Linden Lab Heads to Court as Copyright Case Heats Up

Justice_av The Second Life Herald has been doing some great work analyzing the legal arguments of Linden Lab and Eros LLC ahead of the confidential discovery portion of Stroker Serpentine's intellectual property suit against the livid Lindens.

Linden Lab recently hit back at Serpentine's case in a strongly-worded filing that claimed the Lindens in no way infringed on Serpentine's intellectual property rights, and that the Lab isn't responsible for individual instances of design copying.

How strong is Linden Lab's case, and what could this suit mean for the future of content creation in the virtual world? Pixels and Policy investigates.

Continue reading Linden Lab Heads to Court as Copyright Case Heats Up

The Power of Real-World Gender Roles in Second Life

Pixels and Policy recently tackled the issue of how racial bias crept across the real-virtual divide and found a home in the virtual world.

Dozens of our readers responded with their own stories of virtual prejudice as well as their critiques of our research.

As we researched the role of race is Second Life, more and more female residents asked us to take a look at how female avatars reflect real-world gender expectations. The topic is too important to pass up.

Over the course of three weeks, Pixels and Policy conducted interviews with over 40 residents of Second Life to see just what gender in the Metaverse meant to them.

Continue reading The Power of Real-World Gender Roles in Second Life

Should Second Life Reduce Land Fees to Encourage Growth?

2424380718_699d8d6fc8 If recent information surrounding the land leasing rates of Blue Mars is accurate, Second Life may have a real competition on its hands.

That's because the Blue Mars land leasing system is rumored to be not only simpler to use, but cheaper than the Second Life tier system.

Starved for competition for so long, Second Life might not be able to compete with an upstart new virtual world unless it re-evaluates its business model and gets back into fighting shape.

Continue reading Should Second Life Reduce Land Fees to Encourage Growth?

Check Us Out on The 1st Question, Live in SL at 7pm (SL Time) and on www.The1stQuestion.com!

The 1st Question v8 300 Pixels and Policy will be joining Pooky Amsterdam and the team over at The 1st Question this evening at 7pm SL Time (Pacific). We hope you'll tune in!

The 1st Question is a fast-paced quiz show featuring some of the most interesting and offbeat personalities in Second Life, broadcast live in-world through Treet.tv.

What makes The 1st Question so unique is its audience participation for prizes and publicity, and we look forward to participating.

You can find The 1st Question in-world at the following SLUrl, or check them out on Treet.tv or www.The1stQuestion.com!

Join the studio audience: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Spindrift/67/245/700/

The Curious Case of Racism in Second Life

Erika_in_midnight_skin The standard techno-optimist argument in favor of expanding the Metaverse goes something like this:

Virtual worlds hold the promise of commuication without regard for distance, physical ability, gender, or race. Every aspect of the avatar is flexible, rendering prejudice obsolete.

It appears such wishful thinking might be snagged on the heated issue of race. Pixels and Policy reports on a little-noticed study that says our racial biases are carrying over into the Metaverse.

Continue reading The Curious Case of Racism in Second Life

Why Do Government Islands Frequently Fail?


Secondlife-postcard

        
Lots of cool info, few interested avatars

NIC Inc
. is best known as the company
behind dozens of state government websites. You know those countless
labyrinthine portals you click through to pay your speeding ticket online?
Thank NIC. 


As it
turns out, NIC decided to expand its business by promoting its e-government
solutions through an expansive and beautiful Second Life island.
 

The
only problem? No one seems interested in discussing government IT solutions
when there’s a dance party only a teleport away. We spoke with NASA’s Learning
Technology Project Manager and Second Lifer Greyark Hightower about why so many
government islands are isolated museums. 

Continue reading Why Do Government Islands Frequently Fail?

Burning Life, Taunter Goodnight, and the Rise of Virtual Musicians

Secondlife-postcard


Taunter Goodnight rocks the house at Burning Life on October 19th

Seven years ago, Linden Lab got the clever idea to host a digital tribute to California's famous Burning Man festival. Second Life's 2009 Burning Life festival pays tribute to the same themes as its spiritual father: unbridled creativity, shared culture, and entertainment.

Just ask Taunter Goodnight, a Second Life musician whose hour-long Burning Life set inspired raucous audience participation and more than a few donations. She wasn't the only performer raking it in yesterday.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why Burning Life and performers like Taunter mark the rise of virtual music.

Continue reading Burning Life, Taunter Goodnight, and the Rise of Virtual Musicians

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.

Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts

Lindendollar

          
The future world reserve currency?

Second Life may know something we don't, if this morning's report from the disconcertingly-titled Manolith is any indication.

It appears the economy of Second Life has surpassed that of the real world by a large margin, as the real-world recession fails to penetrate the confines of the Metaverse. Investors wiped out by the subprime mortgage scandals may want to pay attention.

The mad scientists at Linden Lab report stunning growth in the virtual world, with Linden – and real – Dollars flying out of wallets to the tune of $50 million per month.

That makes the locked-up credit markets of developed nations seem flimsy by comparison, with high interest rates choking real-world borrowing. Read on to learn how virtual economies are evading the real-world financial fallout.

Continue reading Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts

Second Life Designers Sue Linden Lab Over Digital Fashion Counterfeiting

You may recall we reported yesterday that popular browser world Evony is suing long-time blogger and gaming industry veteran Bruce Everiss over what Evony claims are fraudulent statements concerning alleged links to Chinese companies.

Now veteran Second Life journalist Hamlet Au reports that Linden Lab is the target of litigation as some of Second Life's most prominent virtual designers join forces in a class action lawsuit against Philip Rosedale's virtual world.

From the article:

Munchflower Zaius and Stroker Serpentine filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Linden Lab, for allegedly allowing and enabling content theft of their material by other Residents.

Linden Lab, unlike games like World of Warcraft, provides the user with rights to all content they create in the virtual world. This makes the situation hairy. If copying a music track from a CD and selling the bits and bytes constitutes copyright infringement under current case law – and it does – it seems plain that bits and bytes representing a digital coat are subject to the same protection.

Hamlet asks a question that I feel is the real consideration in this case: will a decision in favor of the plaintiffs promote or limit content creation? Au has a point that lawsuits hurt small businesses. Just ask Edwin Howard Armstrong, the RCA employee who in the 1930s improved on AM Radio by producing FM frequency. RCA litigated him into submission and, unable to compete, blocked superior FM technology for years.

Virtual worlds will impact the legal world in a profound and negative way if Second Life is forced to limit its liability by extending greater protections over virtual products. Small content producers will simply not have the ability to compete with a company that, as Au notes, sold over $1 million last year.

The Alphaville Herald has a great report on the newly-launched case complete with a link to the class-action lawsuit. What's telling is that both plaintiffs acknowledge they don't seek monetary damages from the lawsuit. Their goal is more restrictive regulations on who can create what, and ultimately tighter control over the virtual market for those already in a commanding position.

A telling line from the lawsuit:

Linden Lab directly and secondarily infringes the trademark of Plaintiff Eros by using Eros’s mark to sell infringing virtual goods within Second Life and by providing the tools to other infringing Second Life users.

This is chilling not because it holds Second Life accountable for the independent actions of its users, but because it argues that providing content creation tools in the first place constitutes enabling intellectual property theft. No doubt it would be effective from a business standpoint to sharply limit content creation now that the plaintiff companies have strong market positions.

The virtual economic boom in Second Life is a product of free creation and healthy competition. Restricting competition and encouraging the concentration of products in a few large fashion houses has more in common with the real world that Second Life's libertarian principles sought to upend. Not only does this lawsuit open up small creators to punishment for innovation, it stymies their incentive to create at all.