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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


While this SL blog still remains mired in the old school medium of text and pictures (NWN podcasts coming soon I promise), we're seeing Residents blogging in other formats. Master builder Maxx Monde has been producing an audio blog for the last few months. Mixed to a downtempo groove, it feature his chatty personal tour of favorite spots in Second Life (you could play them while in-world, checking out the sites as he describes them), recent news, and (announced with appropriate echo effects) the latest "Forum Drama". Mr. Monde has the smooth FM radio patter down, so here's hoping we hear more of them.

Going the full AV route, Aren Mandala recently launched a video blog featuring short, nicely edited snippets of SL life. One of the latest videos features a pair of nude green people with no discernible sex organs and their heads in giant caviar boxes dancing to Euro electronica-- so, you know, day-in-the-Second Life stuff. I'm guessing we'll see more videoblogs like this soon (in fact, there's rumors of one or two already in production.)

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Monday, January 30, 2006


Doing a virtual jig for Creative Commons...

I don't know what Lawrence Lessig imagined he'd do in the years after arguing Eldred vs. Ashcroft before the Supreme Court, though I'm guessing it didn't include hopping around on a giant tree surrounded by elves, orcs, the odd dragon and centaur, and Scottish highlanders in kilts near a table of virtually steaming haggis.

But this is exactly what he did last weekend, teleporting into the branches of the great Haggie's Tree in ElvenGlen, a private island terraformed into a faerie-dusted land suitable for Queen Forcythia Wishbringer to govern. When he arrived, the traditional supper in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns was already going full roar, with freshly cooked haggis delivered to the table in a processional ceremony (I did the honors), toasts given, drinks raised and quaffed, and dozens of bare knees kicking in a synchronized dance of flying kilts.

All a strange way for an esteemed law professor at Stanford to spend his Saturday, perhaps, even if it was to help raise donations for the Creative Commons initiative. Then again, by the time he showed up, another luminary was already there getting jiggy with the jig: famed blogger and fellow CC boardmember Joi Ito in flipflops, kicking it with an ivy-covered dryad and Dagny Hemingway, one of the feast's beguiling hostesses.

"Ito-San," Lessig observes out loud from across the tree, "nice dance."

So role playing and real life wove together, two avatars immediately identifiable by their actual names and appearances, gamely enjoying the chance to socialize with the fantastic for a good cause.

"I'm breathless with joy with all the wonderful tartan costumes and dancing," the fair lass Dagny sighs, amid the dancing throng.

"It is important when one's head is in the clouds to keep the feet on the floor," Queen Forcythia sagely advises her.

"Hey, Mr. Lessig," Davos Desmoulins interjects nearby, "since I don't know you I have to ask if you have read the book 'http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm' and if so what do you think about it?"

"Not read it," the professor replies, in between foot stomping, "I'll check it out."

Then Dagny offers a ribald toast to manly men:

'Tis to the gents that I'll now bow.
Men make life rich somehow.
Though lassies say, when they're alone,
that laddies often make us groan as much as smile.
Oh, laddies, may ye never be much different that ye are.
For what ye are is what we need. Without strong lads, wee lassies go to weeds.

Not to be outdone, Hagrid Bergson, bearded bear of a man himself, makes a toast of his own:

It is the spirit of Creative Commons in SL that made this tree possible.
If you don't know about Creative Commons,
check out CreativeCommons.org.
Within a month of being here I was able to make this tree,
because I was able to buy a build kit for trees that had mod rights.
Based on Real Life experience I knew that branches
followed a fractal pattern.
And after looking at many trees I found a kit that had these prims.
I found a fractal script in the Forums.
Once I was done, Wayfinder gave me the leaves.

Herbert Hoggard turns to Lessig, booming: "Cheers to the man!!"

"Cheers to the Commoners," Lessig responds in turn. And after some time alone in a kilt sitting on a branch (perhaps contemplating the future of free culture by moonlight), he turns to the gathered throng, some in plaid, some in chainmail, some in just the scales or wings that the Creators gave them.

"So thanks to everyone who came and was kind enough to give something to Creative Commons," he says. "I've got to go take care of my kid, but I hope I can come back. There are few places in the worlds where people understand what we're about as well as here."

