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Jun 26, 2007

Comments

201.

Bart, thanks for that terrific laying out of the underlying assumptions and sticking points in this discussion.

Thomas, you said: Recognizing that virtual worlds have different potential stakeholders, and *in general* (but not in every case!) that they involve multiple participants in varying degrees of content creation as well as other activities that reflect the investment of effort in the worlds does not suddenly mean that the maker of any *specific* virtual world has less creative freedom.

A note on perspective and staying close to reality: "*in general*"? No. "In potential," or "Probably in the future," I'd agree. I'm not being pedantic; this is a big distinction.

It's important not to get ahead of what is, or what has been to this point, since none of us really know what the future will bring. Up to the present time, "in general" virtual worlds have not involved "multiple participants in varying degrees of content creation." In terms of user population, in 99.99%+ of all virtual world situations to date, content creation has been highly centralized under the auspices of one stakeholder. In a few early text worlds (mostly active a decade or more ago) and in a few small but high-profile worlds today, there has been a broader distribution of content creation.

We've already discussed the relevance of "activities that reflect the investment of effort" -- they do not have (and I see no indication that they are likely to have), as shown in the DisneyWorld example, any effect on a person's claim on or stakeholder status within a virtual world specifically unless the virtual world creator decides to make it so: a guest is still a guest, a user is still a user, no matter how often you visit.

I guess you could say that this is a move from a one-flavor set of assumptions to one that would, ideally, allow for a multiplicity of different kinds of virtual worlds, with different kinds of contributions.

I agree that there are likely to be many more avenues for different stakeholders to contribute to and (actually if not financially) invest in virtual worlds as they continue gaining cultural currency. Do you see this happening for any reason other than market experimentation and success in the market?

So why should every virtual world maker begin by operating under a framework that doesn't reflect (or, more importantly, engage) the expectations of its users, ...

Most commercial virtual world developers work very hard to create worlds that they believe will reflect the expectations and desires of its users -- hopefully many users. While a commonly expressed desire is to "be able to affect the world" (this has been a constant for over a decade, still largely unfulfilled), there is very little indication that these expectations include overt content creation except in a very small vocal set (this is borne out even in the proportion of SL users who create content).

... but instead starts with an utter and non-negotiable rule by fiat?

Because maintaining that sort of control is the ONLY way (I cannot emphasize this strongly enough) to actually bring a virtual world into existence. If you know of another way, I'm all ears. Believe me, this is not some sort of developer intransigence; it's a reluctant acknowledgment of an extremely harsh reality. I know of no counter-examples and no alternate methods. If you or anyone else does, many people would love to know.

Wouldn't it be better, if people *are* interested in the "maker owns all" kinds of worlds (and they might win in the marketplace), if everyone had a clearer understanding of all the terms and could proceed to find the ones that suited them?

IF a large number of people were interested in this in more than an armchair way (i.e., you could somehow show that many of them would commit to create and maintain their world without it becoming a sprawling ghost-town of half-finished projects) AND if you could create a business case for the success of this world (or assemble many millions of dollars from non-commercial funding sources just to start it off), then those offering such worlds would want to clarify the terms of stake-holding and ownership involved -- and discussions involving them and other potential stakeholders would be a good thing.

As things stand, the vast majority of current virtual world users have demonstrated that they aren't all that interested in a "[content] maker owns all" world by where they've put their attention and dollars. That's not to say it couldn't change in the future.

As things are, Second Life nudged up against this, except not really: they let you create things, but the company retains control of the servers and ultimate control of the world, property, and even the objects created. I don't know but assume that There is much the same. There are a couple of software vendors who will let you create your own worlds, and now their users are finding out exactly how difficult it is to do so, and how steep and high the mountain is you have to climb to do this, far beyond what people think of as "content creation." There may be other enterprises on the horizon where individuals can own or build their own world (or piece of it); no doubt we'll see more of this in the future as people find new ways to experiment -- and we'll see more discussion of the new specifics of stakeholding that emerge.

202.

@ matt : "There is no "right" to access a private service."

If you're offering a BJ in your own bedroom , for free , you may be right. But if i paid for that service and if the service's delivery happends world wide , you better prepare yourself or buy Viagra. Or call a lawyer to join the party. Forget about that one who wrote your non-binding adhesion contract called EULA.

203.
they do not have (and I see no indication that they are likely to have), as shown in the DisneyWorld example, any effect on a person's claim on or stakeholder status within a virtual world specifically unless the virtual world creator decides to make it so...

