Protecting Intellectual Property

Permissions are Second Life’s personal copy right programme that allow each user to control what happens to a prim that they have created. Much like normal copyright laws in real life preventing people from taking your content and using it for their own person gain or modifying it so they can take the credit for the work, these ‘permissions’ can stop other users from extorting the build you might have worked so hard to achieve.

Even though these copyright permission have been set in place to protect intellectual property there has been some very clever people that have used a programme that Linden Labs created to get around these permissions, it is named CopyBot.

Linden Labs designed the CopyBot programme to be able to import and export/back up creations to help develop AIs and NPCs within Second Life. After the programme was distributed on the Second Life website, some people used this tool to be able to cancel all the permission on an object exported and then imported back into Second Life. Copybot isn’t a programme within Second Life at all it is a C# coded software, that people started distributing this software through other sites outside of the Second Life websites and started charging other users with the Second Life currency. By doing this people were able to take other users creations and make profit off of them or take them as their own disregarding the permissions that were originally set by the real creator.

The Second Life community and businesses are trying to promote responsible and safe use of CopyBot. The main thing Copybot now gives to the Second Life community is the inventory Backup that helps to protect user’s creations. Even though people are trying to promote safe and responsible use for this tool, there is still a large part of the community that doesn’t agree and thinks using Copybot is theft and plagiarism.

In my opinion it is a good way to help create the world you desire faster and more efficiently but because there is real money that is involved within Second Life then there is a lot of bad points to it and should be recognised as theft.

There are permissions set in place to handle everyone’s creations so that if I wanted to give my creation away I could or if I wanted it protected then that is my choice.

Having someone from within Second Life come and take my creation after hours of hard work I could have put into it would be extremely bad because in my eyes, it is my property and they have just stolen everything from under my nose.

Protection of property rights within the virtual world is a real problem. Countries try to use current law, usually written for the real world to protect aspects of the virtual environment. As with many of society’s laws they are often only changed after a problem is identified. With the speed with which the virtual environment operates this could see many infringements take place before action on writing new laws takes place.

The virtual world is also a world without borders, meaning that laws that operate in many western society’s do not operate in many other countries; similar to the copying problems  many real life brands have with copied clothing etc coming from countries without our protections.

Two other areas are a problem for protection within the virtual world:

  • Anonymous operators making it very difficult to track down the people taking advantage of others ingenuity and
  • Many of the operators are small operations and do not have the influence or the resources to put pressure on governments to effect protective measures.

I believe that operators need to band together to build strength in size of numbers and collection of resources to develop influence to better protect their intellectual property rights from those that want to use other’s thoughts for their advantage.

I see Second Life as an opportunity for a virtual society to develop rules (permissions) that can replace laws currently in place in the real world. Second Life is a place where we can develop better, fairer society.


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