Otherwise my Easter has been spent lying on the couch ignoring social circles because ‘I’ve got so much work to do’ and watching tv and letting my eyes wander warily over to my computer with a passionate hatred!
I’ve kinda gotten myself into a sticky situation, which I’m either overthinking or I just need to drop it all together. Let me share it with you! I’m trying to explain the attachment we feel to our virtual assets in MMORPGs and I thought I’d found the perfect example. Now, let me point out that I want to go on to explain the distrust of the coding authorities (excellent word, Castronova!) to rectify such situations. So let me just vent out here:
Madelaine, a player in The Sims Online (TSO) loves to build houses! One time she had spent a lot of time, love and effort on a house which was fabulous! A friend of hers was constantly hassling her with wishes to buy it. Madelaine was flattered and in the end gave in! A few days later Madelaine came to me quite distraught. She had just found out that her friend had copied the house from Alphaville to Blazing Falls (another virtual city in TSO) and was passing it off as her own design. Madelaine was quite distraught, and rightly so in my opinion. So this is where I get into trouble! I don’t understand Intellectual Property Law! I thought this was a perfect example of that, and the more I think about it, the more I think it has to do with copyright.
And then I don’t really understand the difference! So off the top of my head…this is what I’m thinking:
Intellectual Property law comes into factor when talking about avatars. Because players have built up the ‘character’ of the avatar, both of numerical and social value. IP comes into factor when we’re talking about labour, sociality, ‘personal’ history, narrative, skill and wealth. And the question therefore becomes, who owns the sum of all these factors – the player or the game developers? And so this is why we’re talking about IP, right? Because we’re using the copyrighted material of the gaming world to create something of our ‘own’, right? Because our game play methods are contributing to the gameworld as much as the game design is, right? This is why it has become a factor? So my example doesn’t work at all, does it? Because Madelaine’s dilemma is a dilemma of authorship and copyright. Which ofcourse doesn’t exist in TSO because she doesn’t even own herself, how could she then have claim to copyright? Ofcourse this could be structured into some form of in-game law or rule, but hell…it’s just a game right? But then I start thinking about Second Life! And they have graciously granted intellectual property rights to their avatars – why on earth is this not copyright? I mean, it’s just about giving the avatar’s ownership of what they create in-world right? So I guess I need to go back and read up on the proceedings of Lessig and Linden Lab to understand that! But I can’t help wondering if we’re (or mostly me, I suppose) generalising IP to mean anything created in a digital landscape, which to me, seems absurd!
Now, please excuse the venting! I’m just trying to get my head around the issue! I need to look up lots of stuff, because the info’s there, I know! But that’s another thought I’ve had lately! I’m not ‘thinking’ enough! I’m not spending enough time thinking, each time I come across a dilemma like this one, I know there’s someone much smarter than me that has a brilliant answer or solution. So I’m trying to force myself to dare to think (dear Lord, what hard work) from the information I already have and stop this crazy cut’n'paste mentality I’ve locked myself into.
Now! In the good spirit of Easter, I have to drag myself to a family dinner where I’ll be ridiculed for my spinsterhood and failure to accomplish anything useful in today’s world!