Second Life Users Become IP Owners

Check out this Wired Magazine article on Second Life’s challenges with copyright protection, and the resulting legal battle.

The economic infrastructure of the SL user community is now being threatened by a software program that can duplicate any “in world” item on demand. The article provides an interesting discussion on the valuation of virtual goods, and how devastating this new ‘Copybot’ could be to SL merchants.

The response by Linden Labs is also very interesting. Beyond the idea of banning members who use the software, LL has also excluded the possibility of using DRM technology, or (ack!) IP lawyers. Instead, the company will be trying to embed IP requirements into its various communities, and make IP protection self-policing.

Normally, I would find this response to be naive, as in, ‘what makes you think IP rights will be valued more in the virtual world than the real world?’; but here’s the trip… The IP infringers in the SL world, unlike ‘the real world’, are significantly more likely to also be IP owners. Not everyone who plays is, of course, but the vast majority of regulars have put ‘some’ of their time into virtual creation.

A bit of a twist, don’t you think?


  1. Second Life users (I am reluctant to call them “players” since there isn’t really a game involved) put many hours into developing animation skills:

    they need to be able to create their appearance, clothing, objects, home and other buildings, and tools of the trade for any work or business. It takes many, many hours to do this. If anyone creates anything special, I imagine they would be quite upset that someone would just copy it outright without permission.

    I am wondering how the “self-policing” aspec tof IP protection would work. It seems to me the Linden Labs people probably didn’t think they would have to get into real world issues such as IP and harrassment when they started up Second Life.