"Take care, Lawrence," Queen Forcythia proclaims, "you are always welcome in the Elven lands."

"But meanwhile," he says, nodding to his friend in black, "teach Joi some tricks. Back soon."

Thanks to all who helped contribute a total of L$37,178 to the Creative Commons donation box provided by Pathfinder Linden. All funds are transferred to Lawrence Lessig's Second Life account, and from there sold and converted into US$ that are deposited directly to Creative Commons' official PayPal account. More events to benefit CC will be planned this Wednesday and Saturday; join the Free Culture group to get involved!

UPDATE, 1/31: For those arriving to this blog for the first time, the debuted appearance of Lawrence Lessig's avatar is recounted here.

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Friday, January 27, 2006


With so much interest in Lawrence Lessig's event and so much passion to continue discussing and promoting his ideas in Second Life, the Free Culture group (primarily created to reserve seating for his in-world appearance) has been repurposed into an ongoing affiliation, with plans for more events and fundraiser parties that will raise Linden Dollars, which will in turn be converted into US$ donations to the Creative Commons non-profit. Organized by Free Culture member Dagny Hemingway, the first one's tomorrow afternoon (Second Life Time), a Scottish-tinged celebration atop a giant tree. Kilts, toasts, virtual haggis in an elven village-- what's not to love? Info here.

I'm also helping plan future events with the folks of Free Culture, at meetings next Wednesday and the Saturday after next. Meetings and membership are open to all. Join the group, and bring your ideas and zest for free culture and Free Culture.

Of course, this isn't in the only Lessig-oriented activity to emerge in his wake-- there's also Zarf Vantongerloo's Creative Commons license-maker for Second Life creations, and Zenigma Suntzu's vote drive to convince Linden Lab to include CC and public domain licensing directly into the permissions system of the system itself-- his proposition for doing that here.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


A conversation with Lawrence Lessig, Philip Linden, Hamlet Linden, and a live SL audience, continued from yesterday; background here.

Today's entry: a Creative Commons jurisdiction in SL, coping with government censorship online, and other questions-- followed by a virtual autograph session.

Hamlet Linden: jesz Murakami asks, “When you talk of [copyright] warriors -- do you see them as pawns in a deeper war... that the status quo of this is truly feared?"

Lawrence Lessig: The status quo is afraid, but I don't think they understand what they are afraid of. They've got quarterly earnings and no tenure and new technologies they don't know how to monetize. So they do what everyone threatened does. They attack. That's why I think it is best to build the alternative without destroying what they're doing, and then let people understand its values.

HL: Ty Magpie asks, “What about duplication of corporate logos in builds that attempt to reconstruct real life places, like real life convenience stores with Pepsi and Coors ads everywhere... could they sue over such someday?”

LL: They could complain if it was unclear who was responsible for the stuff. So if you start producing Coke and call it Coke, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy.

HL: Calix Metropolitan asks, “Second Life states in [its] Terms of Service that they abide by DMCA and offer a way to dispute IP infractions. The problem is IP infractions can vary and are very hard to prove as code, building and the tools used to make objects are basically the same format. Is there a copyright similar to a Founders Copyright (Creative Commons oversees this) or something akin to protect scripts that are original in nature and use? Also what about Non-Disclosure Agreements in Second Life vs. Real Life and subcontracting to members using SL money (which can equate to any currency through [Linden Lab currency exchange] LindEx trade)?"

LL: So in principle, a copyright is only violated if you copy someone else’s work. That makes proof very difficult, because if there are just a few ways to do something, there's a complicated question about whether it can be copyrighted, and then a hard question to know whether the defendant really did even see the original that he is alleged to have copied. I do know that on Democracy Island (I believe) they were demo-ing a Creative Commons tool-- very cool implementation. But we don't have an SL founders copyright.

HL: Oh yes, be sure to check out Zarf's Creative Commons machine.

LL: It is, and I'd love to build [a Founders Copyright tool] here. But we've not yet done that. Volunteers?

Regarding building Creative Commons here, you know, we have a program to port licenses into different jurisdictions. Maybe we should add Second Life to that list. There are 70 countries now in the process of doing that. Why not a virtual jurisdiction?