You continue to ignore the frequent flier mile example -- I've never seen it refuted as a case where company-created and maintained virtual content takes on a "life of its own", in terms of emergent and legally recognized (though limited) rights that apply to the users.

When I wrote "maker owns all" I was referring to "virtual world maker owns all". That is, I was trying to show that, even if those will be the most popular and successful worlds going forward, there is no reason not to prefer a system where they too must lay out and establish their parameters and expectations with users, rather than leaving it to an assumed given (not helped by the legal disadvantages of contracts of adhesion).

While I appreciate the nod to future possibilities, I'm still not quite sure how to respond, on the whole, to your frequent assertion that goes something like, "this is a very small percentage of worlds that are different, so they effectively don't matter." I still don't understand why it must be the case that just because the largest commercial worlds have operated under an arcane (to users) set of assumptions that marry in an odd way an ideal of creative freedom (which I support) with a monstrous combination of legal/technical categories that all worlds must have this as their starting point. In no way does that seem supportive either of a clear understanding between users and makers (of all sorts) or of broad experimentation in this arena. Instead, I can't help but see your position as helping no group more than the established and large commercial worlds.

Also, two posts back, you called the Ludium 2 effort "top-down". I'm perplexed. Were Rob Pardo, Raph Koster, and others at the top of big MMOs and MMO projects there in disguise? I know you were trying to put the effort down (again), but at least avoid a completely inapplicable label when doing so (after all, that label contradicts many of your other characterizations).

204.

Amarilla: Those laws and practices are in place already.

No, the WIPO treaties are very vague and not all have been ratified. Different countries have different exceptions, somewhat different rules for when copyright expires, different rules for what rights you can assign, and so on. That's troublesome for people who want to include public domain works in their worlds and other things related to copyright. (Say a historical or artistic world.)

They wanna do commerce based on Californian laws but the same time wanna sell their stuff world wide , including in Norway.

Yes, they can do that, if they don't do marketing in Norway. But the USER is still acting in Norway and will be held to norwegian laws. This goes for libel, and probably copyright issues et al. American ideas of free speech and possibly fair use won't protect me even if the server is in the US.

205.
A players’ bill of rights should be drafted

.. but it doesn't say what the rights are. I can understand why this came about - the essential first step on the road to creating such a thing is to agree that it's needed. In some of the discussion above we're talking about specific rights that might or might not be on it:

1. Virtual "property". What are a user's rights with respect to virtual items, or virtual "land", that they have bought?

Quite a few users have thousands of U.S. dollars worth of virtual items in their inventory. A corporation such as IBM which has a presence in SL has probably invested a fair amount of money in virtual items. "Land" and items owned by Ansche Chung in SL probably have significant real-world value. In short, there's enough money involved that someone might find it worthwhile to sue if that value gets destroyed, and people might start to care about the small print in contracts.

Things that might go wrong: a bug in the server causes inventory to be lost; the user's account is unilaterally terminated by the service provider; the service provider shuts down the entire virtual world; the service provider goes out of business.

2. Due process for account termination. On what grounds can a service provider terminate a customer's account? Especially bearing in mind that this might cause the customer to loose their ability to access virtual items for which they have paid thousands of dollars in license fees. In some VW's, such license fees might have been paid to third parties, and may significantly exceed in value the amount the customer has paid to the VW hosting company.

3. Free speech for VW users. ("Congress shall make no law...") Are text chat messages, the graphical appearance of avatars, avatar animations (etc). protected speech in the sense of the first amendment to the U.S. constitution? (You can imagine an avatar holding a burning U.S. flag at this point...) To what extent can virtual world service providers censor the speech of their customers? Can (should) the service provider take action against a customer based on what the customer has said outside the virtual world (e.g on their own private web site/irc channel/VoIP connection/newspaper)?

4. Privacy. Under what circumstance may a VW service provider disclose information about a customer to third parties? e.g. customer's real name and billing address, contents of "private" text messages?

5. Fraud. To what extent do existing laws against fraud, pyramid schemes, rigged gambling games, non-government-issued currency (etc) still apply when these activities are given a 3D graphical user interface? (John Austen of Scotland Yard used to have a line that there was no such thing as "computer crime", only crime that has been carried out using a computer).

.. and there are probably others.

206.

@Susan: I realize that I had neglected to update the rights one to correctly reflect what was voted on at the Ludium (as discussed in the comments above). My apologies. It is correct now, and mentions free speech. I'm interested to hear what others think in response to your welcome comment.

