Many things have helped the virtual world Second Life grow, including behavioral freedoms, fantastical outfits, buildings and vehicles, complex socialization and more.
But it is perhaps users' ability to create content, own its intellectual property rights and sell it for profit that has helped it become one of the hottest digital environments around.
Now, that dynamic is being threatened. Software recently introduced into Second Life called CopyBot is making it possible to copy any object, including its textures, regardless of whether such action interferes with someone's intellectual property rights.
Apparently, a whole lot of Second Life content creators are upset.
"Today I met with a large group of residents, members of the Sellers Guild, to talk about the implications" of CopyBot, Robin Harper, the vice president of community development and support at Linden Lab, which publishes Second Life, wrote in an official blog posting late Monday. "Needless to say this product has caused tremendous worry among content creators who want to understand how its use may possibly affect their business."
The problem is that Linden Lab, at least as can be judged by Harper's posting, has little power to stop the effects of CopyBot in the short term. Harper continued by pointing out that not all object copying is theft, given that many content creators already allow their designs to be freely copied.
But others don't. For such people who find their work illegally re-created by users with CopyBot, Harper said that one option is to file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act complaint and that Linden Lab may well assist in such processes.
She also made several other suggestions, each of which is just that, and which may take time.
"Ultimately, it's the DMCA process that provides you with the channel to protect your investment," she wrote.
This is all well and good, but what's clear here is that CopyBot is moving a lot faster than any DMCA process could, and many content creators are upset. And that is something that Linden Lab cannot allow to continue unabated. Because, after all, what is a marketplace with no sellers?