Lawsuit Questions Whether Or Not Second Life Users Really 'Own' Their Virtual Land
from the ownership-society dept
That's why, despite the cheering from many folks who we normally agree with, we were somewhat worried, back in 2003, when Second Life announced that it was letting people actually "own" their own virtual goods and land in Second Life. Those in favor of this seemed to think that this was better than Second Life making arbitrary decisions, but the downside was that it brought all the problems of copyright law into a virtual world where the very basis for copyright law didn't quite apply. Bringing the outside law into a virtual world just seemed like a dangerous precedent.
And, now, it looks like Second Life may be regretting that earlier decision. Apparently, it recently tried to move away from at least part of it, changing how the virtual "land" that people had bought was defined, so that it was no longer "property" owned by the users, but a "service" provided by the company, Linden Lab, that runs Second Life. In response, there's now a class action lawsuit against Linden Lab, suggesting there was some sort of bait-and-switch, in that people were told they were actually buying "property" that they would own, but with a single change to the terms of service, that property reverted back to Linden Lab. While I think the latter position is the only really legally defensible one for Linden Lab to take, it brought this on itself by thinking it should bring outside world laws of copyright and ownership into the virtual world in the first place...