HL: Khalid Xingjian asks, “Is boycotting Yahoo! properties an appropriate response to its handling of the Shi Tao case? If so, how can it be made effective? People on Flickr (for example) are more upset about the United Arab Emirates blocking Flickr than its parent company's Shi Tao role.”

LL: The Yahoo issue is hard. Microsoft and Yahoo are big; they're not the Chinese government. So how they decide how to live there is a complicated question. I don't think a company on its own can choose to ignore the law. So either leave or obey the law-- or get the US governmentt to back them up for defending rights that ought to be defended.

HL: Dagny Hemingway asks, “Has Creative Commons been tested yet in a court of law and if not, what do you suppose the issues will be when it happens?”

LL: It has not, but there's nothing really creative or novel in the Creative Commons licenses. They are just copyright licenses following the teaching of the Free Software Foundation. If someone violates the license, they violate the underlying copyright. So just as any software or content licenses protects the copyright owner, Creative Commons licenses do as well. Big difference though is that CC licenses grant freedoms that wouldn't otherwise be there, while ordinary copyright licenses impose restrictions. So no test yet, but I'm not worried when one happens.

HL: OK, last question from me (exercising host rights). [In Free Culture] you suggest some specific solutions to improve the current copyright regime, but are somewhat general about how the voting public might come to support them. What's the best way of convincing average voters that this is important enough for them to call their Congress person?

LL: The key is for people to see the creativity these spaces invite. They need to see the stuff their kids do (other than downloading every song ever recorded), and then they need to see how the law treats that kind of creativity. My favorite recent example is Anime music videos. They are extraordinarily creative, amazing stuff, totally illegal under the law as it is. People have to see the creativity and then ask, “Why is this illegal?” And when they ask that question, some at least will ask it of a Congressperson.

We should get some Congress people in this space. I could get a couple if you want.

HL: Absolutely!

LL: I also think Judge Posner should come here.

HL: In a heartbeat!

LL: That would help lots-- for people to understand by seeing.

HL (grinning): Why not Justice Scalia too, while we're at it?

LL: He and I don't talk much anymore...

After the Q&A session, the audience lines up for the autograph session, each fan placing a copy of the virtual edition of Free Culture near the writing desk. When Professor Lessig clicks on the table, a ray of light emanates from his avatar, and a digitized copy of his signature is permanently displayed on the cover.


Professor Lessig's avatar is by lilith Pendragon. Publisher of the SL edition of Free Culture is Falk Bergman, who also created the autograph technology. The Pooley auditorium was created by Adam Zaius with help by Oz Spade. Co-hosts were Philip Linden and Jeska Linden; Coffee Linden provided ushering and security services.

The event was first proposed by Eggy Lippman, who also set it in motion by contacting Professor Lessig.


"Free Culture", the group created for reserving seats at the Lessig event, will continue on, running in-world events related to Lessig's ideas and projects, including Creative Commons and copyright reform-- some of which, hopefully, will involve Professor Lessig himself. To get in the group from SL, select Find> Groups, then search and join "Free Culture". If you're interested in becoming an officer in this group, helping create and organize future events, contact me-- "Hamlet Linden", or [email protected], via e-mail.

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Monday, January 23, 2006


A conversation with Lawrence Lessig, Philip Linden, Hamlet Linden, and a live SL audience, continued from last week; background here. Today's entry: audience questions on fair use in parody, cultural control by media conglomerates, lack of democratic participation in online worlds, transfer of IP rights from the virtual to the real, and much more.

Hamlet Linden: First, someone named Neptune Rebel offers greetings from Kevin Werbach, apparently a mutual colleague of yours. He also asks a question about your view of fair use with regard to parody.

Lawrence Lessig: I've stolen every great idea [Werbach's] had and turned it into a book (there are still many I havent written yet.)

Calix Metropolitan [from the audience]: Sounds like IP infraction, eh?

LL: So sue me.

So copyright law gives you the right to "fair use". What is that? Who knows. It is a four factor balancing test that no one can predict up front. Meaning fair use = the right to hire a lawyer.

