Living in a Virtual World

Second Life was clearly generating the most buzz at the 28th Annual Promotion Marketing Law Conference in Chicago on December 12th. Second Life http:/ is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), where players create avatars that interact with each other in a large virtual world.

Players can create goods and services for sale, using the game's internal currency, Linden Dollars, which are exchangeable for actual money on the Second Life Web site. Players can also program buildings and other "real estate" that can be seen and even sold.

In the past few months, real-world businesses have set up "shop" in the Second Life world, largely serving as advertising placements. CNET opened a virtual news bureau, American Eagle is selling clothes, car companies are virtual versions of their lines for use in the Second Life World -- the Pontiac Solstice, Nissan Sentra and three models from Toyota's Scion division have reportedly been added to the game.

As this world develops, a number of very interesting legal issues will be similarly developing, including how intellectual property rights will be protected as well as exposure for infringing uses. Other questions have to do with law enforcement (is stealing Linden Dollars theft, data hijacking or copyright infringement, since they exist virtually but are exchangeable for real money?),and jurisdictional issues among others. Even though Second Life may be a virtual world, real world issues will nevertheless remain - ranging from basic truth in advertising and claim substantiation to clearance rights.

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