Space Ramblings

Wow! Virtual Life! Media Hype! Exclamation Marks!

Sigh. Here we go again. It’s that time of the week when papers decide to continue inflating Second Life hype by reporting wide-eyed that it’s an alternate universe, virtual reality and all. The Washington Post is this week’s culprit in the wide-eyed Second Life reporting sweepstakes via the Washington Post’s Emil Steiner’s blog entry, a guy who looks like a dopier version of a Backstreet Boy. If such a thing is even possible.

Like the next installment of Terminator, we all knew this day was coming: the first-ever Second Life lawsuit.

I think it’s actually more like the second or third.

Sure, it involves people who aren’t real stealing products that aren’t real, in a virtual world that barely resembles our own. Still, this is America! Since when has reality been required for legal action?

Hi, earth to Idiot Boy, the RIAA has been suing people for years over products that aren’t real. Patents are regularly awarded for products that aren’t anything more than a collection of code. What makes Second Life’s character or object designs different than the code for Half Life 2 whose theft resulted in a criminal indictment? Oh yeah, because Emil Steiner is too dim to tell the difference.

According to the complaint, six virtual merchants are suing Thomas Simon of Queens, N.Y., for an undisclosed amount of money, claiming he stole the computer code for products they sell in their virtual stores.

Wow! Lawsuits over stealing computer code! How unprecedented. That’s only been happening for the last three decades! How weirdly surreal!

And while this may sound like a joke to you, for those involved it is absolutely serious. Really!

No the only joke is that the Washington Post probably pays Emil Steiner money to write this. Really!

According to Linden Labs, proprietors of the virtual environment platform where all this craziness takes place, users cumulatively conduct transactions totaling more than $1 million each day. That’s real dollars — the kind you can use to clothe, feed and comfort yourself in the real world.

Wow! Real Dollars! Tell us more! I hear eCommerce generates billions of dollars in transactions daily all in virtual environment platforms! People go into this virtual environment using a “browser” and they spend billions of REAL DOLLARS. Yes, how crazy is that?

Also we’re sending a rocketship to the moon and women want the right to vote. Superwacky!

The defendant, who goes by Rase Kenzo in Second Life, has a pretty good excuse: “It’s only a computer game!”

I’m guessing that excuse wore out a few decades ago

True, this case involves real world money, so it is different from suing an opponent in “Mortal Combat” for wrongful death, say, or taking a fellow World of Warcraft gamer to The International War Crimes Tribunal.

Gosh Emil, it only took you five paragraphs to realize how stupid your own premise is.

Still, these virtual-world real-world lawsuits can get pretty tricky. How and to what extent should real laws apply in Second Life? For instance, Simon claims that the plaintiffs found their “evidence” by taking pictures inside his Second Life home, which they entered without warrant or permission. Should that evidence be considered admissible? And since Simon allegedly exploited holes within the Second Life platform to create his duplicate products, is Linden Labs also liable somehow?

The same laws that apply in any virtual environment apply in Second Life. Second Life’s rooms are code. If you illegally access someone else’s email account to gather evidence, what’s the legal status of that? There’s no precedents being made here. Cease the exclamation marks and the hype already.

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