207.

Thanks for the detailed response, Thomas (and for your kind words, Mike). It gives me the chance to address what I gather you feel are the two weakest parts of my reasoning concerning the lack of a defense of creative ownership rights in the set of SWI policy recommendations. Namely, the "antiquity" defense of property rights, and the "all or nothing" perception regarding the reason for defending the ownership of virtual worlds by their creators.

First, as much as I appreciate any comparison of my ideas to Burke's, I think you're standing my argument on its head. I'm not saying that some law is good merely because it's old. What I'm saying is that good laws tend to endure. Age signals value.

In other words, if some legal principle has been adopted by many cultures over many years, that's an important piece of supporting evidence among many that this legal principle has significant social value. In which case, we nibble away at the body of law that expresses that principle at our peril.

Should we be able to do so? Absolutely, even if we sometimes do so in error. But should we do so in the case of ownership rights with respect to virtual worlds? That's the question for which I still have not seen persuasive argument in favor of weakening existing private property rights law... which is, I think, precisely what reducing the existing creative ownership rights of virtual world creators would do.

Which brings me to the second point -- that criticizing the lack of a defense of creative ownership rights is an "all or nothing" argument. I can't speak for others, but that's not an argument I'm making.

Here's what I'm saying: virtual world users don't currently enjoy a legal right of ownership over any of the ones and zeroes of a virtual world that someone else creates. Maybe they should, and that's a debatable proposition, but I think I'm pretty safe in saying that no such right is currently on the books in any form.

Therefore, for such a right to exist would mean changing existing law. As noted above, there's nothing inherently wrong about doing so in the general case. The question is whether we should want to do so in the specific case of virtual world ownership.

My answer to that is no -- but that's not because I think doing so would somehow utterly eliminate all rights of virtual world creators. In other words, I'm not making an all-or-nothing argument. My argument is not that a legal change that dilutes creative ownership rights would completely destroy them (which it wouldn't), but that it would weaken them

Why should we want to do even that? The value of forcing creative authors to cede some of their rights might outweigh the value of staunchly protecting those rights... but where is that argument? What are the legal and economic and artistic justifications for this change to a system that's worked pretty well for many people over many years? How is it right to skip this debate and proceed directly to "Fair use may apply in virtual worlds that enable amateur creation of original works"?

Objecting to policy that would weaken creative ownership rights is simply an objection against making things worse. It's fair to question whether that would actually happen, but I don't think it's correct to describe it and respond to it as an "all or nothing" argument.

At its heart, the apparent refusal of SWI participants to energetically defend the ownership rights of virtual world creators strikes me as an unnecessary and counterproductive impatience with the free market. I think we actually agree that we'd like to see virtual world developers empower their users creatively -- the question is how best to achieve this end. I believe that this is a change best made voluntarily by users and developers working together in a free market -- not one imposed by fiat by legislators whose understanding of and appreciation for virtual worlds is likely to be vastly less than that of the people who make and experience these created places.

So to conclude, I think encouraging user ownership of virtual world content is a suggestion worth making... but it's one that is most appropriately aimed at virtual world developers, not politicians. From just this discussion thread, I think we can see clearly that it's not a belief that enjoys such wide acceptance in the community of virtual world makers, users, and observers that it deserves to be characterized to policymakers as a consensus opinion.

--Bart

208.

At this point I think it is helpful to pull back and get some perspective. What is the purpose of Ludium? What is the purpose SWI? The answer lies in pragmatics. What is truely pragmatic lies in the use of virtual worlds for social change, strongly rooted in the general will. Now close minded developers will resist this till the cows come home, but I think Raph Koster, an enlightened creator have you, sums it up best in this historical manifesto:

"When a time comes that new modes and venues exist for communities, and said modes are DIFFERENT ENOUGH [emphasis added] from the existing ones that question arises as to the applicability of past custom and law; and when said venues have become a forum for interaction and society for the general public regardless of the intent of the creators of said venue; and at a time when said communities and spaces are rising in popularity and are now widely exploited for commercial gain; it behooves those involved in said communities to affirm and declare the inalienable rights of the members of said communities."

The time has come and the war wages on, particularly on this forum.

209.

Thomas: You continue to ignore the frequent flier mile example -- I've never seen it refuted as a case where company-created and maintained virtual content takes on a "life of its own", in terms of emergent and legally recognized (though limited) rights that apply to the users.

