Video Game Law Blog

November 16, 2006

Second Life is a popular virtual world with a thriving economy. Players design, create and sell of in-game items, including clothes, furniture, cars, etc. The items are bought and sold for in-game money, which can be exchanged for real-world money. Each player owns the rights in the content that he or she creates, and many players make modest (or not so modest) real-world profits from their Second Life businesses.

Therefore the creation and dissemination of a software program which can replicate any in-game object, including items created and sold by other players, is causing concern for Second Life's economy. The story sounds familiar to anyone following the digital copying controversy in the music and movie industries "? content owners are concerned that their content can easily be reproduced and distributed without any remuneration or acknowledgement. The same concerns apply in Second Life why should a player purchase a designer (virtual) suit in the game if that player can obtain and use a copy of it for free?

Second Life publisher Linden Lab has presented some solutions to the use of the copying software. First, it advises content creators to rely on the real-world Digital Millennium Copyright Act to prevent the unauthorized copying of their works. Second, it has stated that using an external application to make unauthorized duplicates within the game violates the terms of service, and those who engage in such copying may have their Second Life accounts closed.

This development should come as no surprise "? on-line games involve nothing but digital data, which is of course relatively easy to copy. But as the Second Life controversy demonstrates, the implications of such copying in the context of on-line games and virtual economies are far-reaching and challenging.

Coverage at (GameSpot)