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Secondlife's copybot, nanofactory and the future model of constitution

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The economic downfall of a system can be caused by a machine that can copy everything. That is the lesson we get from online game, secondlife. And the remedy? Sue the software developer under DMCA. I consider that to be a bad option, and I will tell you why.

Secondlife's Constitution (read: Terms of Service) regulates:

3.2 You retain copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to Content you create in Second Life, to the extent that you have such rights under applicable law. However, you must make certain representations and warranties, and provide certain license rights, forbearances and indemnification, to Linden Lab and to other users of Second Life.

Users of the Service can create Content on Linden Lab's servers in various forms. Linden Lab acknowledges and agrees that, subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, you will retain any and all applicable copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to any Content you create using the Service, to the extent you have such rights under applicable law.

This was a post at the official secondlife blog:
Today I met with a large group of Residents, members of the Sellers Guild, to talk about the implications of a recently-developed LibSL product called CopyBot. CopyBot allows the user to create a replication of an object, including textures, that is fully permissive. Needless to say this product has caused tremendous worry among content creators who want to understand how its use may possibly affect their business. In particular, they are concerned about theft of their creations, and the potential for unscrupulous people to undercut their prices and essentially take away their business...
Merely copying something doesn’t mean that a copyright violation has occurred. The law discusses ‘fair use’, for example, as one type of copying that is not a violation. If you DO think someone has copied something you made and is violating your copyright by profiting from the copying then you do have the option of using the DMCA process to file a complaint.
I have not hear any case where online game disputes are brought to a court, and the decision is enforced. In my last blog post, I refer to a story in which the court decide not to enforce an oral agreement pertaining the sale and purchase of a virtual sword. However, if brought to a court, the current copybot case is slightly different to the case I mentioned earlier, as it deals with copyright, something that is adhered in a real world.

Copybot is a software provided by Libsecondlife. Its purpose is altruistic, the program itself is open-sourced. Libsecondlife applies disclaimer which exempts liabilities from the utilization of its software. Although Libsecondlife does not directly infringe copyright, it could still be held liable under contributory infringement. Contributory infringement is a form of direct infringement in which, a party is aware that (1) there is an infringing activity, (2) it provides assistance or inducement for the infringement. Contributory infringement usually occurs when a party uploads serial numbers or providing a website to upload/download unauthorized serial numbers.

However, this may not be exactly the case with Libsecondlife as they only provide a hack software to be used outside the game itself, via a third party channel. The only problem is that, players are using the software in an infringing manner. So, although Libsecondlife is acquittable to contributory infringement, the case is "thin".

Nanotech expert has been calling the falling down phenomenon of a system due to the birth of abundancy as "disruptive abundance". It is feared that when nanofactory is available for free, then the existing system could collapse. Some experts has suggested to apply artificial scarcity in order to prevent the disruption. This is created either by restricting the ownership of nanofactory or providing technical restrictions to productions.

The fundamental difference between secondlife and future application of MNT is of course, in second life, disputed parties can log off their computer, get back to the real world and settle their dispute in a court. In the future MNT society, there is no way to log off.
Now, how are we going to settle our dispute? The only way of settling the dispute is by referring to our own rules of the game, the Constitution of the post-MNT society. What would the constitution look like? I don't know.

It would be great if parties in the second life disputes settle their case out of court, inside their own virtual world. We shall see, would they be able to settle their own problem or not? Can they use their rationality and refer the case to their own Constitution (read: Terms of Service)? I would suggest that they form their own internal dispute settlement mechanisms. I want to know how it work, as the results can be used to model the legal system of the future societies. If Secondlife citizens fail to solve their dispute and would need a court settlement, then it would be depiction of our future society: we will fail in settling our dispute and would require some extra terrestrial help (which of course, will never arrive).

When arguing about the existence of a law in international relation, Hugo Grotius said in latin: ibi societas, ubi ius. When there is society, there is law. When there is international society, there is an international law. When there is a virtual society, there has to be a "virtual" law.