One supposedly clear example is parody. But that doesn't mean what you think. Parody is using someone's work to make fun of them. It is not using someone's work to make fun of someone else. So, again, a subtle complex distinction that is useless to 90% of the people who need it. The whole problem here is the law was written to make sure we'd need lawyers to interpret it. Good for people like me (I make lawyers for a living) but not for creators.

Philip Linden: This point about how if you don't really know if something is illegal, you won't do it, is SO important.

LL: Totally. Especially for venture caps. They won't invest in a law suit.

PL: Terrible so far beyond simply being job security for lawyers.

LL: And so much innovation in the Valley is lawsuit bait.

HL: Sandy Sullivan asks, "What do you think about a society where some people choose to release designs for free access and modification, and others choose to release designs with restrictions and protections in place? Each creator freely choosing?"

LL: I like that society. I think we need a place were creators choose. I have my bias about the right choice. But I don't know squat about how creators create, especially here. So let people decide, and we'll see whose works spread best. And whose work gets the most attention.

HL: Athel Richelieu asks, "Do you think that the largest American media conglomerates (Viacom, etc.) role in defining culture is superseding religion?"

LL: Nay, religion is still pretty damn dangerous. But when they [conglomerates] control the platform of life, then they (not Linden Lab) will be the gods of this space.

Think about the story from MySpace. Owned by Murdoch. When people would chat in MySpace about YouTube (which is a very very cool video site), the machine would block the chats. That's "freedom" in Murdoch land.

PL: Funny, I don't feel free.

HL: Justice Soothsayer asks, "As the author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, could you speak for a bit about Second Life, where the world is made for us by the 'coders', that is, the people who create this 'world'. What place does democracy and the rule of law have in such a world?"

LL: Please, tell me. The most interesting thing about the many worlds that are out there is that none really have a vigorous democracy. Maybe that's good. Maybe the market is enough of a check. But it is funny that so few have developed this part of life. Maybe that's because we are all so turned off by politics and government and "democracy." It is the one true religious ideal we all have, yet like most religion, we don't really believe it.

PL: There is a passion here in Second Life... to bypass "representation" in the democratic process. I think that drives much of the negative sentiment, appropriately.

LL: Yeah. What's so funny is how much we hate politicians, and how completely they miss that fact.

HL: Csven Concord asks, "What are your thoughts on the interchangeability of tangibility; when real world products are treated the same as current media-- digitized, shared online and then fabricated by individuals at home?"

LL: So if you mean, when something gets created here, and then gets reproduced in real space. Is that what you mean? Well, let's assume that's the question. I think it's fanstastic. People separate these worlds too much. We need good examples about how they're linked.

HL: Nathan Welch asks, "With new so-called 'personal fabrication' devices, most people could produce real products cheaply in their own homes. Plans to build them could be exchanged online. What [Creative] Commons-minded projects would you advocate in this upcoming field?"

LL: Complex ones. The thing strict IP does poorly is complex work. Coding, e.g., gnu/gpl, Linux, or building complicated biotech stuff. So use the Commons for what it's good for-- collaboration. Think Wikipedia.

Lessig notices the setting sun.

Man, it gets dark fast.

PL: Four hour day! Everything is faster here.

LL: Except my typing.

HL: TonyRockyHorror Hauptmann asks, "What happens when something that person A creates in-world free of protection is taken out of world by person B and then uses outdated law to then protect it out [of] game world?"

LL: Well here's the point about there not really being two worlds here. If I create something, and then you take it and exploit it, you're violating my IP (assuming its protected) unless I've authorized you to. So B would have to exploit it on terms I approve, or B's violating my rights.

HL: Forseti Svarog asks, "Lawrence said he had no idea what the term for IP protection should be. Isn't having a concrete position necessary to get credibility from opponents who think the other side is just about creative theft?"

LL: Could be. But not in the argument we had in Eldred. In Eldred, the question was whether Congress could EXTEND an existing term.

Here's why that makes no sense.

Copyright is about creating incentives. Incentives are prospective. No matter what even the US Congress does, it will not give Elvis any more incentive to create in 1954. So whatever the length of copyright should be prospectively. We know it can make no sense of incentives to extend the term for work that is already created.

Second point. I was talking about in-world IP. In real space, I'm fairly confident the term is already way too long. In the Eldred case, we argued that the current term gave a copyright owner 99.98% of the value of a perpetual term. Justice Breyer corrected me. He said it was 99.99996% of a perpetual term.
Too long.

