U.S. Congressional Hearing on Virtual Worlds

It's April 1st, but this is legit. 

It's a hearing of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee.  See this witness list and there's an MP3 of the proceedings now that can be found here.  I'll refrain from comments until I've listened to all of this, but the opening statements of the Congressfolk were, to say the least, interesting.

Update: Video, audio, and prepared statements now archived here.  Some news reports now available  here.  And one initial thought: apart from the opening remarks, this was mostly a hearing about Second Life.  The speakers other than Rosedale talked primarily about Second Life and UGC worlds.

Update 2: On listening to testimony and further reflection, in lieu of commenting, I think I'll just point to Lum's reaction.  I'm really not sure I have much to say about this event myself.  Still, it is the first Congressional hearing on virtual worlds.  I wonder what the first hearing on airplanes was like?

Update 3: Ok, my last comment on this, in reply to Raph's thoughts.  If you can get past 1) the opening remarks, 2) the promotional video for Second Life, and 3) the fact that everyone at the hearing seemed to think that Second Life was synonymous with virtual worlds (made convenient by the fact that the other witnesses had major investments or involvements in Second Life), then you'll find the Q&A (starting at 51:20) has some very interesting stuff.  Some of it shows the legislators being perceptive.  Some of it shows the legislators and witnesses being not so perceptive.  But if you're interested in the regulation of virtual worlds, it's worth a listen.


Comments on U.S. Congressional Hearing on Virtual Worlds:

Robert Bloomfield says:

I also found it interesting that the hearing was so SL-centric. I am sure there is an interesting story about how this hearing came about, and am almost as sure that we will never know the answer to this. But at least I know one way to try to find out: I will be asking Rep. Markey to join me on Metanomics !

I figure the odds on him coming on the show are maybe 1:2. The odds of hearing the backstory, probably not so good.

Posted Apr 2, 2008 6:00:58 PM | link

blaze says:

There was an important undercurrent here.

They needed to discuss

a) are vw worlds relevant to US policy
b) if yes to a), then is this relevant to network neutrality policy
c) if yes to b), then how does it impact network neutrality?

I really felt that Rosedale fell down on the b and c.

Posted Apr 3, 2008 5:02:07 AM | link

Benjamin Duranske says:

The bottom line is that it actually went pretty well. If you've read or seen congressional testimony before, you know it is going to be full of a lot of nonsense. That's how this game works. But at bottom, they "got it" better than one might have expected. Overall, I give Philip a solid A- on it -- and the minus is only because nobody told him that they were counting his video time against his overall time so they cut off his prepared remarks. Not his fault. I give the House committee members a B, mostly because of a couple of Reps' fairly obvious total unfamiliarity with the space, balanced out by Stearns and Markey's relatively clear, better-than-expected, understanding.

Going forward, I can only hope that this subcommittee is the one generating legislation (to the degree there is any, which, ideally, there won't be). It could have been a lot worse.

Posted Apr 3, 2008 11:45:37 PM | link

Angus Cameron says:

Regarding the SL-centred nature of this hearing, a couple of thoughts. Firstly, for many people new to virtual worlds particularly those that have not come out of the gaming community, SL pretty much is the VW. Even if people are aware of other worlds, SL remains a sort of brand leader and as such tends to be the first port of call for people exploring VWs for the first time. The (free) publicity it gets through hearings such as this will only add to that. Secondly, listening to this from a British perspective, this is as much US-centred as anything else. You would of course expect this from a Congressional hearing examining US interests, but it raises again the peculiar regulatory geographies that VWs are opening up. Even though the hearing notes that 70% of SL members are non-US, they do not really get to grips with the limits of 'national' control over what 'we' both as companies and individuals do onine. And that is before we consider the ways in which something like Entropia Universe might develop with its new Chinese partners. I am, however, looking forward to the Sino-Swedish joint hearing on that one.....
Thirdly, I am a little disappointed at the rather limp approach of the panel - they are not exactly challenging are they? They seem quite content to gloss over some of the huge regulatory issues raised by VWs or to allow the witnesses, particularly Rosedale, to get away with some very bland assurances regarding things like money-laundering and child protection. I say this not to promote aggressive state intervention, but rather to promote a proper public debate which will benefit VWs. Fortunately, we have Terra Nova to do that for them.

Posted Apr 4, 2008 6:42:43 AM | link

Barry Joseph says:

Here is the testimony I will be submitting through my organization, Global Kids:
http://www.holymeatballs.org/2008/04/staff_my_testimony_for_congres.html

Posted Apr 8, 2008 10:13:48 AM | link