November 14, 2003

Second Life Gives Users IP Rights to their Characters

by Scott Rettberg · , 7:10 pm

Lawmeme reports that Second Life, an avatar game discussed in recent posts, has made a decision to let player-characters keep the intellectual property rights they create. Players, for instance, have the right to sell movie rights for their character. See Participant Content under the Second Life terms of service agreement. Of course, the player also grants Second Life nonexclusive rights to the content, but nevertheless, this is a fascinating decision with regard to virtual property. I think it also has some interesting implications regarding the idea that games can be a creative environment, in which players actually make new “works” that could have some economic value.

5 Responses to “Second Life Gives Users IP Rights to their Characters”

  1. andrew Says:

    A new article The Future of Massively Multiplayer Gaming on Gamespy reacts to this development, and speculates on the idea of user-created content, including quotes from many game developers. “Of the developers we spoke with, user-generated content was unanimously seen as The Next Big Thing … but with the caveat that it opened up a whole new can of problems to solve.”

    Underlying all of this of course is the concept of agency. Agency is (or should be, or will be) the key to successful interactive experiences, imho.

    It’s the 8th (!) in an impressive series of new articles about MMGs — “No type of game has altered the PC gaming landscape more than massively multiplayer online games.” I need to read Gamespy more often.

  2. scott Says:

    In an offline conversation, Nick pointed out that the headline “Second Life Gives Users IP Rights to Their Characters” was probably flawed, in that it assumes that Second Life previously owned those property rights. A fascinating essay presented by Dan Hunter and F. Gregory Lastowka at last week’s State of Play conference in New York speculates on the topic of Virtual Property, examining the topic from Lockean, Hobbesean, and Hegelian notions of property. It’s interesting that so many lawyers are writing about contract and property rights in artificial, coded domains. In part I think that there’s so much work being done in the area because virtual worlds/avatar environments each evolve their own social customs and laws from the ground up. Each MUD and MMG reimagines “man in a state of nature” and then quickly evolves its own conventions in an accelerated fashion. Within the imagined domain of each storyworld, new laws and social systems are negotiated daily. The interaction between this fictional, but massive and internally coherent layer, and the actual “coded” world of contemporary property law makes for some interesting conflicts and contradictions. In the avatar world, the slate is wiped clean, and the creation of law is viral and variant. In “meatspace,” law is based on precendence that goes back to the Magna Carta (often further). Virtual property transactions, for instance the sale of a house in the Ultima universe on eBay, hover between the conventions of a virtual world and the law of the actual world.

  3. andrew Says:

    There’s an great post-State-of-Play-conference discussion happening over at Terra Nova.

  4. andrew Says:

    … and Greg Costikyan has made several posts about the conference, including a long interesting one debating “Are MMGs games or not?”

  5. Reality Panic Says:
    Going to Oz
    Man, I’ve got to stop travelling. 30+ hours of travel time to get to Australia is not something I am looking forward to… I’m heading down to Melbourne for their annual developers’ conference. Of course, I am very much looking…

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