Citing the DMCA, Second Life's biggest land owner, Anshe Chung Studios, has challenged the right for users (including members of the press) to publish 'screen shots' from the game that they claim would infringe on their copyright.
The issue has surfaced after the avatar Anshe Chung (real name Ailin Graef) was attacked by animated flying penises during a virtual interview with CNET news, conducted in their Second Life bureau last month. A video of the attack surfaced on YouTube, and was then taken town after Anshe Chung Studios filed a DMCA complaint. The Sydney Morning Herald and the blog BoingBoing have also received similar notices.
In an email sent by Anshe Chung Studios to The Sydney Herald, Ailin's husband, Guntram Graef wrote:
I have to point out to you that you, most likely by accident, posted an image that contains artwork copyrighted by my wife Ailin Graef and by Anshe Chung Studios, Ltd. and without obtaining our permission to do so. The source of the image, a video posted on YouTube, has already been removed. We can not authorize the use of this image and the replication of the artwork and textures of the Anshe Chung avatar in this context.
However, it's unlikely (though not tested) that Anshe Chung Studios have the law on their side, as any use of images captured from the "attack" should be considered 'fair use'.
Jason Schultz (an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation) told CNET news:
"Since the general theory (in Second Life) is that you own what you create, she (Ailin Graef) completely owns the copyright in her avatar... But that said, she absolutely has no rights under fair use to stop people from taking screenshots or screen captures of her avatar in Second Life.
The analogy I would draw is if there was a car accident in downtown New York, and the driver happened to be wearing an Armani suit, and there was a photographer who took photos and published them. That photographer couldn't be sued by Armani. News is news. And fair use gives news reporters and others the right to report what they see and hear, even if it includes your copyrighted work."
Related post: How long before the law enters Second Life?