Sunday, October 3, 2010

In VW Governance, Does Design Trump All?

I enjoyed a very interesting discussion at Edutopia ( in Second Life on Saturday about regulation of virtual worlds, specifically the (now defunct) banking industry and why it failed. Eventually, the conversation turned to content creation, problems with copybots in SL, and the general governance of intellectual property in virtual worlds.

Several in the group called for more regulation by the owners of SL, Linden Labs, while others stressed the need to apply real-world laws and regulations to VWs more consistently. The point I tried to make was that a governance structure is critical to moving VWs forward as viable platforms for business, content production, education, and all of the other uses VWs have been touted as potentially providing.

How to do this effectively is the obvious question, however, and one that was put to me at one point during the discussion. I noted the obvious problems with LL providing governance, and said I believe the solution goes beyond corporate oversight or real-world intervention. VWs should be designed from the ground up to provide protection for the intellectual property of those who create the world's content.

Real-world laws already apply to VWs, specifically relating to digital rights, but but this is still a developing area of the law with many complications, as seen in this example. A clearer and probably more effective way of managing such issues rests on the design of the VW. I think this is where Blue Mars has it right so far. Concerns about censorship aside, creating content outside of the VW and importing it in-world as an object provides a high standard of protection for creatives and their creations.

I'm currently reviewing a recent article in the Akron Intellectual Property Journal, which should shed more light on the topic, and I'll have more to say about it later this week.

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