No, I'm not ignoring it; it just wasn't applicable to the point I was making (using a service is not tantamount to "investing" in it). I have no argument with the idea that in some cases electronic data can take on real value. You could by extension say that those who use a particular service (paying for and taking airplane flights) "create" the frequent-flier miles and thus have "invested" something in them, but that doesn't really apply: the miles accrue only because the service provider has put the plan in place; the users by taking trips alone do not create these markers of value on their own. Disney could create a "go on ten rides, get a free ice cream" program if they wanted, but in the absence of that, time spent on rides is in no way an investment and no recoverable value accrues.

Thus, back to the point I was making, you said "... as well as other activities that reflect the investment of effort in the worlds ..., and my point was that "activities" in a world do not reflect investment made unless and until the service provider says so.

I'm still not quite sure how to respond, on the whole, to your frequent assertion that goes something like, "this is a very small percentage of worlds that are different, so they effectively don't matter."

The outliers are not bellwethers or exemplars. It's easy to focus on them, but that does not provide an accurate picture of what virtual worlds have been, what they are now, or what they are likely to become. The question of "do they matter?" really depends on what you're asking. I think some of what's been done in ATITD or SL is extremely instructive for developing later virtual worlds (as is also the case with ones like SWG or WoW). But they don't provide an indicator of what more than a small minority of those people interested in virtual worlds want (what they're willing to access and pay for), what is feasible, or what issues may take the spotlight.

I still don't understand why it must be the case that just because the largest commercial worlds have operated under an arcane (to users) set of assumptions that marry in an odd way an ideal of creative freedom (which I support) with a monstrous combination of legal/technical categories that all worlds must have this as their starting point.

Must have? They don't, and I believe I said that before. Future virtual worlds will likely start from the basis of what's worked before due to a combination of a strong desire not to lose heaps of money or spend years in fruitless effort (to say nothing of a simple failure of imagination). But there is always innovation, and the market is pretty good at preserving that which works (especially in fast-moving, low-friction areas like online software).

Instead, I can't help but see your position as helping no group more than the established and large commercial worlds.

There's a lot right and a huge amount wrong with how the established, large commercial worlds have been created and operated. Apart from anything else though, they have the advantage of having worked. Not all of them have worked of course, and the failures are also highly instructive. I am in no way saying "we should have just what we have now, only more." Nothing could be further from the truth. But I also think it's foolish to minimize what has worked and instead to try to put into place vague theory and ideals that may actually obstruct experimentation and diversity in virtual world development (as has been discussed above).

Also, two posts back, you called the Ludium 2 effort "top-down". I'm perplexed. Were Rob Pardo, Raph Koster, and others at the top of big MMOs and MMO projects there in disguise? I know you were trying to put the effort down (again), but at least avoid a completely inapplicable label when doing so (after all, that label contradicts many of your other characterizations).

Hmm, so you're perplexed, sarcastic, and certain of my negative motivations? Why did you even bother to ask?

By "top-down" I was referring to the self-entitled authority inherent in A Declaration of Virtual World Policy made by representatives of law, industry, and academia, assembled in full and free convention as the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.

Not my choice of words. These statements could have been put forward as the preliminary output of a working group that met to discuss possible directions in virtual world development, but it wasn't. The meeting could have also been held at a time and location more friendly to developer involvement to get a broader range of input; could have been passed to a broader audience before being published (and sent to policy-makers!) as a self-entitled pronouncement of policy; and could have included more than just vague statements as from on high (or at least an official-sounding central body) -- but none of these things happened.

Instead what happened was a small group made of up virtual world users, observers, and a few tool- and content-makers got together, had a fun and informative weekend, and then published the statements above with much flourish. I've asked several times if that formality and flourish was merely a carry-over from the LARP-stylings of the weekend meeting or was meant to be taken seriously. I've never seen an answer either way -- but you take your job as Speaker of this Congress pretty seriously, Thomas, so I'm left with the impression that it wasn't all just for show.

Now on the other side, I would have a similar reaction if a bunch of commercial developers got together, had a similar weekend, and published a similar set of statements: who are they to write policy for the rest of us? But, while I would not support such a meeting or Declaration, they at least would have the advantage of having actually created virtual worlds and thus would have some non-observer status on which to base their statements.

We don't need top-down, centralized policy on virtual world creation, whether from politicians, industry groups, academic groups, or anyone else. We may need these things in the future, there's no way to tell. But right now the market is highly effective at weeding out ideas and ideals that don't work.

210.

Thomas edited the above statements to include:

-A players’ bill of rights should be drafted and should include the right of free speech and the rights to assemble and organize
per Susan's suggestion (and apparently what the Ludium voted on).

