Washington Post on Law and Second Life

Reader Sterling Whitcroft tips us to the fact that the Washington Post has a good wrap of some of the legal issues that have been facing the virtual world of Second Life in the wake of the recent CopyBot uproar. What’s nice about the piece is that it comes at the situation mostly from the viewpoint of the law, and still manages to get the SL resident perspective as well. It’s good to see virtual worlds start to get the kind of coverage they deserve, coverage that treats them not as fantasy realms but as an extension of the “real” world around us. More and more legal scholars and legislators are beginning to realize that these places merit more serious consideration as well. It remains to be seen what the eventual disposition of legal and taxations questions will be, but it’s beginning to look like the law will not reflexively accept whatever strictures game and virtual world companies lay down, but will instead seek to bring some kind of more broadly just legal regime to bear on such places. Good news for all.


  1. Nobody Fugazi

    It would be better if more average people considered these things such that they could influence legislators and policy-makers. It is unfortunate that only an extreme minority of people on a global scale use SecondLife in this regard.

    We’re shaping the future, and legislation will need to take that into account at a very global level (instead of the US only perspective displayed by many).

  2. Prokofy Neva

    I was glad that Simone Stern was featured in this article very much illustrating the real income people can make from SL and their very hard work and creativity threatened by the issue of CopyBot; the Washington Post told this story in a far, far more even-handed and thoughtful way than any coverage I’ve seen from all the copyleftists out there on scripters’ and developers’ blogs who completely trash the perspective of creators and sneer at them to get a different business model that doesn’t involve copyright.

    It doesn’t matter if only a handful of people globally use SL; only a minority of people use the Internet, too, and that doesn’t somehow trump the Internet’s importance. I don’t find such facile Third-Worldism to be useful in trying to frame policy discussions. If an influential paper in the world’s most influential center of power (with the wealth, population, and military might to make its influence) discusses SL and gets Congress to consider the issues pro and con, that’s all to the good. SL came from American ingenuity; it still has mainly Americans in it. That’s not a jingoist attitude; it’s a report. SL increasingly is going global. But the values that it brings of free enterprise and freedom of creativity are very distinctly from American values. And that’s fine; America, is after all, made up of most other peoples of the world who escaped tyranny or poverty for a new life.

    There’s no need to start demanding that Second Life be subjected to some oppressive tyrant-dominated UN committee in the name of making it “global”. There is already plenty of global participation and international influence on SL and there will be more. This is all welcome. It will also bring a clash of civilizations, and that’s a good thing too — what better place for civilizations to clash but in a place where no one can truly be hurt, eh? Let there be a marketplace of ideas where it counts.

    Your notion that “more average people” from “around the world” are going to make up a recipe that will bring some liberal Third Worldist dream of yours, Nobody, is naive. It’s likely to bring just the opposite: the curbing or even shutting down of SL as conservative masses in many of the world’s large population centers might very much be opposed to some of the free culture you will find in SL.

    If there is some policy you want achieved in SL, Nobody, don’t cloak it up in flags of internationalism and Third-Worldism. Say what you mean and mean what you say. No need to portray SL as being guilty of world povery and exclusivity just because it uses broadband. You’re drinking clean water and somebody in Africa isn’t; aren’t you guilty of drinking perhaps MORE than your share? If you want a policy to be shaped, shape it the normal way by articulating it cleanly free of political rhetroic and gain your way through due political process, not by trying to beat up some virtual world for having the misfortune to be born in America.

  3. Herb A Leadbeatter

    The economic development of virtual stores, property rights, land sales, etc is fascinating on second life, and is growing at a worrying rate.

    It is only right the any commercial transaction in Second Life falls under the law of the land. The problem arises when someone in Scotland, for example, sells something to someone in Australia and there are two differnt sets of law governing the transaction. If there proves to be an issue with the sale, who would have jurisdiction?

  4. Bob

    I believe that jurisdiction falls with the country that the site is registered to. In the case of Second Life, it is California in the USA, so it will likely be Californian law or US Law that covers all transactions.
    I found an interestesting pdf that you may wish to check out, which deals with running a business within Seconf Life. It can be downloaded here: http://www.depoconsulting.com/files/depo_second-life.pdf