back to article Second Life gets its first copyright law suit

A dispute over a sex bed has become the first copyright law suit within online alternative reality game Second Life. The lawyer behind the suit told weekly podcast OUT-LAW Radio that the nature of the game should not change the issues at stake. Eros is a company founded by ex-plumber Kevin Alderman to make and sell digital …


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  1. Dunstan Vavasour

    Financial Loss

    While there probably is a breach of copyright, the issue of financial loss for items copied in a VR world is much knottier. It all comes down to the status of Linden Dollars.

    Legally, they are nothing more than games tokens with no financial value. The $46 number quoted in the article is based on a de facto exchange rate, which has been stable for quite a while. Indeed, Linden Labs themselves (as well as third parties) operate a currency exchange, which rather muddies the water. But if a new VR game were to open and all the punters move out of Second Life, the exchange rate for Linden Dollars might well plummet.

    So no, this is not a real financial loss. It pisses me off that people are so naive as to treat this as "real" business.

  2. Adam West

    Truer words...

    "He's making his living doing it and it's just not right"

    Im sure he has no idea just how true those words are.

  3. Ash

    Is nowhere safe?

    Will Pinsent Masons open up offices in 2L to sue other avatars for assault when they're virtually slapped?

    How about virtual police for when someone is virtually murdered?

    I've a feeling that the only reason people "play" this life-sim is to escape the constraints imposed by people just like this tit.

  4. B Ward

    Mmmm really

    "The lawyer behind the suit told weekly podcast OUT-LAW Radio that the nature of the game should not change the issues at stake."

    What that this law suit is totally disproportionate to the matter at hand? How long until we see a law suit in World of Warcraft for being trolled?

  5. Les Matthew

    Ex Plumber?

    Does that mean that his price of $46 is hugely inflated or shock horror actually a rip off. ;)

    Just to let you know, my daughters current boyfriend is a plumber and from what I've heard from him rip off is the standard.

    He left his last job because his boss was trying to get him to over charge customers, which he did not want to do.

  6. Rich Bryant

    No, it isn't and no it didn't.

    "Second Life is an online universe which reached mainstream popularity earlier this year."

    It's more like a series of online zones. One of the things about a universe is that it's all one piece.

    And no, it hasn't got mainstream popularity. 30K simultaneous online users about twice since launch is not mainstream how much Linden Labs lie about their user-figures.

  7. Robert Long

    I wish to make a statement on behalf of the masses

    Who gives a toss?

    Thank you.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "naive as to treat this as 'real' business"

    The money that can be made is very real.

    While i agree that the leagal status of the linden dollar is dubious, it is as real as your paypal ballance. (the last time i checked, ebay/paypal isnt a bank). Even if the 'currency' itself is not recognised, or is as stable as the national currency of a war-torn country, it *is* used as a currency - it just has to go through several exchanges before the value is in a usable recognised form.

    (insert lots of talk about 'tradeable comodity' and 'market value')

    it would apear to be very cut and dry case of copyright infringement. if the bootlegger had independantly produced a similar product, they might have a leg to stand on. (equivilent to YA-FPS vs selling dodgy copies of halo)

  9. Glen Silver badge

    paypal *is* a bank apparently

    i stand corrected:

  10. Glen Silver badge

    just to add...

    the paypal ballance was a faux pas on my part, but the rest of my post stands.

    market value of a tradeable comodity - and the comparison to war-torn nations currency. As long as people treat it like it has value, then it has value (and also an associated loss in this case)

  11. B Ward


    Did he even bother to register his "copy-right" by proper legally recognised means? Sorry making something in of itself is not a guarantee of registering copyright or a patent. Smells to me like lawyers wanting to make money out of something so minor. What next clerics being sued for failing to heal you?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    .. to the sceptics

    "Im sure he has no idea just how true those words are."

    I'm running a legitimate business in Second Life which generates approx. 2,000 UK pounds profit per month. I'll be smiling at your comments this weekend when I test-drive a new BMW X5 which my missus has been banging on about for 6 months!


  13. Register Reader

    IANAL but..

    "Did he even bother to register his "copy-right" by proper legally recognised means? Sorry making something in of itself is not a guarantee of registering copyright or a patent. Smells to me like lawyers wanting to make money out of something so minor. What next clerics being sued for failing to heal you?"

    You don't register for copyright.. you have copyright the moment you create the work. It's patents that you have to register for.

  14. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    PayPal is not a bank

    A bank has the obligation to manage your money responsibly and return it to you when you ask. PayPal has not signed any such charter and can suspend your account without warning and without refunding you your money. No proper bank does that.

    PayPal is fine when it works, but when it doesn't you're up shit creek without a paddle.

  15. Chris

    Jealous, or don't like copyright laws?

    It seems that the majority of these posts attack the person who has been "injured" here, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. Is it jealousy? Because he's making money doing something he enjoys, and the rest of these people are not?

    What does it matter that it happened inside a virtual environment? Does that mean copyright laws should not apply? His name is still associated with the virtual property (as is his trademark), which means his reputation is associated with the virtual property. Like it or not, that creates a real-world relationship. And if someone else in the game is copying his objects and selling them AS his objects, claiming that they ARE his objects, then he has every right to seek compensation.

    Do I personally agree with what he does as a business? No. But I do respect his right to do it. As for the "value" of his objects, I'll ask one question -- how do you put a value on anything? "Value" is nothing more than the amount people are willing to pay for something, whether that something is tangible or intangible.

