Virtual World Lawsuits Get Their Day in Court

20071209-court Stroker Serpentine's copyright infringement case against Linden Lab may be the most high-profile virtual worlds lawsuit to date, but Eros LLC isn't the only group feeling especially litigious lately.

The New Scientist just published a thought-provoking article on what it means to see the virtual world in real-life courtrooms. This raises an interesting question: Does bringing the entirety of U.S. law into the virtual world dampen the fantasy experience?

Pixels and Policy did some research on whether your party's Healer might need malpractice insurance.

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Army Virtual Worlds Challenge May Pass Up Second Life

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The Department of Homeland Security was an early adopter
of virtual tech in Second Life, and NASA continues to be a dominant
presence in the Metaverse. But now the Army is doing what it does best:
dumping a whole bunch of money into virtual worlds.

There's only one problem: Second Life may not reap the benefits of the latest cash drop.

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A Closer Look at Blue Mars and Corporate Content

Bluemars02 Monday's article outlining how Blue Mars appears to be setting up a content creation system tailored toward established businesses stirred up some strong reactions in our e-mail inbox.

Virtual entrepreneurs raised on Second Life's individual development environment protested Avatar Reality's "brazen sop" to large companies, as one commenter posted.

Blue Mars had its defenders, exemplified by commenter Rock Vacirca, who gave us a tongue lashing for ignoring the intricacies of Blue Mars's 'terraforming' system. Vacirca argued that the registration process discourages the intellectual property theft currently rocking Second Life.

At the prompting of readers both for and against the article, we explored further into Blue Mars's content creation plans. What we found further confirms our worries.

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Blue Mars Gives Corporations a Monopoly on Content Creation

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   Will players accept very restricted development tools?

We received our strongest hints yet that Avatar's Blue Mars is moving towards an in-world policy that would make large corporations the sole licensed content sellers in their virtual realm.

I spoke with Blue Mars guide Summer Studio about the ins and outs of getting content built in Blue Mars.

As you might recall, our review of Blue Mars praised its graphical beauty and hauntingly realistic character models while slighting it for feeling empty. Now, we don't mean empty in the physical sense. We just felt something was, well, missing from Blue Mars.

That missing something is content creation, and by the look of things, individual users have some serious hoops to jump in order to unlock the modeling power of CryEngine 2.

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Discussion: Is Virtual Consumerism Built on Social Pressure?

We wrote an article last week that asked whether virtual world consumerism is essentially a product of social pressures. In support of our opinion, we cited an article from the Virtual Economy Research Network that made the case. One of its better points:

Beyond individual appearance, consumption can also be associated with
group membership and belonging.

Through their visibility, items of
virtual clothing, accessories, and full avatar skins serve as marks of
membership within particular groups.

Bank1 What the article is saying is something anyone who went through high school would know: It's a whole lot easier to be accepted by a (virtual) social group if you look the part.

For the most part, Second Life's furries hang out with other furries, and someone dressed in a Steampunk outfit will likely have a difficult time being accepted.

Well, our article caught the eye of my friend and critic Dusan Writer, who took us to task and inspired a lively debate on his website. 13 posts later, its apparent there's a clear divide between those who view the consumerism in Second Life as a product of social pressure and those who view it as a means of digital self-expression.

But what kind of social pressure is it that makes self-expression dependent on purchasing things? This sentiment is inherent in Dusan's argument that consumerism is self-expression: Second Life avatars are expected to express themselves through what they've purchased, and the in-world society gives positive feedback to avatars that look especially attractive due to their purchases.

Though this pressure may not be visible, it certainly is a social pressure. The unspoken need for people who associate with the Furry mindset to purchase Furry outfits in order to participate in Second Life group activities is evidence of this. Furries who show up looking human will find a much different atmosphere than their fox-eared companions.

I'd like to keep this discussion going — post your thoughts and I'll follow up through the week as the discussion develops.

Reuters and the Flawed Research Value of Virtual Worlds

Have a puzzling economic problem or a social program you'd like to beta test before dropping it on the American people? Reuters recommends you turn to virtual worlds as a possible test-bed for real-world policies.

In a recent article, Reuters jumped on Edward Castronova's well-trod "Metaverse as a laboratory" bandwagon, even calling up the respected Indiana University virtual worlds researcher for his thoughts on the utility of virtual worlds:

"We can do controlled experiments in virtual worlds, but we can't do that in reality," said Castronova.

"Controlled experimentation is the very best way to learn about
cause and effect. We are on the verge of developing that capacity for
human society as a whole."


To find out why Reuters is out to make Castronova skeptic Dusan Writer squirm, read on below the fold.

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