Friday, August 27, 2010

Digital Interactive Symposium Part 2

And we are back, after some coffee..
my paper on governance and contract issues, which I will post later. Then... another Aussie in the form of...
Nic Suzor: protecting autonomy and legitimacy
Emphasising that online worlds are based on community, online play is emergent. Line between public and private space become blurred: social spaces. EULA is there to protect rights of the provider, real disconnect between EULA and ongoing community regulation as a day to day issue. Gulf causes legitimacy problems. How can we have regulation and autonomy at the same time?
Koster's Bill of Rights, difficult to have universal rights. Universality is v v difficult when you are dealing with virtual communities. The important part is process, not substantive rights. So look to the Rule of Law! similar principles should apply to virtual communities. Tendency to reserve as much power as possible in the contractual terms and leave leniency to admin team.
Rules should be clear known and predictable, eg machinima rights. Problem is disconnect between laws and community norms. EULA may break on these points. Not as strong as we currently believe.
If communities are to be governed by contract, contract should be informed by governance theory.
Contractual terms are more likely to be enforceable if they are clear and consistent with practice. Lawyers need to talk to developers and customer service teams.
I concur!
Julian Kucklich: consent in context, and virtual world governance OR 'the virtual IS the normal'
Discussion of commodification of virtual worlds, and way in which items are manifested in physical terms.
Property and intellectual property not equipped to deal with the virtualisation issue. CC doesn't actually solve these problems because still built on traditional copyright (yep, I agree).
Utopian part of talk (self-described): bees swarming over the globe, like intellectual creation, pollinating and feeding from a range of plants etc, diversity. Result is global sustainability and diversity. This makes sense as greater diversity of flowers for bees in the city, whereas in the country you have limited gene pool of plant life. Will Self 'Inclusion' read this as it is also about bees.
Virtual world providers have a lot of data about their citizens. How can you govern production when it does not take place in a traditional territory? by a virtual population?
what is an avatar? not a representation but rather a multiplicity of identity shards. How does law deal with the change in the concept of the individual? Republican model becomes empirical, aggressive intellectual property regimes have been exported across the world eg Farmville.
That was the utopian excursion, so now some pragmatics: divide between people who want to reinvent everything and those who want to reuse existing paradigms, neither is possible.
Microtransactional model: q if this may be applied?
okay, lovely lunch break and apparently a bit less academic stuff this afternoon...!
Andy Moseby, Business Models in Virtual Worlds
wow, Zynga, has serious cash! and is buying up game coys by the handful.
lots and lots and lots of money pouring into games, social networking games are increasing as % of market share.
What do investors look at in acquiring targets? Discussion of various revenue streams and the likely income, what excites investors will be advertising models, large player base, etc but the big winner is virtual transactions: virtual goods, P2P trading, UGC and inviting friends. Herein lies the tension with what users what.
Revenue model changes game design eg quick kill/ short life for games where you have to insert coins. Farmville is based on the premise that random rewards will keep people coming back, like slot machines. Small games with social element are proving very attractive to investors because smaller less risky investment.
Dr Abbe Brown: Dispute Resolution and Virtual Property
What sort of disputes may arise in the VW context? broad range of existing legal issues. Interesting q: are the guilds in WoW cartels? what about abuse of dominant position? Discussion of the various parties to the types of disputes that might arise in vws, what will they fight about: money (real or virtual) mandatory action (will it be available, ie are damages an adequate remedy), remaining in the game. Likely to be more gamer-gamer disputes. Look at the existing forms of alternative dispute resolution eg UDRP, wikipedia. eBay Square Trade etc
Have we evolved a bit now, recognising that there WILL be disputes and they need to be resolved, rather than thinking that it is a utopia and there won't BE any disputes. EvE has the Caldera Tribunal and the CSM eg POS Bug.
Jas Purewal: Dispute Resolution and Virtual Goods (@gamerlaw)
What is the fuss about virtual goods?
Crystal Palace Space Station in Entropia Universe, sold for for $330,ooo in Dec 2009.
Farmville, 60million active monthly users.
US market expected to be $1.6bn in 2010.
but legal status of virtual goods remain unclear, consumers feel that they have ownership, this disconnect is a recipe for disputes. Hawaii case Smallwood v NCSoft (known as the game addiction case) claiming compensation for remaining game time and game assets. Also Zynga recently shut down Street Racing, and had to offer some compensation due to public pressure, but that was virtual currency in other Zynga games. It is possible there will be some litigation related to this.
Vaguely useful to look at cases on software, regarding whether they are goods or services, but these are inconclusive.
Interesting discussion of developments in the East, Vietnam pronounced in April 2010 that virtual items are not assets.
Then he presented a very useful practical checklist for developers, including need to develop an exit strategy.
A great session, thought provoking and interesting and proving how important these issues are now.

Digital Interactive Symposium

So without further ado, the day begins...
Professor Peter Yu: Moral and Personality Rights and the Digital Dilemma
discussing the moral rights implications of digital alteration of images, Peter asks about user modification of in-world images/content, would this be a distortion of the creator's intentions/ moral rights?
Peter identifies 5 issues: semiotic democracy and creative reuse (Fisher, Lessig) and their role in digital literacy; moral rights and liberative reuse, free speech and communications issues; moral rights, deletion of digital content (Mayer-Schoenberger) relevant to right of withdrawal of work eg restoration of works of Kafka that he had ordered to be burned; obsolescence: are moral rights based on a tradition that is obsolete in a digital age?; and no easy solutions, given inalienability of moral rights and overlapping contractual rights including CC.
Personality rights: what can you do in the virtual world, not the same as RL?
Secondary liability eg City of Heroes case, what sort of liability do you want the game provider to have when they are providing the building blocks?
Andres Guadamuz: Avatar Rights Re-visited: Real ID and Augmented Reality:
questions regarding personality rights of avatars, is the avatar owned by the operator or the platform provider? most EULAs make it clear that the platform provider owns all characters etc except for other end of spectrum eg SL therefore avatars are locked in virtual worlds but this may be about to change.
Real money value of virtual transactions is increasing exponentially, assets held by avatars have commercial value. Andres discussed the coming phenomenon of augmented reality (a la William Gibson, Spook Country) meaning that avatars will no longer be trapped in-world.
And then he discussed RealID, linking identity of person and avatar, problems that can be created by access to user info. Apparently someone has conducted research on emotes in vws.
At some point we need to identify what is virtual identity is, character name, appearance and gender will change along the way, but the inventory/ account remains the same. This may be the obvious defining point for identification of rights.
More will follow after the break (and after my paper)...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

DISE 10 Edinburgh

Bram will be attending this event and will (if time and energy levels permit) provide a commentary on presentations: Digital Interactive Symposium Edinburgh 2010:
The Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh 2010 focuses on the legal issues of computer games, virtual worlds and the issues that arise from the convergence of new and traditional media. Speakers include both academics and practicing lawyers. It is is an annual event organized by the Virtual Policy Network in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.