HL: Dear Leader asks, "Why is it that you want individual creators in Second Life to have copyright, and celebrate that, but you condemn MySpace for wanting to preserve copyright, or other corporations-- isn't there a contradiction here?"

LL: I condemned a decision by programmers of MySpace to interfere with the words of its members. That's the only criticism.

EZ Rawley [from the audience]: Aren't virtual worlds by definition not fixed tangible forms, which is what IP law covers?

LL: No, virtual worlds certainly would create work that is covered by IP. Fixed and tangible enough.

PL: There must be a balance... time to create value for a person, but still maximize value for a society.

LL: Yes. That's the balance.

Dear Leader [from the audience]: Isn't always ascribing social missions to creativity itself a form of oppression, Philip?

HL: Rob Bukowski asks, "Do you think legal binding contracts could ever work in a virtual world such as Second Life?"

LL: They could. Question is whether you want them. This is the same question about whether you want code or norms to regulate behavior. If you coded contracts here, so they forced things to happen the way promised, that would be very efficient for some things...

PL: And do we want them globally (made in Linden Lab code), or locally (made in scripts)?

LL: ... but it might ruin other things. E.G., if I promise you we'll have lunch tomorrow, and then change my mind, it would be an awful world if you could then sue me for breach of contract. Some things ought to be left to people to work out, without the law.

Regarding Philip's question-- if anywhere, start locally.

PL: Totally agree.

HL: VonKorf Schnook asks, "In Free Culture you wrote: 'But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal...' Second Life is feudal at its core-- see all the Linden dynasties around-- how can culture be free here, where private property creates feudal structures?"

LL: So I meant something different. The sense of feudal was that you couldn't really free the property of certain burdens. So the laws at the time, for example, made it impossible to sell the land outside the family, and so on. In Free Culture, I was thinking of a specific kind of contrast.

PL: Right... your choices here are your own, regardless of the Lindens, etc.

LL: Imagine in real space, if you bought a table, and decided after a month to move it from your living room into your office. But before you could do that, you had to call the maker of the table and ask permission. And they would ask-- so, what computer will you use on it, because we have an exclusive with Apple, or what books will be near it, because Penguin is our publisher. Well, that's just what the rules are like with copyright.

You buy a CD by Sting. You want to use it in a particular way. You want to remix it, and share that with your friends. You can't, according to the law, unless you get Sting's permission. Trust me, he doesn't answer his e-mail.

HL: Gwyneth Llewelyn asks, "In the software industry, open source software can be released by a company for a profit, since they are able to provide services with the software. Now how can a writer make a living from a book they set in the public domain?"

LL: Turns out, surprisingly, in lots of ways. E.g., in South Africa, there is a research council called something long and too hard to type. They had about 200 researchers in 15 different programs. They wrote books, which they then sold. In 2001, they decided to stop publishing books by default. Instead, they published everything for free in electronic form. And then they sold print-on-demand books to anyone who wanted. In 2005, they evaluated the effect of this.

Remember: before, they sold everything. Now they gave everything away for free.

Consequence-- book sales had gone up by 300%, for obvious reasons. More people knew about the work and most people (in real space, at least) don't want to read a book on a computer. So making it free made it easier to sell books. I don't think that works always, but it does work for some. And all I argue for is the right of creators to make that choice

HL: Dana Bergson asks, "Philip was talking about how he wants to further the fast development of Second Life by giving sensible IP rights to Residents, while real life copyrights strangle growth in real life. But how would it be possible to de-couple IP in SL and RL? Both are heavily intertwined. This is no country with its own laws."

LL: Sure. You could have rules for how stuff created here gets used here. What freedoms members of this community have, at least when here. And in principle, you could even have rules that controlled how people's IP created here would be governed in real space. That's totally possible.

PL: And perhaps common law would help us there. A few decisions recognizing that things were logically distinct, or different here than in real life.

HL: Daniel Terdiman from CNET is in the office here at Linden Lab and he has a question: "I wonder if he's familiar with Marvel v. NCSoft and if so, what he thinks of the idea of restricting the kinds of characters players can create. And also, how much of a chill on free content creation is it to have a settlement between those parties that doesn't reveal what the terms are?"

