Linden Lab Sued Over Copied Virtual Goods

from the dmca,-anyone? dept

Way back in 2003, when Linden Lab announced that individuals owned the real world copyright on virtual trinkets they made in the game, we noted that this was a bad idea that would lead to problems. It was, in effect, taking bad real world laws and bringing them into a virtual world. It was even worse, because it was taking real world laws that were designed for a world of scarcity, and bringing them into a world of abundance -- and effectively allowing the laws to reach from the real world into the virtual world. That's a recipe for trouble.

And, indeed, a few years back there were lawsuits over "copied" products, though the main one we know of ended with both sides dropping the case. However, a new lawsuit has been filed, but this time, Linden Lab itself is a target, and the guy suing is claiming both copyright and trademark infringement. It's the same basic story. A guy creates virtual things (in this case, "sex toys") in Second Life, others copy them, and he's pissed off, so he sues. But he's suing Linden Lab, perhaps because it's better to sue a company that actually has money.

But legally, it seems like a huge longshot. The copyright claim should get tossed out pretty quickly due to DMCA safe harbors. The guy filing the lawsuit claims they don't apply "because it is aware of the rampant infringement of Alderman's copyrights and trademarks, and hasn't take proactive steps to prevent that piracy." Unless there's specific evidence of Linden Lab being informed of a particular infringement that Second Life ignored, it's hard to see how this isn't protected by the safe harbor. The trademark claim isn't covered by safe harbors (which is a problem...), but it's difficult to see how anyone could claim that Linden Lab is the one violating anyone's trademark here. Yet again... someone who can't handle the fact that digital goods are copyable feels he needs to lash out and sue everyone, rather than adapt.

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  • icon
    gr8oldies (profile), 18 Sep 2009 @ 3:14pm

    I am in second life and I have a club there and I bought a zyngo machine from a friend and the guy that built the machine some how found out i had it threat to sue me i said goahead and i never heard anything else from him.I hope Linden labs when this ( which I think they will) maybe it will shut up these whiney copyright wimps. Seems like everywhere you turn somebody in there is screaming copyright infringment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    inc, 18 Sep 2009 @ 3:17pm

    They just need to replicate copyright court in second life so he can virtually sue over his virtual good. Makes more sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RecycledBottle, 18 Sep 2009 @ 3:27pm

    While I think it would be an interesting experiment to write virtual world laws for copyrights and trademarks - to see if we can improve them, I think we are over looking some basic business principle.

    Commerce is ruled by the laws supply and demand. In most cases it's in a widget producers best interest to control the supply of the widget. Without control of the supply, there is insignificant return for creating the widget. Whether or not the widget is virtual or not does not elimate the effort it takes to create the widget (in this case a programmer or digitial artist). Thats real world labor and real world creativity. They have value. ... And are often paid for with real world money to produce. Without significant return, there is little reason to create the widget in the first place.

    Virtual world commerce is actual commerce, only the currency and objects are virtual. They have actual value because real people own/collect them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      snapper, 18 Sep 2009 @ 3:57pm


      So when the power goes out, or Second Life goes belly up because people get tired of boring imaginary, oops, sorry - "virtual" lives, can we sue them to get back all our imaginary property?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dazza (profile), 18 Sep 2009 @ 4:34pm

    Get a life! A real one!

    In a imaginary world, simply pay him out with imaginary money so he can get on with his imaginary existance.
    "Close your eyes and imagine you just won a billion dollar law suit, and imagine you have a real life ........"
    Imagine we had no silly copyright and patent laws and we could expand and grow with technology rather than idiots suing everyone for the mighty dollar and stifling technology...
    Just imagine how good that would be..
    But then again: Thats not the AMERICAN WAY!
    Sue, sue, sue, sue em all!!! THATS the American way!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ummm...., 11 Nov 2009 @ 9:30am

      Re: Get a life! A real one!

      You realize the guy makes $300K US a year selling his imaginary sex toys, right? I don't believe the guy has a case against Linden Lab, but tossing the word "imaginary" about as a way to trivialize it just doesn't work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ivan Walsh, 19 Sep 2009 @ 6:59pm

    How Law applies to the Virtual World

    Hello Folks,

    If you want to learn how real world law applies to vw's then the site has many case studies and interpretations of how law could/should be applied to these cases.

    It's written by Benjamin Duranske. He is currently an attorney with Pillsbury, focusing his practice on virtual law.

    He is also the author of Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds.


    Ivan Walsh
    The Virtual Currency Report

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    StrokerSerp, 19 Sep 2009 @ 10:15pm

    Play Money?

    I would say that 1.5 million *REAL* dollars a day was anything but "virtual".

    "At nearly USD 50M per month in user-to-user transactions, the Second Life economy is now on a annual run rate north of half a billion US dollars, making Second Life the largest virtual economy in the industry."

    source: ter-2009-in-detail

    Linden Lab collects a fee on transactions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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