Second Life: avatar sued for copyright infringement

Second Life: avatar sued for copyright infringement

Summary: When Second Life's makers, Linden Lab, made the decision to allow users to retain all intellectual property rights for virtual items that they created, it was always likely that the virtual world would someday be dragged into court. And that's exactly what's set to happen.

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When Second Life's makers, Linden Lab, made the decision to allow users to retain all intellectual property rights for virtual items that they created, it was always likely that the virtual world would someday be dragged into court. And that's exactly what's set to happen.

As Reuters reports:

Second Life entrepreneur Kevin Alderman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on Tuesday against Second Life resident Volkov Catteneo, and Alderman’s lawyer said he plans to subpoena Linden Lab to force it to disclose Catteneo’s real-world identity.

Catteneo's operator is accused of selling copies of a virtual sex bed, without the permission of the copyright holder, Alderman. However, the first thing Alderman's legal team have to achieve is persuading the court to force Linden Lab and PayPal to hand over records revealing the real-life identity of avatar, Catteneo.

Some other interesting tidbits from the Reuters article.

  • It's not clear how Catteneo replicated the virtual object in question (if indeed he did), as the item was set to 'no copy', an in-world option that is supposed to technically prohibit coping. Could this be evidence of a new Second Life exploit?
  • When the abuse was reported to Linden Lab, citing a DMCA violation, the company was reluctant to get involved. Instead, Alderman was told to file an in-world abuse report, suggesting that Linden wanted to avoid being dragged into legal proceedings.
  • Alderman is the same Second Life entrepreneur who earlier this year sold the virtual replica of Amsterdam for $50,000.

Will this create a precedent for how IP issues are dealt with in virtual worlds such as Second Life? Unlike other potential issues related to emerging virtual worlds, such a defamation or harassment/abuse, I'm not sure IP rights are any more complicated compared to other areas of online life. Creative works are protected, in the digital domain or otherwise, whether they are deemed 'virtual' or not.

The real interest here, therefore, is not IP, but data protection. In terms of the rights of the individual to keep separate their virtual and real life identities.

Catteneo, who declined to provide his real name, said he doesn’t fear the subpoena. "I'm not some kind of noob," Catteneo said. "My name isn’t on [Linden Lab’s] file. I don’t even have a permanent address [in real life] either."

Topics: Patents, Legal, Networking, Piracy

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6 comments
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  • Old exploits?

    There is (or at least was) a tool publicly out there that could copy the prim (shape) information of objects, and I know that there used to be a couple of exploits that would end up giving you the source code for a script. Search for "Copybot" for info on the former - the blog likely mentions something about the latter. I'm not sure about the animations, but I would think it would be technically possible, considering that all the animation's data does need to be sent to the client. If this wasn't due to some sort of business dispute or an account security problem, it's likely from the old exploits, not a new exploit.
    AySz88
  • Time to get a first life...

    http://www.getafirstlife.com
    Scrat
  • Life is life

    No matter whether first or second.
    See my small cartoon:
    http://geekandpoke.typepad.com/geekandpoke/2007/07/all-lifes-are-t.html

    Bye,
    Oliver
    owidder
  • . . . and this is why most MMORPGs don't allow real / virtual exchanges

    And this is why most MMORPGS have a clause prohibiting the exchange of virtual items for real items/money, and vice versa. It's a recipe for lawsuits. This is also why I've never bothered to play Second Life, and don't intend to anytime soon.
    CobraA1
  • Linden Labs = Kindergarteners [nt]

    .
    Omch'Ar
  • virtual anything

    I guess it should be reciprocal. I mean if you use real money to purchase a virtual object then why not use virtual money to purchase real objects.

    If I can create say $150K virtual money will anyone sell me a Ferrari. How about a real house.

    Perhaps in the end everyone who commits a virtual crime gets sentenced to probation, but gets a restraining order courtesy of Linden Lab.

    This way they must actually login to reality and face it. Maybe mow the lawn, plant something, play some basketball, anything physical.
    THEE WOLF