Value of copyright in Virtual Worlds

The value of copyright in a world where everything can be copied

• Copyright protects the property rights of creators of certain categories of original work.

• Copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years.

It is difficult for me to have a perspective on copyright and the difficulties surrounding ownership of properties and creation of content  within Second Life because I do not own any property or own any creative content with the virtual world. However, from my reading of Shenlei Winkler’s  blog post ‘Content & Licensing in Virtual Worlds‘ and F. Gregory Lastowka and Dan Hunter’s legal theory research paper ‘The Law of the Virtual Worlds’ I have gathered an overall understanding of how copyright may or may not be valuable to those within a Virtual World.

Although there may be a significant difference between real life and virtual life when it comes to law and ownership of content, it must also be noted that real life and virtual life are intertwined. As described in the text ‘The law of virtual worlds‘, “property interests in the virtual worlds bleed over into the real world, and assets accumulated their world have value in ours.” As most know, living in the Virtual World is not as simple as it may seem to be. As seen in Second life, real money is used and transferred into the virtual world for you to create and buy what you want within Second life. In my opinion, using real life money within these virtual worlds creates a sense of entitlement within these worlds such as Second life. When you are using real money that you have earned, presumably money you have worked hard for, in these virtual worlds you want to protect your property and creative content that you have spent valuable time and money on. It is obvious there are issues surrounding “whats mine” and “whats yours” in Virtual worlds. From my small amount of experience within Second Life, It shows how freely your avatar is able to travel from place to place and house to house with minimal trouble. My avatar was able to go into someones house after clicking on a random location on the world map. Similarly my avatar was able to access lots of locations that were made by people over a long period of time who had put a lot of detail and effort into creating them. As I am new to Second life, I still do not understand a lot of things you are able to do within the game, however from my reading about the issue of copyright there seems to be problems with people who deliberately destroy peoples hard work and so leaving the content creators to rebuild what was carelessly destroyed.

I find this a difficult situation to comment on. On one hand it seems essential that there should be some sort of copyright law when it comes to owning and creating virtual content as people use their own money and spend time creating content. However on the other hand it seems that by creating laws surrounding virtual worlds it makes the freedom of living virtually extremely rigid. Most of the point to creating a life and communicating in a virtual world is being able to do whatever you want, being able to push the boundaries of real life society where we must uphold so many laws, to having no laws and no rules at all. These problems pose a problem to the debate of the value of copyright in virtual worlds. It could be argued that those who wish to create laws surrounding their work in the virtual world  restrict others who want to live freely in a surreal world that allows you to fly, become a vampire and own property you dream of owning in the real  world.

A good point made by Shenlai Winkler in her blog post ‘Content Licensing in Virtual Worlds‘ that there are problems now with content creators now making licenses for their specific coding in Second life  “where they are suddenly changing their terms of agreement for previous purchasers.” As explained by Winkler, licensing does not work in that way, these licenses are being created by content owners and not professional lawyers it creates a mess where, legally, they are incorrect because they do not contain “critical and important terms”. What is interesting here is that although the content creators want copyright licenses that protect their work and property, they are not willing to abide by actual laws put in place in real life. This becomes a bit of a nightmare for people in Second Life because it would be impossible for a person to know every single license created individually for every original piece of coding. Overall this seems to not be a feasible way to tackle problems with copyright in Second life. As technology grows, It is concerning to see how the virtual world might progress.

I hope to be able to gather a better understanding of the problems that surround copyright values in Virtual Worlds as I learn more about Second life.

5 thoughts on “Value of copyright in Virtual Worlds

  1. You bring up one of the main problems with regulating virtual content, and one the law is trying to catch up with.
    It is interesting that you state, “Most of the point to creating a life and communicating in a virtual world is being able to do whatever you want, being able to push the boundaries of real life society where we must uphold so many laws, to having no laws and no rules at all.” I am not sure that this is an accurate statement.
    Yes, many do participate in SL or other virtual worlds to behave in ways that they would not in “real life.” However, your statement goes beyond this. It seems to indicate that having no laws or boundaries is the main purpose for activities in virtual worlds – a much broader claim that many would not agree with.


    • Thanks for your feedback.
      I suppose using the words “most of the point” was used too broadly in context as I do not assume everyone approaches the Virtual World in that way. However I still think an aspect to being able to construct a life in the Virtual World is the ability to live freely in whatever way you want. My point to this statement was to take a different perspective to understanding how copyright laws may not be valued within a Virtual World.
      This is just my opinion after a few weeks of joining Second life but I’m sure it will change over time when I understand more about it.


  2. Thanks for the explanation surrounding copyrights, that was a great way to start and to set the tone of your blog. I suppose that just like in the real world, there are people in the virtual world who steal and alter property. Just like in the real world there are all types of people with individual agendas. Is there a function that polices the actions within SL and are there penalties for destruction? As you have stated, I also look forward to learning more about the virtual worlds and copyright laws and issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a good review of copyright in virtual worlds. There have been some legal cases taken and one outcome has been a clarification on how virtual content is interpreted by the law. For example, we might refer to the ‘land’ we own in SL and build ‘property’ that we fill with ‘furniture’ and other belongings. But, property law does not apply because, from a legal perspective, the virtual world is merely digital code. It gets even more complicated when people become partners in SL and own land in common – what happens if they wish to divorce?


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