Virtual World News: Taser Sues Linden:
Taser International has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Linden Lab, reports Bloomberg, claiming the publisher is illegitimately selling virtual goods based on the Taser stun guns. the Second Life online virtual world creator over claims it sells unauthorized virtual versions of its stun guns.
Trademark Blog Virtual World archives here.
Michael Carrier and Greg Lastowka: “Against Cyberproperty”
Ever since cyberproperty burst onto the legal scene a decade ago, courts and scholars have assumed that it is inevitable. This Article shows that it is not. Scholars have examined one element of the link between cyberproperty and property in asking whether cyberspace is the correct model for websites and e-mail servers. But remarkably, they have neglected the other property foundations of cyberproperty.
This Article shows that none of the primary theories supporting property – Locke’s labor theory, Hegel’s personhood rationale, and utilitarianism – justifies cyberproperty. It demonstrates that the concept lacks property’s limits. And it finds that existing statutory prohibitions against spam, electronic invasion, and copyright infringement are more narrowly targeted and less likely to quash competition and speech. The Article concludes that the time has come to abandon cyberproperty.
Sun-Sentinel.com: “Video Game Fan Asks Court To Ban Sloth And Greed From ‘World of Warcraft‘:
Antonio Hernandez plays World of Warcraft. It’s the most popular online role-playing game in the world, with more than 10 million subscribers paying to create characters who go on quests, kill monsters and earn “virtual gold” in fantastical realms. The world — a direct descendant of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings — even has its own carefully calibrated economy. But an outside force threatens the game’s integrity, Hernandez says. He has called on his fellow adventurers to join him as he takes a stand. The battle won’t be fought with wands or swords.
It will be waged in the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse. The former assistant manager at an Orlando-area video game store is suing a company he says sells “virtual gold” from the World of Warcraft for real money. He wants IGE U.S. banned from selling gold — a practice commonly called “gold farming” or “real money trading”— because it hurts the game’s economy and ruins the entertainment experience, according to the lawsuit. Virtual gold, earned within the game, can be used for such things as buying and repairing equipment or learning new skills.
News.com: Tech Titans Seek Virtual World Interoperability
“Unfortunately for those who like that notion of interoperability, it’s not going to be happening just yet. But a group of representatives from some of the biggest and most powerful technology companies on earth–including IBM, Cisco Systems, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Google and Sony, as well as from leading virtual-world developers like Second Life publisher Linden Lab, the Multiverse Network, Mindark and others–is hoping to change that in the not too distant future.
The first really public shot in this battle was fired Wednesday when Linden Lab and IBM announced their intention to work toward a day when virtual-world users can port a single virtual identity from one service to another.”
Reuters: “SL Business Sues For Copyright Infringement”
“Second Life entrepreneur Kevin Alderman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on Tuesday against Second Life resident Volkov Catteneo, and Alderman’s lawyer said he plans to subpoena Linden Lab to force it to disclose Catteneo’s real-world identity.”
Reuters: “Protecting Real Brand Names in a Virtual World” (quoting me).
First Life bills itself as a 3D Analog World. It makes ambitious claims about the users’ ability to ‘work, reproduce and perish.’ There does not seem to be a terms of service agreement, suggesting that users would have to rely upon the court system for intellectual property protection, a distinct disadvantage compared to, for example, Second Life.
Among the advanced features of First Life is a link at the bottom of its page labled ‘Comments or Cease and Desist Letters.” One user has already availed itself:
“This notice is provided on behalf of Linden Research, Inc. (“Linden Lab”), the owner of trademark, copyright and other intellectual property rights in and to the “Second Life” product and service offering, including the “eye-in-hand” logo for Second Life and the website maintained at http://secondlife.com/. It has come to our attention that the website located at http://www.getafirstlife.com/ purports to appropriate certain trade dress and marks associated with Second Life and owned by Linden Lab. That website currently includes a link in the bottom right-hand corner for “Comments or cease and desist letters.”
As you must be aware, the Copyright Act (Title 17, U.S. Code) contains provisions regarding the doctrine of “fair use” of copyrighted materials (Section 107 of the Act). Although lesser known and lesser recognized by trademark owners, the Lanham Act (Title 15, Chapter 22, U.S. Code) protecting trademarks is also limited by a judicial doctrine of fair use of trademarks. Determining whether or not a particular use constitutes fair use typically involves a multi-factor analysis that is often highly complex and frustratingly indeterminate; however a use constituting parody can be a somewhat simpler analysis, even where such parody involves a fairly extensive use of the original work.
We do not believe that reasonable people would argue as to whether the website located at http://www.getafirstlife.com/ constitutes parody – it clearly is. Linden Lab is well known among its customers and in the general business community as a company with enlightened and well-informed views regarding intellectual property rights, including the fair use doctrine, open source licensing, and other principles that support creativity and self-expression. We know parody when we see it.
Moreover, Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody. Indeed, any competent attorney is well aware that the outcome of sending a cease-and-desist letter regarding a parody is only to draw more attention to such parody, and to invite public scorn and ridicule of the humor-impaired legal counsel. Linden Lab is well-known for having strict hiring standards, including a requirement for having a sense of humor, from which our lawyers receive no exception.
In conclusion, your invitation to submit a cease-and-desist letter is hereby rejected.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is possible that your use of the modified eye-in-hand logo for Second Life, even as parody, requires license from Linden Lab, especially with respect to your sale of goods with the parody mark at http://www.cafepress.com/getafirstlife/. Linden Lab hereby grants you a nonexclusive, nontransferable, nonsublicenseable, revocable, limited license to use the modified eye-in-hand logo (as displayed on http://www.getafirstlife.com/ as of January 21, 2007) to identify only your goods and/or services that are sold at http://www.cafepress.com/getafirstlife/. This license may be modified, addended, or revoked at any time by Linden Lab in its sole discretion.
Law.com: IP’S Brave New World – Discussion of SecondLife’s IP policy and attempts at dispute resolution.
Slashdot: “EBay Delisting All Auctions For Virtual Property.” (“Given the nebulous nature of ownership in online games, eBay has decided the prudent decision is to remove the possibility for players to sell what might be the IP of other parties via their service. “)
Stranger than fiction: the transcript of Judge Posner’s talk in SecondLife in which he fileds questions from racoons (above, far left) and is menaced by a large box, via New World Notes. Of particular interest are part III on fair use, and part IV on IP rights in online worlds.
Judge Richard Posner will be discussing his latest book, on the Constitution, in avatar form, in Second Life, on December 7. Odd, SL requests that you reserve a seat (as I would have thought that an infinite number of avatars could attend a lecture on the head of a pin). Information on free membership to SL here.