LL: I know the case. It is a perfect example of the insanity of these laws. People ought to be able to create. The idea that Marvel owns these characters in every use they might have is wrong. IT is just this kind of limit that we need the law to craft. And yes, it is bad we don't know the settlement, but the settlement wouldn't control the law. We need some good common law cases to describe the freedom here so others can build on it.

On my blog there's a fantastic link to a .mov about characters being quashed in-world by real space lawyers. Very funny.

PL: I LOVED that video on your site, Lawrence. The movie really wraps it all up.

HL: Philip needs to roll from the restaurant [he's logging into SL from in Austin, TX] so I wanted to give him time to say a few words before he exits, and I'll continue on.

PL: Well... there is so much to talk about. But the waitress is hovering near our strange little table. And the wi-fi goes not much past the door, I assume.

I really hope that as Second Life grows, we are able to get more time with Lawrence to help us think through all these opportunities. I hope to be able to trade strange stories of this new world for a bit of his time.

LL: I would really love that. Finally to work on problems where we could make some progress.

PL: We have a chance, if we make the right decisions. to be a place that really matters and moves forward fast. Thanks so much for having me here. And please continue on! Take care everyone!

To scattered applause, Philip Linden exits the world in a poof of smoke.

Urizenus Sklar [from the audience]: I thought he would never leave!

Continued tomorrow...

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Friday, January 20, 2006


Continued from yesterday; background here. Today's entry: thoughts on law and IP in virtual words, in Second Life, and in Lessig's writing.

Philip Linden: Lawrence, it is such an honor to have you here!

Lawrence Lessig: It is great fun.

PL: Our world, Second Life, is an opportunity to take a look at the rules that govern society and to the extent that we are able, re-write them as best seems to fit us. And Free Culture is such an incredible explanation of some of the things we need to hold dear in this consideration.

For those here who don't know, Lawrence has affected the history of SL already. We had a meeting in 2003 to think about the future of Second Life, and Lawrence was kind enough to attend, and to give us his thoughts on IP, land, and how things should be in SL. Shortly thereafter we gave IP rights to creators...

LL: Bravo.

PL: ... and switched to our system of land ownership. Clearly, looking at the last two years, this was the right call. As every free society has discovered. We have realized, more and more over time, how much SL is a developing nation, and how, if we want to succeed, we must make the choices which fastest and best advance us all. These sorts of choices are at the heart of Lawrence's work.

One thing that I have often said about Second Life, is that it is a kind of time machine, a place where innovation is rewarded, or perhaps ideas fail, or businesses rise and then decline in a fraction of 'real world' time. What I was struck by in reading Free Culture is how important this idea on time becomes! By extending copyrights, we are going in exactly the opposite direction. Slowing progress in the real world. In the same way we can hopefully speed it here.

In the beginning of Free Culture, you tell the story of air rights, of how overflying property is a public good.

LL: Yes, a problem you've dealt with.

PL: This is SO relevant and topical in SL. Something we've all struggled with, how to balance freedom and ownership with progress and benefit for all. I wanted to ask you a question, that I think folks in SL will really relate to, and is an example of where we are at the edge of the envelope. I interviewed a person for a job at Linden Lab the other day, and she was telling me how one of her dreams for using Second Life was to build the sets of movies and allow people to act out the endings in a different way to be a part of the movie. But then, of course, she paused and said, "Oh, but wouldn't that be illegal?"

I think she really didn't know. I think I don't really know.

And that is what your book is all about. I don't think that exactly motivated her to go in there and start working on Finding Nemo. What do you think would happen to her if she did?

LL: So Second Life is prominent. It would get shut down. It is a totally simple application of existing law. You're publishing a derivative of the movie. You need permission from the movie owner. But what the lawyers don't think about is how much of ordinary life they're rendering illegal by this way of thinking. Because as life moves online we should have the SAME FREEDOMS (at least) that we had in real life. There's no doubt that in real life you could act out a movie, or a different ending to a movie. There's no doubt that would have been "free" of copyright in real life. But as we move online, things that were before were free, now are regulated.

