Tag Archive: Legal


It’s a Stick up

Domain names are like addresses in a world where servers are cities, so Kentucky’s attack on your home is one you should really look into.

http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/joehall/domain-names-cant-defend-themselves

http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/joehall/kentucky-vs-141-domain-names

http://opinions.kycourts.net/sc/2009-SC-000043-MR.pdf

I recently got an alert that a law suit had been filed against Linden Labs (LL). It seems that the person who filed the suit didn’t get that alert.

After filing a complaint, in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, that alleged “illegal distribution of Plaintiff’s intellectual property in violation of his rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”)” back in April of this year, Corey Fahy (the plaintiff) seems to have forgotten about it. Corey alleged that LL used an algorithm that he created for his Cool VL Viewer without his knowledge or consent, but it seems that he forgot to serve the company notice of the law suit.
When the court issued a Show Cause Order, an order requiring Corey to explain why he didn’t serve LL, he never responded. The court then ordered him to a hearing, which he missed. The court dismissed the case, but was nice enough to do so in a way that would allow him to file again after he got a day planner.
Interestingly enough, if Corey had shown up with some good cause for not serving LL, or proof that he had, he would have been able to continue his suit. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) requires a court to extend time to serve a defendant if the plaintiff can show good cause. Lucky for Corey no harm was done, and maybe we will see him back in court on a later day.

Fahy v. Linden Research, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109591

I found out at the show taping that a browser based viewer was a consideration for future development. I also found out that there was already a browser based viewer in the works called AjaxLife. Excited I searched for and found the AjaxLife viewer and logged in. I was immediately struck by the fact that I could not see. The viewer had no visual interface. Although it did have almost every other capability, it lacked any option for seeing where you were or moving about in the area you were in. You were allowed to teleport, and upon accepting a teleport from my friends, I stood for 15 minutes being ridiculed and (I was told) being bumped around.

Although unhappy with the disability that such a viewer gave me, I was encouraged, and when I had to send my computer in for repair, I eagerly went back. I found that my login did not work. After reading the blog, I realized that off and on AjaxLife would be banned by Linden Labs(r) and that it should only be a matter of time before I would be able to try again, but it was not to be. I could never log in again.

I went back recently and found that the AjaxLife project is being discontinued. Although the code was steadily improving, the security risks of having such a browser make it impossible for LL to allow AjaxLife to continue to connect to the Second Life(r) grid. Here is the post with more detailed information about why a third party cannot run browser based viewer, such as AjaxLife offered. Although the creator is willing to share the code, it cannot be used publicly. As she states, “It’s a shame, but it’s not surprising, and not really LL’s fault.” The legal liability created by AjaxLife would be any lawyer’s nightmare, whether real or virtual. 🙂

I do hope, though, that Linden Lab will be willing to use and improve the code in order to create a browser based viewer that includes vision and mobility for residents. As I mentioned before,  because I use a laptop and wireless internet, having a light weight viewer like AjaxLife would be very welcome. Also, having a viewer that I could simply log into from any computer (without additional coding and work arounds) would be nice as well.

Potential RL Jewelry

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 8 is a very well known rule. It is also one of the most important because it explains how what you have to say to show that you have a legitimate claim, at least to start. It states the following:

A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:

(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;

(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and

(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

This rule simply states that in order to start a law suit you need to file paperwork that tells the court and the potential defendant what the plaintiff believes was done wrong and what that person wants in response, either to fix or compensate for the wrong. In the legal sense a wrong is not necessarily the action that the potential defendant did, but the harm that it caused the plaintiff. For example, the wrong is NOT “A ran a red light,” or even “A hit my car,” instead the wrong is “A dented my car and caused transmission damage.” Whether or not A ran a red light is irrelevant to the complaint (the paperwork that starts a law suit. Those details become important later in the progression of the lawsuit but are not needed here.

