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Mar 14, 2004

Comments

1.

The size of some of these outfits and their apparent dexterity at avoiding "The Wrath of SOE" is amazing, isn't it?

2.

Richard> Assuming that they're as against auctioning virtual objects as they say they are...

I'm starting to suspect that's a questionable assumption. They may be concerned that someone else is making the money, but they seem ambivalent about whether the trade is, overall, bad for their own profits.

3.

Maybe they are against it in principle but are only prepared to put so much hard cash behind the principle. Given that it can't be too hard to find the big brokers (especially if you are SOE) maybe the 'so much cash' is actually 'not much at all - cash'

4.

"Assuming that they're as against auctioning virtual objects as they say they are, how could SOE undendorse these links?"

They could start by somehow stopping the distribution of their game via the IGE shop. The intent of selling the boxes is not lost on me: Legitimize.

Another aspect we might not be seeing is that these guys may actually get accounts banned left and right, but it is in their best interest to keep that information under wraps. Why? Again: Legitimize and now Confidence. Plus it actually shifts the 'suspicious activity' tag back to SOE. Divide and conquer.

Then here we come with the Themis Group announcement... The point: Legitimize and bring confidence.

Something that caught my attention: Suddenly MySupersales (now part of IGE) lists worlds like Gemstone IV and Gunbound. It has nothing to sell there, but is there a message here?

A random thought... With the buyout of MySupersales for (rumored) $10M. Wouldn't it have made more sense to develop your own MMORPG where you can wheel and deal all you want? ... Now I know the answer is "no, it wouldn't", which begs the question "Why?"

If I were part of IGE I would be really worried. I'm sure there is a point of no return on the EQ economy, after which you *have* to go buy your kit from a dealer. At that point, who would stay and who would leave? But most importantly from IGE's perspective, how would you compete with the prices for virtual trinkets coming straight from the developer? Second-hand market? What about sale from the developer coupled with a highly-efficient ingame auction/storefront system?

Is this seemingly lack of action on SOE's behalf an effort to convert and re-educate their playerbase in order to move to a for-dollars experience? Would that even be possible? Or is this the smoke and mirrors magic show of the good people at IGE?

5.

DivineShadow>Wouldn't it have made more sense to develop your own MMORPG where you can wheel and deal all you want? ... Now I know the answer is "no, it wouldn't", which begs the question "Why?"

Actually, the answer isn't as "no" as it may seem. At the State of Play conference last year, I asked Brock Pierce (CEO of IGE US) whether they might consider developing their own virtual world, and he replied that they had indeed thought about it and hadn't ruled it out. It was something that might arise at the end of a more graduated process of diversification, though.

I must confess to being somewhat impressed by Brock. He's the man for whom the term "business acumen" was invented, yet was very open and interesting to talk to. He wasn't at all what I was expecting.

I'm still not in favour of the commodification of virtual worlds that don't want to be commodified, though.

Richard

6.

I wrote an article on this issue a few years ago. It was the first legal article on the topic when I wrote it, and it still might be (I haven't searched lately).

Search Engines Under Siege: Do Paid Placement Listings Infringe Trademarks?
13 Int. Prop. & Tech. L.J. 6 (2002)
.

In short, it is an important question for trademark law. Personally, I am not sure how much of a problem it is that "people get to associate themselves with books without the consent of those books' authors." This has got to be generally okay, right? Can I say "I like Richard's Book" without asking your permission?

Fwiw, there is a recent appellate decision that is relevant and that my article does not discuss -- Playboy v. Netscape was decided by the Ninth Circuit in January 2004.

http://www.phillipsnizer.com/library/cases/lib_case336.cfm

7.

Then what if Larry Flynt says, "I like Richard's book. People that like his book might be interested in my publications as well."

8.

Gregolas>I wrote an article on this issue a few years ago.

Very interesting. It looks like the situation I'm describing is a variant of the Playboy vs. Netscape case for "keyed banners". There are differences, though, which to my non-lawyer eyes seem to be:

1) Book titles aren't trademarkable, so it's hard to claim copyright dilution for keywords that only apply in a book title.

2) The keyword matches come up on the web site whether you search for the title or not. A static link to the page will produce the ads.

This system means that every time someone's IP is mentioned, someone else's IP is also mentioned. I don't suppose a judge would be too happy if you got to shout out the words "buy the game" every time they mentioned the word "accused" in a court of law, but that's sort of what's happening here.

Maybe the thing to do would be to use the judge's name as a keyword link to a barely-legal porn site. That doesn't seem to be preventable either.

Richard

9.

Tekthelion>Then what if Larry Flynt says, "I like Richard's book. People that like his book might be interested in my publications as well."

