When technology governs

Mark Wallace had a very honest and reflective post in his blog yesterday about ‘the issue of trademark, copyright and intellectual property rights in Second Life’. There seems to be a lot of trust in Linden Lab’s technology to take care of these rights – but that technology can only govern in its space, Second Life. If someone were to copy these virtual objects into another program – what happens to these issues? If then the object comes back into Second Life but modified from another program? And…well…what about when some of the virtual objects become real, without the original creator’s consent? And…oh I’m on a roll now – with virtual worlds such as Second Life, where citizens are making real money from real businesses – well, Linden Lab can’t protect the intellectual property rights of this, can they…would they?
It seems the IP rights issued for creators in Second Life are governed by technology – the ability to protect objects from being copied technolgically. But ideas and creativity go so far beyond technological restrictions, do they not?
Mr. Wallace feels that laws of the physical world should apply to the metaverse as well. And what I think is so funny in these discussions is the assumption that we’re trying to protect the rights of the little man from being stolen from the big corporational man! Or is it just me? These programs were designed to help creators – to create, to be imaginative, to be free – when we start protecting things with an iron fist of the law (real world) and screaming out “You can’t touch this, this is mine ALL MINE!” (wow – it just dawned on me why MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” is so popular now days) – it tends to put a damper on creativity and freedom to express oneself. If there’s absolutely anything this whole Web 2.0 movement has taught me is that you can actually trust people to create, be thoughtful and respectful at the same time. Give them the trust and they’ll give you a lovely gift economy.
I guess I’m wondering, what’s stopping the Creative Commons being involved in Second Life? I’m actually asking here! Is there really a need to go as far as the courts to deal with this issue? And does someone really have to be sued in ‘small claims court’ in order for people’s creativity to be protected as their own?
I’m very wary of the advocation to get real world courts involved in issues concerning the metaverse, but I find Second Life a difficult issue. It’s gone so far beyond any definition of a game and the protection of ‘the magic circle’, so I really can’t say if I agree with Mr. Wallace’s post or not, I just thought I’d point it out as an interesting read! But I will concur that I don’t think we can trust technology to govern such worlds! As he so cleverly puts it:

“If the focus remains on technology as enforcer of the law, then it will eventually be (as Lawrence Lessig has pointed out) the technologists who are writing the laws. Now, I’m all for technologists, don’t get me wrong. But we didn’t elect them as legislators, did we?”

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