Second Life®, one of the most popular
three-dimensional virtual worlds accessible via the Internet, is
working to provide owners of intellectual property (IP) with better
tools for managing and controlling their content. In Second Life,
users, called "residents," can explore, meet and
socialize with other residents, participate in individual and group
activities, and create and trade virtual property and services.
Several of these activities involve the creation of content, which
according to the Second Life creators is "the heart and soul
of Second Life."
According to the Second Life Terms of Service, users retain
copyright for any content they create. But just as in real life,
this virtual world is finding that it must deal with complex IP
infringement issues. Linden Lab, the creator and operator of the
Second Life virtual world, recently posted through its community
blog a "content management roadmap." This roadmap
outlines a number of approaches to improve content management and
IP protection. Although Linden Lab does not commit to a specific
timeframe, it has stated that it expects to provide updates or
launch certain of these initiatives by the end of the year.
IP Complaint Process. Second Life currently
provides a complaint process in accordance with the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act provisions, which limit liability for
online copyright infringement. A copyright owner can lodge a
complaint with Linden Lab in writing (via letter or fax)
identifying the allegedly infringing "in-world" item and
providing information reasonably sufficient to locate the item
"in-world." To reduce the time and effort required from
residents in submitting notifications, Linden Lab is developing an
online form that residents can submit electronically. In addition,
this online form will allow IP owners to request that Linden Lab
search for and remove all copies of an identified item created by a
particular resident. Linden Lab admits that developing this
capability is one of the most complicated tasks they have ever
"Sticky Licenses." When residents
create content on Second Life, they can apply a "permission on
use" (e.g., move, modify, copy and transfer) to this content.
In addition, some residents currently post license terms in their
"in-world" stores or in notecards distributed with their
content. However, the permissions system does not grant any legal
permission to use content outside of Second Life.
Second Life is developing a stand-alone
"behind-the-firewall" solution, a server solution
completely disconnected from the main environment (and currently in
its alpha phase). As part of this solution, Linden Lab intends to
add the ability to attach "sticky licenses" to content
sold to enterprise customers running the stand-alone version.
Content with these "sticky licenses" will have additional
metadata such that the license information can "stick" to
the content as it is distributed to the enterprise customer's
Best Practices. In addition to the initiatives
described above, the roadmap also addresses the need for standard
industry practices for copying tools, clear guidance on listing
practices for the Xstreet SL marketplace and a content-seller
McCarthy Tétrault Notes:
Policing your IP assets has always been a vital component of any
IP strategy. Whether you have a presence "in-world" or
not, you may wish to revisit your own policies to take into account
virtual world realities and factor in the additional enforcement
tools that become available.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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A recent Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench decision allowed a court-appointed receiver to sell and transfer intellectual property rights free and clear of encumbrances, finding that a license to use improvements of an invention was a contractual interest and not a property interest.
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