What's also annoying is there's no way that anyone can say "people who like my book wouldn't be interested in any of these things" even if they wanted to pay Amazon/Google for the keywords. Anyone can associate themselves with a book, but there's no way for the book's author to disassociate themselves with those who make such an association.

Richard

10.

Richard> Book titles aren't trademarkable, so it's hard to claim copyright dilution for keywords that only apply in a book title.

Book titles can't be copyrighted (unless, perhaps, they are exceedingly long titles). Trademark law is different. I actually have another article on a similar topic that explains the basics of trademarks: See Search Engines, HTML, and Trademarks: What's the Meta For?, 86 Va. L. Rev. 835-84 (2000)
.

You might look at this too -- someone else's thoughts on trademark and book titles:
http://www.cni.org/Hforums/cni-copyright/1995-01/0022.html.

Richard> The keyword matches come up on the web site whether you search for the title or not. A static link to the page will produce the ads. This system means that every time someone's IP is mentioned, someone else's IP is also mentioned.

Yes, but why do you think that's a problem? Do you want a right to control all the circumstances in which your book is mentioned? People all over the world are probably talking about Designing Virtual Worlds and telling their friends, "Do you like snow peas? Then you may like Richard Bartle's book!" Or vice-versa.

Richard> I don't suppose a judge would be too happy if you got to shout out the words "buy the game" every time they mentioned the word "accused" in a court of law, but that's sort of what's happening here.

I'm not sure I see the connection...

Richard> Maybe the thing to do would be to use the judge's name as a keyword link to a barely-legal porn site. That doesn't seem to be preventable either.

Well, actually, it might be. But now you're going pretty far afield from trademarks and copyrights.

I do get the impression you're bothered by those sponsored links, though, and that's interesting.

11.

Gregolas>I'm not sure I see the connection...

I didn't bring this up because of my book, because actually I don't mind if There thinks that they might sell subscriptions by associating their VW with it (even if it's only by accident). I was more interested in the general principle. However, using my book as an example: the connection is that every time someone looks at my book's description on Amazon, they get a plug for There.com . This could equally well be a plug for some badly-written VW that I want nothing to do with, yet every time my book is mentioned, in the same breath so is the name of the bad VW. It forms an association, whether I like it or not.

Suppose I were to write a game called Accused, and pay money to the US Courts system so that every time a particular judge used the word I was entitled to shout out "buy my game". Or if that's too disruptive, how about I get to project it on a screen next to the judge? Pretty soon, my game and that judge are going to become associated in the minds of people present, whether the judge endorses my game or not.

>I do get the impression you're bothered by those sponsored links, though, and that's interesting.

I regard it as potentially a form of libel. By forming the association in a public place and denying me the ability to repudiate it, links are being made between me (as author of my book) and a product. If the product is no good, people will remember that it was associated with me, which may adversely affect my reputation (assuming I had one).

It's bad enough that people can piggy-back on my work (the book) to sell their products (whatever). It's seriously annoying if they can mess up and my book suffers as a result.

Richard

12.

Interesting.

Would it bother you if I said to someone in a public place: "If you're interested in Richard's book, you might be interested in There.com, digital photography, and snow peas"? Would it make a difference to you whether I actually thought there were some relevant connection between DVW and snow peas? Or if I owned stock in a snow peas distributor?

13.

"It was something that might arise at the end of a more graduated process of diversification, though."

Lots of interpretations between the lines here. Leaving speculation behind, if it makes business sense, you just do it. If you lack the funds and it still makes business sense, you get funding, because it makes busines sense. If you lack the human resources, you hire them and delegate. If you want a turnkey solution you go out and buy a work-in-progress closer to launch like Project Entropia, or even a launched product and retrofit it then put a liason or management team in place and presto! The point: If it really made business sense they would go ahead and do it. Barring any losses in translation, that statement looks less like business acumen, and more like a dose of the Jedi hand wave/mind trick... "This is not the business we are looking for"...

14.

Richard> It's bad enough that people can piggy-back on my work (the book) to sell their products..

Greg> Would it bother you if I said to someone in a public place..

And what about a book shop?

Unless there is a contract with a publisher I thought that a book shop is free to put DVW next to ’10 reasons to vote for [insert your least fav politico / party / junta here]’ or even one of those staff notice things next some other book that no one has heard of saying ‘if your interested in VW design buy this one as its much much better that certain other books we could name – hint hint’ – or some form of words that avoid libel; noting that the shopper may well find this note through asking for Richard’s fine book then being put off by some scoundrel’s scribblin. OK, not a good idea for the shop to do this, probably not good business sense – but not legal, mmm?

