July 07, 2006

Who owns content created in virtual worlds?

Now, I know the majority of you are saying, "Who gives a shit?" And, for the most part, I would tend to agree with you -- at this point of MMO evolution. But, as virtual worlds start to become bigger & bigger business not just for the companies who produce them, but also for the people who use them, it is a question that will have to be dealt with.
The best example of this conundrum is over at Linden Labs (Link), creators of Second Life (Link). For me, this type of MMO is not what I would consider a game. It's like the Sims. You run around, create stuff & live a life -- only virtually. In order to live this virtual life you have to cut down on your real life. So does that mean that if you're spending more of your time in the virtual life that in reality it becomes your real life while your former real life becomes something of a simulation?
Wait, wait, I digressed. The point is, people in Second Life can create stuff -- be it clothing, hairstyles, houses, etc. & then sell the afore mentioned stuff for Linden Dollars (Link - Wikipedia). These Linden Dollars then convert to green U.S of A. money & thus people can make money creating & selling stuff (Link) in Second Life.
Since they are using Linden Labs game engine, paying Linden Labs to use it, who really owns this created virtual shit? I think I asked that already, but it brings me to the website I'd like to direct you to...

Clickable Culture has an interesting post about this very topic & the only reason I'm even talking about it is because I read the article, liked it, and thought that the 3 readers of my blog would enjoy it too...

Here's a snipit to get you moist...

As with most services, usage of the virtual world of Second Life is governed by a Terms of Service agreement (also known as a "Terms of Use" agreement). Second Life's maker and maintainer, Linden Lab makes periodic changes to its Terms. In 2003, it allowed users to retain ownership rights for content created in Second Life, a move that is arguably responsible for the virtual world's steady growth.

Somewhere along the line (recently, I suspect), a clause was added to Linden Lab's Terms asserting the company's ownership over user accounts:
"3.3 Linden Lab retains ownership of the account and related data, regardless of intellectual property rights you may have in content you create or otherwise own. You agree that even though you may retain certain copyright or other intellectual property rights with respect to Content you create while using the Service, you do not own the account you use to access the Service, nor do you own any data Linden Lab stores on Linden Lab servers (including without limitation any data representing or embodying any or all of your Content)."

So that answers it for Second Life. Linden Labs pwns all your shit. No matter how creative or unique it is, they own you. Which does make sense, you are using their game, wait, not a game, their program. I'm not sure how long this will last before people start wanting to retain the rights to their own content. We shall see... Well, at least we'll read about it somewhere...

(Link - Clickable Culture)


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