Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Virtual Rights

If a tree falls in Second Life, is it still a tree?

That question seems somewhat pointless when another tree is so easy to rez. But, what happens when Joe-the-neighbor steals the design for Suzie's Falling Tree?

Are ideas fantasy? Are ideas in a virtual world fantastical? The court system will have to decide!

Frank Taney, an amazingly nice man in real life and sharp as a tack about intellectual property and Second Life, is representing a client dealing with these issues. His client's sex-bed was copied and reproduced and sold by some other chap. His client is suing for infringement of intellectual property violations.

Now, let's pretend for a moment we are not talking about virtual sex-beds. Let's think, for example, that we are talking about textbooks. If I create a textbook for use in Second Life, and someone comes along, steals the content but changes the color, and then sells it as his or her own, is that an infringement of my rights? Or, is it automatically assumed that anything created in SL is part of the public domain? Well, certainly, THAT can't be the rule or IBM and Nissan would high tail it outta there.

While I don't necessarily care about sex-beds in Second Life (nor could I even think of one person that makes or sells them), I think this issue has a HUGE impact on all of us...educators...RL businesses...teensy shop owners...

In the CNBC Video, the opposing lawyer says that virtual worlds are fantasy lands and, therefore, this intellectual property issue should be dealt with virtually; the weight of the ruling only applying within the virtual world.

But, YE GADS! If that is the truth, we are reducing ideas to fantasy!!! I don't know about you, but my academic work in SL is not fantasy...it is TRULY my RL work prepared for RL students. While I share the work through Creative Commons, I do retain attribution rights. Placing it in a virtual world does not change the IDEA of the content, just the format of it.

If a ruling like this passes, professional game designers are screwed out of their ideas, since their ideas will be reduced to fantasy.

The interesting question here is whether or not the NEW sex bed is an improved version of the OLD sex bed or a duplication. If I make a BETTER textbook than one previous (using my own words and examples), is THAT IDEA (creating a textbook for teaching English in SL) the intellectual property or the content WITHIN the book?

Hmmmm....going to chew on this idea....any thoughts?

1 comment:

smdetroit said...

Fascinating stuff. I've always felt that those (and only those) who create their Virtual Space should also be able to control it. Check out VirtualCitizenship.org.