So now we're back to basic questions and misconceptions, sigh. These are great example of "rights" that sounds good in idealistic theory, and yet turn out to be horrific and self-limiting in a virtual world.

Can you tell me any virtual world where these hold true, or where you would like them to hold true? Even here on TN, at least two people have had their rights of free speech taken away, and without any hint of "due process". Should the people who run this site, as a matter of policy, not have the ability to do that? Should every blog and every virtual world be completely open to whatever anyone wants to say?

Can you tell me any circumstances under which a virtual world would remain open if people there could yell across the world whatever they wanted, no matter how abusive, bigoted, inflammatory, or offensive?

Virtual worlds are not geographical places. They are not territories. They are not countries or worlds. The same civil rights for which any of us would fight here in the political sphere of the physical world do not hold in virtual "worlds" ("worlds" becomes highly problematic here, as it blurs extremely important distinctions), and there are very good reasons for this -- reasons immediately apparent to anyone who has operated a virtual world, but apparently opaque to those who have only used and observed them (not just here; this is a common complaint heard by those in virtual world customer support).

Similarly with assembly, can you name any virtual world where this holds up? In Second Life you can't get more than a couple of dozen people together -- at least in WoW you can assemble a hundred or so in the same space. Are people's rights being violated, or is this a mis-application of an important principle? And what happens when the server crashes or is taken down by the operator? Are all of the VW's users' rights being denied?

I would add a similar response to most of the items on Susan's list: you have no right to "due process" before being tossed out any more than you do at any restaurant, amusement park, public park, or university (this has been covered multiple times in just this discussion).

Online privacy is a much larger issue -- one that is a good example of the market driving largely effective policy rather than it coming from an academic, industrial, or political "top-down" policy pronouncement (though there are exceptions, such as enforcing the privacy of minors, making corporations allow you to opt-out of their information sharing, etc.).

But overall, statements of "players rights" are highly problematic. I think they do point to a strong need for better customer relations and perhaps as the Ludium group said greater transparency of expectations in TOS/EULAs. But I think there's also a strong and misplaced desire on the part of some users to want "civil rights" where they simply do not apply.

211.

A further though on the bill of rights... Someone will probably point out that the first amendment to the U.S. constitution only constrains the government, not corporations. But in many virtual worlds, the service provider also plays at being the government (or God) within the world of the fiction. When a corporation plays at being the government, it can under the same kinds of pressures from customers ("citizens") that real governments do - demands for freedom of speech, due process, and so on.

(Except the citizens can't overthrow the government by assassinating Lord British.)

212.

Mike said, Virtual worlds are not geographical places. They are not territories. They are not countries or worlds. The same civil rights for
which any of us would fight here in the political sphere of the physical world do not hold in virtual "worlds" ("worlds" becomes highly problematic here, as it blurs extremely important distinctions), and there are very good reasons for this -- reasons immediately apparent to anyone who has operated a virtual world, but apparently opaque to those who have only used and observed them (not just here; this is a common complaint heard by those in virtual world customer support).

Such repetitive ignorance of the emergent effects of virtual worlds fails to take account of the communities that form. And I believe the current
law does not support such myopic self-interest. The bundle of virtual world rights does not rest soley in the hands of those who made them, but those who continue to use them. This includes developers who maintain them of course. No one here is arguing that players should have all the rights. But that said, the communities that have formed have lead to the need to recognize a new type of property interest..mainly gamers property interest in the worlds they inhabit. Physical world ownership is not enough and the stuborn refusal to part with that type of thinking does unconscionalbe harm to the progress of arts and sciences, mainly that of virtual worlds.

213.

Lavant, you make some curiously confident statements that are by no means settled. Questions such as the rights of developers vs. users of a virtual world have been hotly debated here and elsewhere, but I'll cut through it all to point out a simple incontrovertible fact: so long as a virtual world operator can unplug the server, they control the fate of everything on it.

That's the way things are. And that's not likely to change any time soon.

Any discussion of what rights people or objects in virtual worlds ought to have will have to pass through the refining fire of what's possible technologically and what's feasible in the building and operation of a virtual world. Positing rights or the like for virtual worlds that prevent the worlds themselves from being built is a pyrrhic -- or perhaps imaginary -- victory.

214.

Having all the topics on the list discussed in one thread seem to have enabled the Tower of Babel or something... *dizzy*

215.

