Thursday, July 05, 2007
Sleaze on Trial
Dammit, why do all of the SL legal precedents have to be based around something seedy? And people wonder why I'm so hesitant to cop to my Second Life in front of my RL friends! Every time SL comes up in the news, it seems, it's all about griefing, fraud, or sex.
First we have the Bragg case, in which some guy sues because he employed an exploit on the SL auction website to obtain cheap land in Second Life, then got banned and lost his in-world assets as a result. Sure, there's some ramifications: can LL summarily confiscate assets with real-world value? Can the TOS's claim that LindenBucks have no intrinsic value stand up against the fact that multiple services routinely change hundreds of thousands of US dollars of "real" money for "fake" money, and vice versa, every day? These are important issues, which could set legal precedents for in-world resident sanctions for years to come. Is banning effectively illegal seizure of assets? But, ultimately, it's coming about because some guy got caught committing outright fraud, and is suing because he was punished for it.
Then we have the Familles de France case, about availability of adult content in Second Life. I confess I haven't been following this one very closely, beyond noting their accusations that LL is endorsing pornography, bestiality (Furries), pedophilia, drug use, and quite a few other "Won't somebody think of the children?!" issues, and making such material available to minors. Again, there are some points that need to be resolved, one way or another. Do we need "adult check" services on an age-restricted grid? Or is the age restriction so diluted and unenforceable that such additional measures are required? Eventually, due to evidenciary irregularities, the French courts ruled in favor of Linden Lab. But, yet again, we have the entirety of SL portrayed as a massive virtual den of iniquity in the global press.
And now? Now we have one player suing another over theft and resale of virtual goods. Basically, the defendant somehow obtained copies of the normally no-transfer in-world luxury goods, and was allegedly selling them at a fraction of the plaintiff's price. (Original: L$12,000, or a bit over US$45. Stolen Copies: as little as L$4,000, or US$15.) Quite an interesting case, and one that could, again, set important legal precedents. In particular, he's effectively suing an in-world persona, and subpoenaing LL and Paypal records to obtain real-life identity information. Then there's a variety of copyright and intellectual property issues to sort out. Of course, it's all over ultra-high-end, sex-pose-packed Sexgen beds. Why did it have to be about cybersex toys?!
At the end of the day, the issues behind these cases will need to be settled. And said resolutions could very well shape the future of the 3D Web (always assuming that SL is more than a footnote in that future history). It's just a shame that they have to come out of cases that are so inherently sleazy.