So, how does this apply to SL? It’s doesn’t exactly, but what it does do is give me the freedom to recreate (irl – in real life) some of the nice items that I see in SL. This would mean that I could commission (or create myself) the necklace that I am wearing in the picture with impunity. Because all sales of the item (which would likely be considered only pictures) are done in a virtual world. The creation of an physical version of the item would cause the creator no harm. At first glance, the idea that I could benefit from the creativity of another with impunity may seem odd, but when looked at carefully one can see the logic. In the law, only something that causes harm can be claimed as a wrong worth starting a law suit. When I create something based on a picture that someone created in Second Life (all items in SL are code and pictures), I do not diminish the value of that picture. I do not reduce the market for it. I don’t even take myself out of the market because I did not get a copy of the picture; I only created something that is like it.

I have no intention to create this jewelry (I’m way too busy and broke 🙂 ), but I have heard avatars bemoaning the lack of related items in real life that I felt it would be an interesting topic. I also think content creators would be interested to know that they will need to do more than claim rights to their creations in order to fully protect them. I would suggest (informally) that you speak with a lawyer about how to claim copyright to items potentially created in the real world that are substantially similar to your content.

I’d love to hear from anyone who knows of circumstances where things first created in SL were created in real life either by their in world content creators or others and what fallout if any there was because of it (or better yet, what benefit people received from it).

******DISCLAIMER*****

I am a law STUDENT. Do NOT depend on my commentary. Please contact a LICENSED LAWYER before doing anything that YOU think could potentially lead to litigation. Please contact a LICENSED LAWYER before doing anything that you DON’T think could potentially lead to litigation based on my posts.

SL – VLO Part 2

****I LEFT THIS SO YOU COULD SEE WHAT I WAS WORKING ON…BUT YOU REALLY WANT TO SCROLL AND SEE THE LAST PART****

I expect that there is little chance VLO lawyers and their clients will ever physically meet. Admittedly, a lawyer could meet a nearby client physically, but clients who are further away or have schedules that limit their ability to meet the lawyer are still unable to meet. The major benefit that Second Life (r) offers is the ability to meet. Although it is not a physical meeting, virtual meetings have major attracted significant recognition for their ability to increase the effectiveness of communication. That is part of why I hoped that SL would be a good VLO.

Many of the amenities offered by other VLO services are missing from SL, but could be added to SL for this purpose or replaced by other services offered already in SL. One major hurdle is conflict checking. Since people sign up on SL with user names and are able to both sign up multiple times and create entire identities around these persons. This ability to hide true identity coupled with the lack of need to access any real world information at the beggining of a consultation, or even in payment, creates significant hazard for any lawyer trying to practice using SL as a VLO. This issue of hidden identity could be surmounted by requiring payment by credit card and using the credit card information to check for conflicts, but that would require the attorney to either manually check for conflicts or to rely on an outside website.

Another notable obstacle would be the need to again rely on outside websites for forms or to upload and download  files as pictures at a fee. This would go for things like, standard forms and could not be legitimately used if they are  passed in note card format.  Though notable, it is an issue that can easily be dealt with by using email or file sharing websites.

The third, semi-major, obstacle to the use of  Second Life(r) as a VLO is the lack of legal information available, such as cases, statutes, treatise, etc. on SL. This is notable only because the cost of subscription to a service that offers this information in addition to the cost that one would have to spend to get Linden Lab, Inc. to supply the necessary security and assistance to make SL a viable VLO, would very likely be prohibitive.