That's why people here are so important to this debate. You have got to make the (clueless) politicians aware of what 19th century law is doing to the 21st century. They don't get it. They think they're stopping "pirates" when they stop all sorts of creativity.

PL: Given how fast things change in SL, how long would you make copyrights and patents hold?

LL: Great question. No idea. The issue is how long do they need to be to give the kind of incentive they're needed to give. I like the idea that people here create and then can exploit that creativity. Out of world, too...

PL: Right.

LL: And one complication you might have is that in-world, if copyrights are different from out of world, then you'll have something protected in real space, not protected in-world. But maybe that's fine. I don't know enough to say how things should be here. But I do have a sense of the questions you should ask.

PL: I agree that one key question is the duration of [the] value of a work. Perhaps this is something we will be able to see statistically, given that our world here is so transparent, and better inform the debate.

Calix Metropolitan [from the audience]: Transparent?

LL: One point though, regarding duration. It might be fun to experiment [with] different terms, and see how that matters to growth, or creativity.

PL: Yes, it's a good point. Let an answer evolve.

[To the audience]

Well, I probably can't think of questions as good as those from all of you. And, in true Second Life style, I am currently sitting in a restaurant in Austin, Texas with some folks from MIT and a leading ad creative agency watching over my shoulder.

LL: Now I'm really hungry.

PL: Well the food isn't here just yet!

LL: That doesn't help.

Quantum Waves [from the audience]: Drooling?

LL: Totally.

Hamlet Linden: Actually, I had one related to Code, and then we'll turn to the audience... let's talk a little about that section of Code you're rewriting for the revision, that deals with virtual worlds.

LL: Shoot.

HL: In it, you describe an online world where two neighbors resolve a property dispute by changing the very code of the objects they own-- in this case, virtual poisonous flowers and a virtual dog. The solution is for the one with the poison flowers to re-code them so they don't kill the other neighbor's dog. You describe this as a positive outcome for both parties, but can you see how it might also be a socially negative outcome, too? Instead of trying to find a compromise that doesn't break the shared reality of their world, they alter it in a way that threatens to break the illusion.

LL: That's a great point. And in fact I interviewed this guy to my left [i.e. Philip Linden] last week, and was trying to get the same idea. When does it make sense to code a solution, and when does it make sense for people to work it out? I like to think about different "modalities of regulation" (that's the way a professor needs to talk). One is code. One is law. One is norms and one is markets. And the hard question for me is when does a designer decide-- don't code a solution. Let them work it out themselves. Not because it is hard to code. Maybe it's totally simple but because people should work it out, not have it solved [through code].

PL: It has been a hard problem for us-- when to code. Probably we code too much, in restrospect.

LL: With god sitting in on the conversation.

Continued Monday...

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Thursday, January 19, 2006


... being a lightly edited transcript of an in-world evening with co-host Philip Linden and the Stanford law professor, Creative Commons advocate, and author of Free Culture. Background here.

Hamlet Linden:
About three years ago, Stanford legal scholar Lawrence Lessig stood before the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court. From one perspective, he was arguing over the interpretation of a single sentence in the US Constitution.

From another angle, he was fighting for the very future of ideas and art-- in America, and by extension, the world.

His most recent book, Free Culture, is a story of that ongoing battle-- what led up to it, how he fought it, and where we can go in the aftermath of the Court's decision. And though it may seem strange, it's actually quite appropriate that he takes his case here (so to speak), in avatar form. As we'll soon find out.

So ladies and gentlemen, from the office of Linden Lab in San Francisco and this hilltop auditorium of Pooley, please join me in welcoming Professor Lawrence Lessig.


Before I turn you over to Philip Linden, I wanted to start off with a few questions on Free Culture to set the context. Let's say you get in the elevator with Senator Orrin Hatch and Daniel Robert Glickman, the new head of the MPAA-- what point from Free Culture would you convey to them, in the short time you have?

Philip Linden [grinning]: We all do that at least once.

Lawrence Lessig: So the thing Orrin should be asked is this: how come the government is spending so much energy regulating creativity? Where's the Republican in that? And second, how come spending so much time protecting this powerful industry against competition, rather than embracing competition as the way we find a new world. Two quick questions before floor three.

