Monday, September 21, 2009

Sex Bed generates Class Action Claim

Eros LLC (the company owned and operated by Kevin Alderman/Stroker Serpentine in SL) and Shannon Grei have filed a class action complaint against Linden Lab with respect to a range of claims in trade mark and copyright. The Plaintiffs allege that Linden Lab has 'directly and secondarily violated the intellectual property rights of Plaintiffs and other Second Life Proprietors.' The essence of the claim is that Linden directly and secondarily infringes the trade marks of Eros, by using Eros's marks to sell infringing virtual goods in Second Life, and directly and secondarily violates the copyright of Grei by reproducing and displaying her copyright works within Second Life and by materially contributing to and supervising (sanctioning and benefitting from) the infringing conduct of others with Second Life.
The complaint emphasises the claim that Linden benefits from the infringing conduct by deriving revenue from the sale, use and display of infringing items.
The claim reflects the frustration of Kevin Alderman (or is it Stroker Serpentine?) that he has previously been compelled to take parties to court over infringements with respect to his SexGen bed and other intellectual property with little practical consequences. The claim alleges that there is much more that Linden could do to prevent the extensive trade in infringing items. Specifically, it claims that although infringement is prohibited by the Second Life Terms of Service and may be the subject of a claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Linden does little to supervise or enforce any DMCA claims. Further, the DRM protection running in Second Life 'is easily circumvented and hopelessly ineffective'. Interestingly, the claim explains how those wishing to avoid DMCA liability can simply avoid compliance by creating a new account and loading the content under their new account name. Further, many content creators in SL are reluctant to bring a DMCA claim as it requires disclosure of their RL identity. The claim draws the analogy of a flea market where pirated goods are openly and cheaply available. The claim also forcefully makes the point that due to the small value of transactions in Second Life in terms of RL currency the cost of bringing individual legal actions is prohibitive, allowing infringement to continue unabated.
The claim makes interesting reading for those interested in the technical and legal operation of Second Life and provides an interesting argument regarding the limitations of the DMCA safe harbour scheme. It discusses the practical application of CopyBot and other copying programs.
See the coverage at Massively for more commentary.

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