November 22, 2006

We’ll See [4:39 pm]

I’m not sure that exchanging copyright law with a combination of contract law and surveillance is the solution, but it’s a worthwhile experiment, anyway. Wired News: Second Life Will Save Copyright

Businesses in Second Life are in an uproar over a rogue software program that duplicates “in world” items. They should be. But the havoc sewn by Copybot promises to transform the virtual word into a bold experiment in protecting creative work without the blunt instrument of copyright law.

[...] Linden Labs has confronted this threat to its bottom line in a different and novel way. DRM won’t work, says CEO Phillip “Linden” Rosedale. Nothing can stop someone from copying textures or shapes off their own computer, any more than technology can stop someone from copying audio streaming through their speakers. Also, the company doesn’t want to be in the business of adjudicating copyright disputes.

As Rosedale succinctly put it, given the ambiguity in copyright enforcement, Linden will inevitably make mistakes, and it doesn’t want to make mistakes.

Instead, Linden Labs will take another approach. In the short run, it believes that use of Copybot violates its terms of service agreement, allowing the company to ban an offender’s account. Long term, Linden says it will create better information identifying creators and dates of creation for in-world content. This will allow copyright owners who’ve been aggrieved to bring infringement claims against offenders personally, at least in theory.

[...] The next phase of Linden’s response is more interesting. The company plans to develop an infrastructure to enable Second Life residents and landowners to enforce IP-related covenants within certain areas, or as a prerequisite for joining certain groups. In effect, Second Life’s inhabitants will self-police their world, according to rules and social norms they develop themselves.

This is exciting, because it turns Second Life into a laboratory for trying out alternatives to prevailing real world copyright rules.

See also BusinessWeek’s take: The Dark Side of Second Life - pdf

It would seem the virtual world is facing a very real-world problem: crime. As more people have joined the global virtual community—it now boasts more than 1 million members—residents are grappling with how to secure property ownership and ensure public well-being. The difficulty of that task was underscored Nov. 19 when a worm attack called “grey goo” forced Second Life to close down for a short time. The worm installed spinning objects in the virtual world that slowed the servers as users tried to interact with them.

Also Real Threat To Virtual Goods In Second Life

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