    As for the first post, "Financial Loss", can you sound like a bigger idiot? Let me give you an analogy. Let's say you own stock in a company. You bought 1000 shares at $10 per share, and now it's up to $15 per share. You want to sell it, but your broker doesn't get around to it for whatever reason. By the time he does get to it, the stock has plummeted down to $0.93 per share. Does that mean that this was "not a real financial loss"? If you take the time and think about it, this analogy is the same as your scenario in which a new world is opened up and people leave SL, thereby causing the value of Linden dollars to plummet. Same reaction. So does this mean you shouldn't go after the broker who lost you $14,070?

    To look at it another way, since there is a real-life currency exchange, just think of it as another country. If you have $5,000 worth of Italian currency, and through some devastating blow their currency become worthless, would you have not suffered a "real financial loss"?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Copyright, under both UK and US law, does not require registration (I am not aware of anywhere that requires registration of copyright, however this may be true somewhere). Registration is used to strengthen a copyright claim over disputed works.

    In this case, there is a neutral party that is capable of testifing who produced the original item and who produced the potentially infringing copy.

  17. Alex Greenwood


    I don't think the problem is that somebody else is making money by doing the same thing as him (I think you have to face the fact that there's always going to be a risk of that happening to you in SL). I would have thought the law would be more concerned with the fact that he's passing off the work as somebody else's which is fraud isn't it?

  18. Warren

    I respect his right to do it too, Loretta.

    Just because he can't have babies, doesn't mean we can't fight for his right to have babies!

  19. Dillon Pyron


    The Bern Convention makes the creation of any human readable document the property of the creator. It's really important to put the words "copyright 2007, Dillon Pyron, all rights reserved", but not neccesary. In fact, every thing here is copyright the original author, if I understand copyright law (at least as it pertains to the US). But I'm willing to bet you signed those over to the Reg when you signed up. If that's not in the Ts&Cs, if should be.

    But, remember, copyright only applies to human readable. So they would have to prove that this mysterious person did, in fact, steal the source code. I'm not sure about what happens if you steal the object, I've never tried to patent software, I've always objected to that. Now the UK and EU have different laws, so the above may or may not apply. But the Bern Convention does.

    BTW, since I did technically copyright this post, I grant The Register, it's parent company, all affiliated companies and any successor or heirs full rights to publish, broadcast or otherwise distribute this material in any media now known or to be discovered in the future.

  20. Franklin

    Nothing unusual about this lawsuit at all

    It's a clear case of copyright violation.

    Objects in Second Life are actually computer programs, though not computer programs of a conventional sort. Computer programs, as well as computer pictures and other creative works created in or stored in a computer, are covered by copyright law, just like any other creative works.

    There's nothing particularly unusual here save for the fact that it takes place in Second Life, that media darling. If one person had written a word processor and someone else was selling illegal copies of it, this would be a simple case of copyright violation and nobody other than those directly involved would give it a second glance. It's only because the program in question is a bed rather than a word processor and the copyright violation takes place in Second Life rather than on a Web site or P2P file-sharing service that it's even noteworthy at all.

    Bottom line: The bed is a copyrighted work covered by copyright law. The person who copied this copyrighted work broke the law. Pretty simple, really. (And contrary to common misperception, it IS NOT necessary to register a copyright for a work to be protected by copyright law. Nor is it necessary that the violator profit from the violation in order for copyright violation to be illegal. I do so wish people would do a Google search before posting on subjects they don't understand.)

  21. Luther Blissett

    Someone should tell the RIAA to get a 2L

    Would that not increase the sum total of human happiness?

    Interesting to observe that lawyers are now almost universally treated as the "heavy artillery" in disputes, given that the first universities were founded in north Italy for the express purpose of having lawyers (sic) settle (sic) disputes, thus allowing the regional big cheese (actually a space invader from Germany) who instituted them some quality time away from the squabbling and fractious little local warlords. Which rather demonstrates yet again the capacity of the hyperreal to displace anything remotely resembling the merely real. (Which is the IT angle BTW if anyone's yawning).

  22. James Cleveland

    Oh man

    Wont second life die already.


    Anyone who pays to have virtual sex in second life should have their first life removed and should be entirely transferred into the shitty, badly made second life world.

  23. Paul Stimpson

    Diluting your own copyright...

    I don't understand why people are saying this person's work doesn't merit protection. One or more people got together, designed a user interface (the bed) then wrote a piece of software that made that interface functional. They chose to write this software and make it available as a service running on a hosted platform rather than passing a copy to customers to run on their own hardware. Somebody breached the security on that platform or the author's account, took the code, placed it in their account then ran it and offered the same service to the public at a reduced price.

    What is the difference between this and a scenario where Microsoft sell Word as a service running on outsourced servers, somebody cracks a server, takes the code and launches an identical service, still with the MS branding? It would end up in court and they would be as guilty as sin. In England they'd probably call the Police and start a computer misuse (hacking) criminal investigation as well.

    The copyright laws don't give us the right to ignore copyright and copy somebody's work because we decide that we don't like the person who made it, their lifestyle, the function or delivery method of the product. We work in high-tech industries where delivery methods change all the time. Should new things have no protection? To the dissenting people above I would ask, how would you like it if somebody ripped off your product then claimed it was OK because of the way you delivered it or what it did? To justify things in this way is taking the thin end of a very large wedge to your own business. After saying such a thing how can you then claim protection for your own work?

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