[MUD-Dev] Second Life's customers own the IP of their creatio ns

Ren Reynolds ren at aldermangroup.com
Thu Nov 20 21:51:27 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: Christer Enfors XW (TN/PAC)
> Mike Shaver wrote:

>> The Creative Commons element is interesting too, but the key
>> issue is clearly that they're leaving (giving?) the players' IP
>> with them.

> I'm most likely wrong on this, but I always thought that the
> author of something (say, an object in Second Life) always own
> copyright (IP == copyright?) on it. Just because the terms of
> service may say otherwise, that doesn't supercede copyright law,
> does it?

> So if I'm right, this doesn't really change anything. Authors have
> always owned their work, even if the producers of the authors'
> tools don't realise this.

Copyright rests with someone just in case they are the Author of an
Original Work. All three conditions have to be satisfied. What's
more copyright can be assigned to another person or legal entity
like a company. Contract does not supersede copyright law but they
can work together.

In the case of MMO content the general poison is that EULAs tend to
state that all intellectual property rights are the property of the
game company \ publisher. Hence by agreeing to this one assumes that
players have implicitly assigned any copyright that they might have
over to the games company. So the Second Life announcement is
significant in that it explicitly recognises rights in player
created content and does not require such an assignment as part of
the terms of playing the game.

It is worth noting also that the content we are talking about here
is different from that which is generally discussed when the issue
of IPR is raised. The content under debate in most MMOs is really a
configuration of pre-existing bits e.g. a character and its
attributes (but not the name that generally is unique'ish), swords,
light sabres, gold pieces etc. With Second Life (and to a degree
There) we are talking about stuff which is effectively coded by the
users at a fairly low level. When the Second Life people made the
announcement at the State of Play conference (I wuz there) they demo
showed a bit of the world including a rocket ship that had been
fully created by a game player (or players).

At a top level the arguments about the legal nature of the ownership
of this content is the same. That is, while Second Life recognises a
player's IPR in the new objects that they create, There gets players
to assign these rights to them.

At a deeper legal level the arguments are different. This is because
when we are talking about assemblages of pre-existing game objects,
I would suggest that the nature of copyright claims is highly
moot. For instance even without the EULA a game company could mount
an argument on the basis that these objects are either not Works at
all (as they are simply parts of the game) or that they are
Derivative Works - in which case the game companies IPR would still
apply. At an even deeper level I would make arguments based on out
there things such as rights in collections, un-registered trademark
and rights of publicity. With the types of objects we are talking
about here all of these arguments would apply, but decision may go
in a different direction due to the degree of original player work.

Just a couple of foot notes: - Authors have to be human or a
recognized legal entity - this is not simply an academic point as
more and more works are actually generated by computers - IP does
not = Copyright, even in the limited cases were are discussing
here. One obvious one is trademark - if you created something in
There that uses the There trademark then you most likely in
violation of the right - under US law there are allowances for fair
use and parody which might come into play.

Ren
www.renreynolds.com
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