This is, admittedly, conjecture, but it is based on many factors. First of all, the price of land (a simulator, server) on SL is, at least, $250.00USD to start and $75.00USD per month; this price is only available to owners of land bought at price of $1,000.00USD and paying the $295.00USD maintenance fee…

…Here I am with egg on my face. It’s supposed to be a good facial mask. But enough about my skin care regime…

I recently found out about SL Enterprise Beta, which makes most of the issues that I worried about moot, but for the single hang-out-my-own-shingle lawyer practicing in SL Enterprise would be nearly impossible. Why? Because it costs $55,000.00USD and requires the installation of two servers. This, I would expect, would make it quite hard, though not impossible for a lawyer to use SL as a VLO, and still leaves issues open in relation to access to legal information and passing formal documents. This though revives my hope. I don’t expect that SL will ever become, on it’s own, a practical VLO, but I see more clearly a future where SL can be a useful supplement to the lawyer. I don’t have much to say about the “new” Enterprise system yet and will finish my post almost as a cliff hanger, but I do expect that when SL Enterprise is out of Beta, I will revisit this issue.

As always, feel free to comment and tell me what you like and don’t like, and what you want to hear.

I don’t need to ask

I recently read the Official Snapshot and Machinima Policy on the Second Life (r) Wiki, which “gives you copyright permissions” to photo and video created in world. A couple of things stuck out to me. First of all, the policy speaks for both Linden Labs (LL, the company that runs SL) and the community of users. This says to me that somewhere in the Terms of Service (which I did read but have since forgotten) have impliedly given their consent for LL to speak for them as a whole. This is shown to be a rebuttable presumption (oh the legalese), but I will speak on that later.

The second thing that stuck out to me is related to the first in that, while land owners are allowed to revoke permission to take snapshots (on private islands) or machinima, tenants are not allowed the same privilege. If you are renting a home but are not listed as the land owner in the ‘about land’ box, then you have no say in whether or not someone can photo or video you space. This is generally not a big issue because if you rent a very small number of prim, then you would rent a skybox and are able to restrict who can access the skybox. Prim and space match up and the amount of prim that one is allowed is generally more important than that amount of space. Similarly, if you are renting a larger number of prim, then you are  given a parcel of land, which makes your name appear in the “about land’ box. I understand why this would make creating a policy easier, and I don’t have any argument with it, but it does have a very feudal feel. I guess that is why people who rent any significant amount of prim/land search for parceled space.

The last thing that I noticed was that photography (creating snapshots) is given more deference than machinimatography (video of virtual worlds) . Again I can understand why; a person is more likely in real life to deny the right to video than to take a photo and one would expect the same of an avatar. But don’t go looking for a gig as an extra anytime soon. If you are in a crowd or your avatar is not “distinctive,” then your consent is not required for machinima either. It is only if you are the star of a show or your name or look are noticeable and attributable to a specific avatar, that you consent is required.

These thoughts lead me to all kinds of questions, but the one I think on most is this: If I take pictures of you on your land without your permission and put them together to make a moving picture, do I have copyrights to that work?

Are you distinct enough that I should have gotten consent? Is this a machinima now? If I made your avatar a vampire, and it wasn’t when i photographed it, does that change it enough to get around things? If you are just one of many avatars that I did this to are you now a part of a crowd? What if I don’t know you, have never seen you before, and don’t remember your name… am I required to figure it out before I can use the works? If I use it as a backdrop to a machinima that I do, does it take copyright from that work?

Well, you see how my mind goes. There are lots of questions and no answers. I would just get a good lawyer and pray to settle quickly.

***** SL has a new viewer. I don’t know if that will make a big difference in what I talk about or how fast I get info to you, but I will persevere. As always I ask for contributions, comments, questions, and the like. Let me know what you want.

And if you would like an easier read than my ramblings, but want more second life, you can look at my friend’s fashion blog.*****

Now you see me…

OK, this is a blog by me about me and my thoughts on second life (r) and the law, so I figured you should get a chance to meet me. I’m adding pictures of my two favorite looks to this post and will likely be adding more photos and personal notes to future posts as well.

In my review for my recent Civil Procedure final exam, I noticed this sentence in Title 28 of the United States Code Chapter 89 Section 1441, “For purposes of removal under this chapter, the citizenship of defendants sued under fictitious names shall be disregarded.”