Mike,

Things are not as black and white as you would like them to be, especially considering the interstitial way law is viewed and created in this country and others. And the law has supported new property regemes in south east asia and is just a matter of time here...Law is constantly in flux depending in large part on the state of the community. Whether or not you believe the law is explicit about this has no bearing on the effects we are seeing the law make on the synthetic frontier. To say that virtual worlds would not even exist without such property regimes fails to understand how developers are forced to ceed rights by market and cultural forces. Take machinima which is an integral part of the upcoming Blizzcon. In its early history machinima was viewed as an infringement of interllectual property...oh wait...it functions as really good publicity. Developers have thus not resisted it. You may say they could because they own the rights. But in the real world they can't....they have lost that ability through the emergent effects of the community.

I think I will cite Castronova to make the point more explicit:

"In synthetic worlds, only the icons around which human interactions flow are nonreal. The interactions themselves are as real as any we have outside synthetic worlds. When six soldiers take out a machine-gun nest at Fort Bragg, the machine gun is real and the teamwork is real. When the same six soldiers take out a dragon in a synthetic world, the dragon is not real but the teamwork is. In synthetic worlds, the things we trade may be fantastic, but the process and value of the trade is real."

And real beyond ownership. The effect is real. May be a hard concept to grasp, but we are here to help.

216.

Welcome to the desert of the real

217.

You may say they could because they own the rights. But in the real world they can't....they have lost that ability through the emergent effects of the community.

This is a futile argument. You could say the same about the music and movie industry. They do fight. That they have trouble fighting doesn't mean that society should abolish copyright. Most people break speed limits too...

Certainly, if someone went into a fine-art world which was based on a path with elements of surprise and someone put the whole thing on youtube, the artist should have the right to demand it removed. Virtual Worlds are on a continuum between movie and space, some will be movies others will be space, most something in between, but the fact remains: it is up to the designer to decide whether he should have "movies" in his space. His "movies" should enjoy the same protection as regular movies. Law has to be consistent across media, because software is a very wishywashy "medium".

Maybe users should have more rights in worlds that invite them to "live" in them or that sell "items" for real money, but hey, don't force all developers to create worlds which the users are supposed to live in!

Some create galleries which you visit, no different from real galleries. I'm sure many game developers would like to move to the latter if they knew how to retain users or shift to a less time-sensitive payment model. People live in VW because of the grind and because it is new, this isn't going to remain the dominating aspect of VWs if they are to be accepted by mainstream adults.

218.

@Mike: I'm not going to respond to all of your points, many of which recycle past objections you've made, and which I've answered. We simply disagree on many things here, and I'm convinced that we may have to leave it at that. I will say again, however, that your use of "top-down" is entirely inaccurate. If what you say were true, any group of people, including an utterly grassroots effort (and the Ludium came pretty close to that), would be trying to implement a "top-down" solution just by seeking to frame and disseminate its decisions. This is completely contrary to what the phrase means, because being "top-down" depends on someone's or a group's existing position and resources within an established hierarchy (and it's pretty hard to argue that the participants in the Ludium had many resources, at least comparatively, going in -- after all, this is something *you* said). You're trying to say that it depends upon the framing, and it's just not true. Simple as that.

219.

Susan wrote:

Someone will probably point out that the first amendment to the U.S. constitution only constrains the government, not corporations.

Actually, and on the contrary, I believe there's a famous case about a company town in Illinois (?) where it was established that the company could not suspend rights within its boundaries simply because it owned and provided everything. (We so desperately need one of the legal types on TN to weigh in here it's almost laughable.)

That said, I am very pleased to see the discussion rise to a better level now, with fewer broadsides and more mutual engagement and for relevant expertise. It makes me dizzy, just like Ola, but the tone is alright at the moment. That's a good thing, since I'm heading out on a family vacation for the next week and don't plan on checking email/web. Try not to tear the place apart while I'm gone. ;-)

220.

Thomas, if you want, go back and replace my use of "top-down" with "centralized." My primary point was that a set of policy statements from a centralized group don't add value, regardless of how much authority the group has (or tries to take on).

221.

@Mike: I don't see how it was "centralized" either -- except in the sense in which it was briefly located in one place, but obviously it has no ongoing institutional existence, as that word would suggest. And, given that SWI has (as I noted) told me that they would circulate whatever form (modified, elaborated) that I would choose to recommend, it's hardly the case that all is said and done, and this discussion could contribute to that as well (as I've said several times).

222.

