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Second Life Lawsuit Over Copied Goods Settled

from the just-like-that dept

Just after we discussed yet another bad situation involving bringing real world laws into virtual worlds involving World of Warcraft, it looks like there's an update on another such case we discussed last year. In this case, it was a dispute between two members of Second Life, one of whom had "copied" items made by another and started selling them. This seemed perfectly ridiculous, since being a virtual world where there is no scarcity, nothing was being stolen. Indeed, it looks like the participants in the lawsuit more or less came to the same conclusion. They've "settled" the case, but by settling, it sounds like they really meant giving up the case. No money is exchanging hands and no one is admitting to any guilt. That sounds a lot more like they're just dropping the case.

Filed Under: copyright, lawsuits, second life, virtual worlds

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2008 @ 9:01am


    @ 7:59 --

    The Original Post stated "where there is no scarcity, nothing was being stolen". This certainly contemplates copyrights, not trademarks -- although your point is well-taken that the concept of manufactured scarcity does not apply well to trademarks... or trade dress, for that matter.

    Nor do I disagree that copyright is *necessary* for creators to get paid, but it is the mechanism (for better or worse) that Second Life has chosen. Once SL users opted into that ruleset, it seems peculiar for the Original Post to imply that it is somehow "ridiculous" that the ruleset should be enforced.

    One might come to the conclusion that the copyright system doesn't work; fine. But, once someone has decided to play by those rules, we can hardly justify their violation of the rules with that argument that the system which they agreed to doesn't work.

    While the article doesn't say anything about trademark, the presence of a trademark claim only strengthens the argument that IP rights - whether it is trademark, copyright, or patent - can have an appropriate place in a virtual environment. Some here subscribe to the view that copyright doesn't work -- is trademark similarly broken?

    In fact, trademark seems even more appropriate in this environment. Consumers' association with a brand experience is internal; one can invoke that association in any context, virtual or otherwise. (My previous experiences with Coke don't change depending on whether the Coca-Cola trademark is presented to me on the computer monitor or the television screen.)

    In short, the Original Post errs in suggesting that this demonstrates that real world laws don't port well into virtual worlds. In truth, there are some serious problems with our IP laws, but they have little to do with Second Life. Understanding that the problems are internal to the rulesets, rather than context-specific, is a necessary prerequisite to fixing what we've managed to screw up.

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