For those of you who didn’t sit through a full semester of jurisdiction and joinder, pleadings and procedures, section 1441 relates to the removal process for taking lawsuits out of state court and trying them in federal court.

The general rule is that if the plaintiff could have brought the case in federal court to begin with. This would be in situations when there is a federal question (some case that interprets the constitution or certain specific federal statutes) or there are persons from different states or countries disputing something.

As usual, I thought about Second Life(R). What about a person who sues an avatar, who, for example, stole their copybotted their entire store’s worth of in-world creations, worth hundreds of dollars monthly to that person? They have to, at least at the beginning, sue the avatar because they won’t know the real name of the person behind the avatar. I wondered if this meant that defendants sued in this way would be stuck in state court even if they were, say, from Azerbaijan,  and emailed my professor to ask him about it.

Thankfully, my wonderful, intelligent, funny, interesting professor (can you see that I still haven’t got my grades back?) replied that this provision relates to defendants whose names are genericized for their privacy. I assume that this relates most often to times where an unknown defendant or group of defendants are sued (e.g. the owners of gambling websites – we’ll hear more about them later) and then choose not to reveal their true identity during  court proceedings. This would allow the copybotter from Azerbaijan to choose whether or not  to reveal their identity. He would be able to decide whether it was more important to hide his identity (so that he doesn’t get banned from second life) or have the suit in state court (so that he doesn’t face as much bias against him).

**** AGAIN… If you have anything tha tyou would rather see me write about than just the random things that come off the top of my head, please comment and let me know.  Since starting this blog, I have learned that it is uncommon for a legal blogger to work alone. It is much more demanding to come up with relevant legal commentary (especially when one is in the beginning stages of learning about the law) than to come up with personal posts. The blog will likely not become a daily or weekly blog anytime soon, but I will stick with it and try to keep my (1 or 2) readers coming back.  Let me know what interests you. ****

I’m Back

Sorry for the long wait. These last few weeks have been hectic, but I just finished my last final and I will be posting the second half of SL-VLO and a few more things that I’ve been tinkering with. I’ve also decided to post a few pictures and some updates on my SL life. I will keep most posts legal in nature, but this blog is called LIFE and Avatar Law. I want to give you guys and gals a glimpse into my second life and show you some thing that may help you understand how the law may work it’s way into Second Life.

Sorry again for the delay. I’m back now

SL-VLO

As much as I would like to be able to say otherwise, as SL is now, it would make a poor VLO. A VLO, or Virtual Law Office, is the new wave of legal entrepreneurship. There are many programs available to assist in building a VLO, and I hoped that with a few minor modifications, SL could be one. As the software currently is, it can not.

This post will ignore totally the major issue of privacy in SL and the inherent lack of lawyer-client confidentiality. Even assuming that this is not a problem, there are many other reasons why SL would make a poor VLO.

First of all, a little info on the VLO. I first heard about VLO’s here. A Virtual Law Office is, in short, the combination of an interactive website and software that allows a lawyer to perform legal task for clients. The distinctions between a VLO and an online service business, as they are currently, are few for the client. A VLO allows them 24 hour access to their lawyer and gives them the ability to purchase and pay for services online. It is secure and has a quick response time. For the lawyer, there are many distinctions to be made simply having an online presence. Most of these differences happen in the software. VLO software (I reference though don’t endorse the software sold here) offers conveniences for creating and organizing documents, client information, and accounts receivables. There is also collaboration management, a document library, and a way to check for jurisdictional and conflict of interest issues.

********   I have been working on this for too long, researching and clarifying my meaning, so I have decided to publish the first half and publish the rest as a follow up. Thank you guys for sticking with me. I am really trying to balance a full life as a law student, a full second life, and keeping this blog relatively consistent. Please continue to bear with me. The next post will come in a week or two and will be the follow up to this. Then I hope to introduce a few interesting topics in cyberlaw that I have recently come across. If you have any suggestions about what you want to read, just leave it as a comment and I will try to post about those things.