Land Lawsuit Hits Linden Lab
A Pennsylvania lawyer has apparently filed suit against Linden Lab, makers of Second Life, over a land deal gone bad, according to this press release. [Via former Second Life Herald correspondent Neal Stewart, who flagged this post on Clickable Culture.] While the facts of the case are anything but clear, it does mark the first time that I know of that an SL resident has bothered to take legal action against the company. Look carefully at how the dispute is handled and how it is resolved, as it should provide important signposts on how such legal issues will be handled in future.
From the complainant, Marc Bragg:
Bragg learned of a way to purchase virtual land significantly below market values, and invested thousands of US dollars purchasing land in an attempt to resell this land at a profit. Bragg claims that employees of Linden Research, Inc., the company who creates, manages and maintains this online world, allowed the auction to be created, and after Bragg paid US dollars for the land, terminated Bragg’s account, without explanation, without citing any violation of community policy, and have since refused offer a credit or a refund. Bragg’s calls to customer service and Linden Lab’s legal counsel have gone unanswered. Bragg’s final option? Seek relief in a real world court.
Translation: Bragg seems to have found an exploit that allowed him to bid on land in Second Life that Linden Lab had not yet put up for sale. When the company got wind of it, they summarily banned his account.
If that’s what happened, it’s hard to believe that a court would find in Bragg’s favor. But how the case is handled by Linden Lab and by the courts will be telling. Odds are that the Lab will be characteristically tight-lipped — which won’t help them move forward with the cause of transparency and good governance, something they’d presumably like to see.
More important will be the courts’ reaction. Even if the case is thrown out, some decision could come down that will start to set a precedent on how the legal system will handle assets like virtual land. Unfortunately, Bragg can’t make the clear argument that he ever legally owned any land in SL, so a court’s ruling may steer clear of any disposition as to how “virtual” virtual land is. But — and this is all provided the case even makes it to a court — it will mark a first entry in a body of law that has yet to be written, but which will only become more important as virtual worlds become more and more a part of everyone’s lives.