly when a fair bit of the cash goes to the author. So for me, I’m even more excited to see that it is also now available via print-on-demand at Lulu (the Lulu link takes you to the free .pdf too).
- Second Life’s ‘Cybergrrl Oh’ recently ran a great overview of virtual property and intellectual property issues from an entrepreneur’s perspective: Who Owns What You Create in Second Life? It skips the nuances of these questions that these discussions tend to get caught up in and gets right to advice for virtual entrepreneurs. Good starting point if you’re thinking about running a virtual business.
- You can now hire a virtual entourage to hang with in some games. Gamepal refers to this service as — I am not making this up — an “escort service.” Apparently they’ve never flipped through the “E” section in major metro yellow pages (or logged into Second Life, for that matter) where the term has a rather different connotation. I first learned of this horrible idea via Broken Toys, which ran the item under the truly inspired headline, Medium Pimpin’.
- Last month the Second Life Herald ran (in a sex advice column, of all places) an important reminder about chatlogs and lawsuits. Bottom line: Linden Lab knows what you’ve been up to in Second Life — and so will the judge in your divorce proceeding. Linden Lab has already provided identifying information in response to a subpoena once; it is only a matter of time before chat and item logs are sought too.
- A website called “The Issue” has a discussion going on regarding virtual law. The discussion is a bit predictable, but it’s a slick site and I’m going to keep track of it.
- Business Communicators of Second Life’s Linda Zimmer recently ran a post that is well worth your click: Fair Use Reframed in Era of Consumer Generated Content. It presents a novel argument: that the nature of virtual worlds makes the assembly of bits-and-pieces into new works potentially subject to stronger fair-use protection than in other mediums, because copyright law should react to new technology. As is traditional with this question, I’m on the fence. I very much believe creators have to be fairly compensated and need to be able to protect their works, but new creation shouldn’t be stifled. It’s a constant balancing act, and that’s why copyright law is interesting.
- Alston & Bird partner Alan Behr recently answered questions about IP law in Second Life. It’s nice to see larger U.S. firms starting to send even unofficial feelers into virtual worlds, and particularly nice to see somebody like Behr — a writer and photographer, as well as a noted IP transactional attorney — leading the way.
- The EU firm that first established a biglaw presence in a virtual world is Field Fisher Waterhouse, and the partner in charge of their virtual world presence is David Naylor. (Naylor, incidentally, as Second Life’s ‘Solomon Cortes,’ takes over as President of the Second Life Bar Association when my term expires at the end of this month.) Naylor recently did a podcast interview with The Virtual Worlds BusinessCast. Great discussion. I’m going to start tuning into these regularly.
- The USC Institute for Network Culture and Global Kids are hosting a discussion, Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds: Considering Civil Liberties. The event will be held at the USC Annenberg Island (SLURL) in Second Life at 12:00 noon, Pacific time, on Monday, January 28, 2008. From the announcement: “Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation, will chair a discussion about the avatar civil liberties. Joining him will be Robin Harper, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development from Linden Lab, and Jack Balkin, professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.”
- Your2ndPlace has an interesting note (and a few interesting comments) running regarding employment law and Second Life. One comment comes from attorney Dave Elchoness, who has some big ideas in this area, and also has a new website, VRWorkplace devoted to that is worth checking out. From the site: “
- Finally, there’s some DMCA drama brewing regarding Flickr pictures of advertisements in Second Life. There’s also some general copyright drama brewing regarding HBO, the Vagina Monologues, and an in-world Second Life organization that is planning to put on a performance. It just hit me that there are now so many disputes like this that blow up in forums and on blogs that unless they turn into something more or provide an opportunity for further analysis, I don’t usually do feature articles on them any more.
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