Just like a supermarket can put lard next to the-we-believe -in-all-things-healthy muesli next to lard; or books on the devil next to ones on god etc.

Or maybe this is different, i have not closely read the Playboy case yet, but in the case where someone makes an active choice based on a registered or unregistered mark then is given (in addition but close association) other information there seems to be an arguable case for dilution. Maybe Richard needs to brand and trademark him self then claim that, in effect, his public persona has been diluted. Ah back to persona as property - i knew i could get it in somehow :)

15.

Greglas>Would it bother you if I said to someone in a public place: "If you're interested in Richard's book, you might be interested in There.com, digital photography, and snow peas"?

No, but it might if you said: "If you're interested in Richard's book, you might be interested in Nazism, slavery and rape". The fact you said it rather than wrote it makes it more slander than libel, but wouldn't make me any less unhappy (assuming I found out about it).

Of course, taking a strictly logical point of view the word "might" renders the whole predicate useless. If you're interested in anything whatsoever then you MIGHT be interested in anything else whatsoever. Expressing it as a counterfactual carries the whiff of causality, but it easily breaks down mathematically.

Richard

16.

DivineShadow>The point: If it really made business sense they would go ahead and do it

The impression I got was that it did make business sense, but that their chances of success would greatly improve if they did some other things first. Thus, they want to do these other things first, and then (assuming they work out) use them as a springboard for a virtual world.

In other words, they have some groundwork they want to do.

Richard

17.

That does makes sense... Need to re-educate all those gamers and position the company.

18.

Cheer up, Richard. At least your sponsored links are somewhat relevant to your work.

I looked up McLuhan's _The Medium is the Massage_ and was presented with a variety of links to massage therapists. Perhaps Borges rolls in his grave every time someone searches for _Labyrinths_ and is also presented with a link to "wood finger labyrinths." But my personal favorite is the link to the Mayo Clinic that pops up in a search for Deleuze & Guattari's _Capitalism and Schizophrenia_. That's classic.

Not all works have sponsored links associated with them, though. You're one of the few, the proud, the sponsored.

19.

Netsy Book>Cheer up, Richard. At least your sponsored links are somewhat relevant to your work.

I know - I wasn't complaining about my links (except perhaps that there are two for the same product). It was looking up "Developing Online Games" and finding ads for developing photographs online that triggered my rant.

Then again, I guess there are more people interested in developing photographs online than there are interested in developing online games, so on the whole Jess & Bridgette will sell more copies to people who are mislead by the ads than they'll lose for the same reason.

Richard

20.

It seems Richard's mind in being read by a CPA by the name of Mark Maughan who was very unhappy with the results he got when he searched Google for his name. The guy filed a class-action lawsuit. More on: http://www.nbc4.tv/news/2937016/detail.html

21.

DivineShadow>very unhappy with the results he got when he searched Google for his name

It seems that Mark Maughan is complaining that the data presented by Google doesn't reflect the pages that Google scanned in order to get the data. I don't know what the difference is; I assume he means the little summaries that appear after each link, rather than the contents of the Google cache. Alternatively, he may mean that Google pre-processes what it reads before it indexes it, and that this editorial intervention makes for some bad pages being shown first.

If Google does tinker with the text that it indexes so as to alter the meaning, I'd agree that they're responsible for showing false data.
I don't think that they're under any obligation to show first the pages that anyone in particular wants them to show first, though. I don't hold them responsible for showing links to pages that are libellious or anything - that's hardly Google's fault.

In my example, it's not the page results that Google throws up which I find worrying, it's the paid-for ads they throw up too. They're fine for generic searches, but for specific ones they can be very misleading.

Of course, there are further issues for situations that are genuinely ambiguous. I just typed my own name into Google and it produced an ad for Britart.com. That's because there's an artist in the UK called Richard Bartle, and the Britart people must have indexed his name. Fine for Google, but if it somehow got attached to Designing Virtual Worlds I'd want to be able to correct it as it would do neither me nor my namesake any favours.

Richard

22.

The impression I got was that it did make business sense, but that their chances of success would greatly improve if they did some other things first. Thus, they want to do these other things first, and then (assuming they work out) use them as a springboard for a virtual world.

23.

I pulled out the offending URL from "guild wars gold" and banned the IP address from whence it originated, but this is rather interesting comment spam, so I've leaving it stay put.

It seems targeted enough and it copies Richard's comment above in order to appear like it makes some sense. I wonder if pretty soon there will be chatterbots in the comment fields, and I wonder if they'll be making some of the best points. ;-)

24.

http://www.altsale.com/wwwboard/messages/3409.shtml anybodychancedawn

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