@Thomas: Actually, the case was Marsh v. Alabama, a 1946 US Supreme Court decision, which says that where a corporation steps into the shoes of the state, by owning and operating a company town, it has to respect the First Amendment rights of the town's residents. Anyway, I covered all this in my 2004 paper which is cited much earlier on in this very lengthy thread. Have a great vacation Thomas - and like Larry Lessig is doing, enjoy a week off the grid.

Peter

223.

@Peter: Of course, thank you! I really am dizzy from this thread. And thanks for the good wishes -- I'm looking forward to it.

224.

Ola said: "This is a futile argument. You could say the same about the music and movie industry."

Yes. You actually can say the same thing about the music and movie industry. And make some of the same claims that are being made here about how use of a system, product or service does not imply ownership. When I buy a CD or DVD or book, I do not in any way own the music or movie or text; I have licensed the right to access the content on an ongoing basis from devices and/or media that I own. When I see a movie or concert in a theater, I come away with no physical ownership whatsoever, beyond my memory of the concert.

My rights r.e. content are very limited in terms of a concept like "ownership." In the case of physical media, the law allows me to sell the medium, but not (except in very specific cases) the content attached to it, unless I also sell the container. I cannot, for example, stage a concert and play music from my CD collection excepting I have been granted to right to do so by the owners of the actual IP.

If I break a CD or lose a DVD, I don't get to go back to the publisher and get another. If I miss a concert that I've paid for, I don't get to ask the performer to come back and play it again.

I'm a big fan of rights for users, readers, players, etc. But unless the *stated purpose* of a system allows ownership of IP... it's in the hands of them what built it. They have responsibilities to the users/players, yes: no false advertising, no taking your money and giving you nothing, no discrimination based on protected class, etc. Those are all rights, though, that have nothing to do with ownership.

So... saying you own a virtual item seems, to me, like claiming that the things you hear at a concert with a bunch of good friends "belong" to you. They don't. Your conversations do. Your memories do. But the content isn't yours and never was. You just experience it.

Which is not to say that current copyright law in the US isn't garbage...

225.

@ Andy : " you pay the ticket, you enter the game/platform/movie/concert room, but we reserve the right to kick you out after 3 seconds, for any reason or even for no reason at all ".

Is it legal ? No.Because the service provider does not have that right, in the first place.No matter what you're selling, from the first momment when you've got payment, you DON'T have anymore ALL the rights : you've just sold some of them.
Is it moral ? No.
Is it ethycal ? No.
Is it in SL's EULA ? Yes.

Then, why are the LL ppls trying so hard to make it looks like some rocket-science ?!
" ....rights that have noting to do with ownership..." nobody cares , really; this " ownership " bla-bla is a LL's hype PR, get real, nobody's trying to steal LL's ownership : it's all about the players' established rights and LL's established- but ingnored - obligations as a commerce actor.

Nobody wanna own anything on LL's servers, because it's impossible anyway; all we - the players - want is our RL rights to be respected and protected.

" ...Virtual World Policy ..." well you may not make a policy against the RL policy :

"..a 1946 US Supreme Court decision, which says that where a corporation steps into the shoes of the state, by owning and operating a company town, it has to respect the First Amendment rights of the town's residents."

What's so hard to understand ?

The VW's are playing with RL persons' IDs and money and rights , and those are already well covered by RL laws.

Now you gonna say : " ...Amarilla, but all you're saying was already posted many times before, including in this thread ." Yes, and ignored : any VW's policy starts with the EULA.
And some academic above said : " ...this Declaration is a matter of the magic circle , and the EULA is something apart, as the EULAs are part of the RL."

This means : a pointless and useless Declaration and thread. Hype PR. We could talk about Elf's rights and Robots slavery and a Declaration of Republic of Utopia Policy; that at least would be more fun and less misleading.

226.

@Amarilla: "Because the service provider does not have that right, in the first place.No matter what you're selling, from the first momment when you've got payment, you DON'T have anymore ALL the rights : you've just sold some of them."

Correct. The provider has sold to the players the right to engage in very specific activities on the service. You agree to the TOS, you get the right to play the game as defined by the provider. That's a right. You have some other rights, too. Like the right to quit without notice. So, indeed... players have two inalienable rights: the right to play by the rules, and the right to quit if they don't like 'em.

