Avatar-on-Avatar Legal Action in Second Life

We have a rather odd story this Saturday coming all the way from the idyllic digital shores of Second Life. Last Month entrepreneur Kevin Alderman, founder of Eros LLC, a company specializing in the manufacture of virtual genitalia and intimate action scripts for Second Life avatars, filed a civil lawsuit against avatar "Volkov Catteneo" in a U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida, alleging that Catteneo broke copy protection on Eros's "SexGen Platinum" and sold unauthorized copies of the program. "We confronted [Catteneo] about it and his basic response was, 'What are you going to do? Sue me?"' Alderman said. "I guess the mentality is that because you're an avatar ... that you are untouchable. The purpose of this suit is not only to protect our income and our product, but also to show, yes, you can be prosecuted and brought to justice."

According to Catherine Smith, director of marketing for Second Life creator Linden Lab, this suit is the first recorded legal fight between two Second Life avatars, though probably not the last, as Linden Lab grants its users broad rights to create and sell content with few restrictions. "Whenever you create a situation where people are buying and selling things and potentially misappropriating them from their rightful owners, it is only a matter of time before the legal system gets called in," said Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "This seems like a relatively straightforward case. It sounds like there is a real copyright issue."

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