I'm posting live notes from the intellectual property panel here at the State of Play II. My first experience with live blogging, so sorry for the messiness. These will be cleaned up later & links will be added.
David Johnson kicks things off with a hypothetical world where player-created objects can have metadata tags that indicate the player-designated virtual property rights. How would that work?
Yochai Benkler leads off with an argument that the key issue is the directive of the game design. E.g., is the design oreinted toward creating revenues? That would provide one model. But he's particularly interested in collaborative creativity, exemplified by systems like Wikipedia, and he's asking how those models can be applied to virtual worlds. He says that he's pushing toward a model where property rights are *not* asserted, where the results of creation are understood as a shared collaborative output (not property).
Cory responds next. He suggests that as a result of changes in Second Life IP policy (toward player ownership), Second Life has expanded by a factor of 15 since the last State of Play. However, he notes that open source has not been particular productive at creating games. Millions of dollars must be spent over many years to product complex artifacts and art assets. Some of this is not fun. One problem, he says, in creating a commons is that much content in an open world would come from the outside world--so the EULA is needed to get the content to flow in.
Cory points out the significant difference between a designer-created sword "found" by the player, and true player-created and player-coded sword, which is more closely attached to the player.
He talks about the difference between 2D and older virtual worlds (presumably textual), and states that there is a much different dynamic generated by 3D worlds.
Question for Ted about the EULA. Ted says he looks at the end-state equilibrium. If we analogize the competition of virtual worlds with the competition of nations, it seems that the Western model has advanced the premise that capitalist, property-centric systems work best. But now we have the possibility of experimenting. Second Life, by awarding property rights, seems to validate the Western model, but only because it creates growth. The tense question, in terms of property rights, is whether something else may happen in the virtual world space that points to an alternative model? Is it possible to create a space that has no property, that has no legally recognized value? He wonders whether virtual assets decay.
Incentives -- is it possible to create a game environment where the production of value is enabled by the game mechanics instead of standard property incentives? Is it possible to engage this technology to create a new and different social, political, and economic structure?
David Johnson's Question: what is best for me as a game owner -- how should I set the permissions of IP?
David Post: The answer is "What is better?" We all have different ideas about which kinds of rules will better foster creativity -- we can argue about what's best. We can all argue why socialism, or user-selected rights, or coded rights will produce optimal outcomes. Perhaps you can get the objects to inherently (in a coded way) carry their rights with them. Experimentation is the way to proceed -- let everyone try out all these different models. Let a thousand flowers bloom.
Yochai goes up to the podium and starts surfing on Yahoo -- not clear what he's up to.
Cory -- DRM is a waste of time. If you're working on DRM, get a new job. Comparing the technology to the law--technology is not enough to solve the problems we're encountering. Second Life has been working with Creative Commons to set up a system for intellectual property within the game. Compares GPL to a viral propogation -- CC doesn't sit well with the CC system. Goal of Second Life is to maximize creativity, which is why you find a turn to intellectual property law.
Production as fun. Average person spends 35% of time in Second Life. User-created content is tough. You need IP in order to make people labor and create valuable content.
Yochai shows what he was looking for -- how Apache-run servers are beating Microft-run servers. The Open Directory list beats the Yahoo list. Wikipedia produces great stuff. The point is that you don't need IP incentives to produce quality content. Open, collaborative products can produce not just good content, but superior content. The overarching idea: individuals can come together and make small contributions that produce *more.* The growth over the last year is not about IP rights -- it is about Second Life giving affordances that allow players to accomplish what they want. It is not about incentives--we don't know the incentives.
Johnson: Do we need a subset of people in control?
Post asks Cory -- why do you think the grant of rights really created growth?
Cory: If you used Second Life over the last year, you wouldn't be asking these question. The quality is so much better -- a year ago we had to go hunting for the best content. Today the quality of the content has improved. The scale of people working on projects has increased. You see large scale (20+ people) projects.
Post: Well, okay -- but is it IP that changed the behavior?
Cory: Yes. And notes that real world earnings correlate to good content.
Ted: You say you're trying to maximize creativity, but I think you're really attempting to maximize profits. Wikipedia is counter-intuitive. Is it possible that the Internet has lowered the cost of production to the extent that our free-riding problems have been solved. But the question is -- how long will Wikipedia be on top? How old is it? Agrees that the big question, as Yochai identified, is what rules are best? The best answer is to let a thousand flowers bloom. The IRS won't let a thousand flowers bloom.
[Jokes about IRS and TN beards]
Cory: Tensions with the users over IP issues. Most of the concerns about copying were not about property, but about attribution concerns.
Johnson: Is there an issue in applying copyright to VWs -- the fixation requirement that doesn't seem to fit.
Yochai: [Something about attribution in SL -- wasn't clear about the facts of this, so I got lost]
I have no problems with institutional arrangements, but I'm concerned with spillover effects. Asks Peter Ludlow about his intentions with licensing for his Second Life project. Yochai -- opposed to applying IP to Second Life because of the depressing effects on derivative creativity.
Johnson: Q re inspiration for creativity vs. copying of objects
Yochai: If you can distinguish in a robust way between derviative creativity vs. copying -- in the digital environment, most people copy in the course of creating new works. Because of this, you need to be cautious.
Johnson: controlling access to spaces? Performance spaces?
Yochai: that's fine.
Ted: Strong walls are good. You can seal things off, because sealing them off allows them to bloom.
David: Within your wall, Ted, one of the problems with socialism is that you need to prevent things happening within the wall. Within the wall, you need to prevent exchanges, competition with the source of production, etc.
Ted: The EULA is already creating those terrible restrictions. Gives examples of EA EULA.
Ted: What about building one of these virtual worlds in the non-profit center. But when we build the non-profit worlds, we run into ethical issues -- do we have to disclose that we are reserachers?
Cory: Imposing costs and barriers on obvious property is considered rude. But it's not considered rude when it is offshore. Say SL has problems with people who are doing studies and not disclosing this to SL users.
Yochai: Do we think collaborative production will be better or worse if we have password protection for certain subgroups? Perhaps not everyone should have the same rights over the space?
Questions from audience:
Peter Ludlow: You see a complaint that we can't see the scripts anymore, we just get eye candy. Perhaps the scripting is being stifled by the IP policy?
Cory: No -- the scripts are better than they were. Economics. Goal is to find the right trade-offs. We want to figure out how to bring a right to tinker back into a digital space.
David: Thinks that Yochai should build the world he wants. But maybe Second Life should have a *Benklerville* where a separate set of rules apply?
Cory: You could do that.
Richard Bartle: You can create sub-worlds within a particular world. People want to create their own atomic world which is theirs. When we're talking about the law and virtual worlds, some are little worlds that are separate and some are little embedded worlds within worlds. Responding to Yochai's point: we can all be excellent authors individually, and when we collaborate we might not be as good. (For instance, if we all voted on a chess game, we could not beat a grand master.)
[missed the question -- about EULAs]
Eric Zimmerman: It is interesting that this seems a lot like games design. Rules serve the function of maximizing fun, profit, reward players, policy (other ideas). A lot of the disagreements are about conflicting philosophies of design decisions. Says that it is interesting with Ted -- scarcity drives player experience. Says these aren't nations -- they're more like health clubs.
[lost track here a bit]