You are, however, confusing contractual agreements with law, ethics and morals. A contract cannot stipulate illegal requirements; that's true. But a provision whereby one party can cancel a contract at any time, with no reason (that's not illegal by law, obviously) isn't in any way illegal. As long as my employer doesn't fire me for something protected by law... they can fire me if they decide I'm too ugly, loud, short, tall, stinky, sleepy or grumpy. My boss can wake up one morning and, even though I have an employment contract that provides me with many rights, decide, "I'm simply and irrationally tired of Andy's brand of BS. Away with him!"

Is it legal? Yup. Ohio is an "employment at will" state. Which means they can let me go instantly, with no reason, and I can quit, again instantly, with no regard for anything. Bingo-bango-bongo. Employment over.

SL couldn't, in the US, terminate your service because you are female (or male), of a certain race or religion or disabled or over 40 years old. Those are legal issues that protect certain classes. If, however, they want you to leave because, in your chat text, you continually say, "your an idiot" instead of "you're an idiot," they can.

Would that be a wise business decision? No. Neither is firing people because they wear too much red. But the contractual relationship isn't predicated only on law, but an agreement to behave in certain ways relative to very specific, non-legal issues.

Which is why I have a problem r.e. this declaration with "right" for either designers, publishers or players. "Rights" are things that you have by law. And we have plenty of laws that protect consumers as well as publishers. We don't need more laws; we need better, simpler EULA/TOSz. With that, I agree wholeheartedly.

227.

When I buy a CD or DVD or book, I do not in any way own the music or movie or text; I have licensed the right to access the content on an ongoing basis from devices and/or media that I own.

No. You have purchased a copy, not a license (although there is a "license" implied by the copyright laws and established practices).

My local laws even grants me the right to legally create copies of that CD and give it to my close friends, under fair use. Assuming that you can tell the difference between my copies an the original copy.

Unfortunately, not even politicians understand copyright law and how it came around. So we can only expect fair use rights to fizzle out to nothing, given the lobbying being done.

When I see a movie or concert in a theater, I come away with no physical ownership whatsoever, beyond my memory of the concert.

Of course, you participated in an event where a work was performed. Kind of like public broadcasting, not at all a sale of an item.

I cannot, for example, stage a concert and play music from my CD collection excepting I have been granted to right to do so by the owners of the actual IP.

Yes, you may do that, for your friends, but not as a "broadcast" to the public.

If I break a CD or lose a DVD, I don't get to go back to the publisher and get another.

That depends on the publisher. Audible allows you to do that. You are also allowed to make backup-copies.

But unless the *stated purpose* of a system allows ownership of IP... it's in the hands of them what built it.

No, the law grants consumers, researchers and the press rights. Researchers in the US can "violate" copyright laws to their heart's content as long as it is for research and not made public. In the US research is defined as fair use.

Copyright and licensing of IP are two different beasts. The trend is that IP-holders don't want to grant their users rights to copies. This is a dangerous trend, it may lead to a situation where movies and other important cultural expressions are only available for a limited time. Basically erasing our past in order to push new products. You risk getting a situation where movies made prior to say year 2000 simply does not exist anymore.

So... saying you own a virtual item seems, to me, like claiming that the things you hear at a concert with a bunch of good friends "belong" to you.

If they aren't selling items then they shouldn't call them items in the first place.

But the content isn't yours and never was. You just experience it.

It's noones until it has been established by law and it eventually falls into the public domain, even under the current regime. Btw, copyright and IP is a relatively new invention that came with mass-production of copies. There is nothing natural and unviersal about it. I still think one should respect artists by not giving away their rights to control their artistic expression (and their ability to make a living of distributed copies), but this isn't at all natural. E.g. classical composers borrowed from each other and nobody thought it was wrong. Go back in time and you'll see that artists didn't even bother to sign their works, they created art for God, not to get a name for themselves (at least not to the extent we see today).

228.

"So, indeed... players have two inalienable rights: the right to play by the rules, and the right to quit if they don't like 'em."

I disagree, when the rule is against the law :
maybe in the USA ,one may sell some small boxes for $ 100 / piece , labeling it : " for only $100 , inside you'll find the method to become filthy rich " , and inside you find a paper : " sell this kind of stuff "

You may call it smart business, but in Europe is called scam. And it is illegal.

The same is about those " Ohio " methods of firing : sure you may fire me , pretending for my nails colour, but if i'm black and you don't tell me a reasonable reason , you gonna have big problems.

And actually, it might work that way in Ohio, but it doesn't work in VWs : you need me to recoupe your investment, i dont need your silly game , are plenty on internet. Do not confuse an online game with a job for a living.

229.

How about addressing the mess of STREAMS. And why don't some channels show up, like mine!?

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