HL: Now let's say Senator Hatch and Glickman get out, and in comes a kid who likes to download lots of music and movies via peer to peer-- what point from Free Culture would you convey to him?

LL: I don't have anything to tell the kid. The kid is teaching us something. If you look at the creativity kids have demonstrated using digital technology, that's enough to say that we, professors, lawyers, congressmen, should listen, not lecture.

: But what do you tell him [if] he wants to get involved with teaching us more?

LL: Well, he should want to teach us more, because we or the government are quite good at destroying. And the one thing they seem most keen to do is to use the law to protect dying industries, and in that way destroy new worlds. So to speak.

PL: Potentially literally!

HL: It's been nearly two years since Free Culture was published. What significant changes in the world of media and the entertainment industry have you seen since then, and how have they enhanced or modified the arguments you were making in the book?

LL: The explosion of what I call (but would love a better word for) the "read write Internet". The key thing we're seeing now is the Internet used to create and remix culture. The focus two years ago was peer to peer filesharing. But the focus today is the stuff that happens here [in Second Life]. Or in mashups. Or with remixed music. Or anime music videos. This capacity and this creativity is extraordinary. And yet the "war" that that the copyright industry is waging against "piracy" will kill it. At least as a legitimate part of culture.

HL: Tell me a little bit about pleading the Eldred case before the Supreme Court in 2002, and how difficult it was to write about the experience so self-critically.

LL: So Eldred began in 1998. I was a new professor at Harvard. I was a believer in what the law could do. I saw this law -- the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. An act that extended the term of copyright for EXISTING works by 20 years. [Eric Eldred wanted to continue uploading works of literature online, as they entered the public domain, and sued for the right to continue doing so against the Bono Act. - HL] The 11th extension of existing copyright terms in 40 years. And I compared it to the Constitution, which says that Congress has the power to PROMOTE THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE by securing FOR LIMITED TIMES exclusive rights to authors for their writings. And it was clear to me that current practice was inconsistent with the framers’ intent.

Now I had clerked for Justice Scalia. An originalist. A conservative. And so I knew quite well the philosophy of the conservatives. And they believe that you interpret and apply the Constitution as it was originally intended. So I thought: great, we go to the Supreme Court, we show them this law and the original Constitution, and the conservatives will agree with us because of originalism and the liberals will agree with us because of the burden on free speech, and we'll get nine (actually eight -- there's one really pro-copyright person on the Court) on our side.

It was insanely naive.

When we got close to the argument at the Supreme Court, a friend, a law professor, said to me: so I'm convinced you're right on the law. But tell me the last time the Supreme Court voted against all the money in the world.

I told him he was being really boring. That's not how the Court thinks.

He understood something more than I.

HL: In your argument before the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy asks you for empirical evidence that extending copyright has impeded cultural progress. You keep the focus on a point of Constitutional law, though you now regret not citing such evidence. If you could do it over again, what empirical evidence would you give Justice Kennedy and the Court?

: Yeah. It was a good question. The problem is it's hard to point to evidence as in stuff people have counted. But things since then have made the issue clearer. Think for example about the Google book search project. Google wants to index 18,000,000 books and make them searchable. If the book is in copyright, you'll get a "snippet" around the search. If it is not in copyright, then you can see the full book. Of the 18 million books, 16% are out of copyright. 9% are in copyright and in print.

That means 75% are in copyright, but out of print.

Now the publishers say you need to ask permission before you index these books. But how do you ask the 75% of 18 million authors when we have no list of copyright owners, no record of who owns the rights, no way to track down current claimants at all. Yet it stands in the way-- and now threatens Google with a huge law suit-- because the term gets extended and extended. The term for the framers was 14 years, renewable once. It is now life of the author plus 70 years-- which for someone creating in the way Irving Berlin did, would be 140 years.

So, Justice Kennedy, does blocking access to 50-75% of the books in our tradition constitute a burden on our culture?

HL: If you said all that, do you think the case could have turned your way?

LL: People who know stuff say there was no way to win. I still think that two things could have changed their view.

First, I should have been meaner to the conservatives. I should have held their feet to the fire of their own principles-- directly telling them that they couldn't consistently decide that Congress was free to make up whatever term they wanted and that it was limited in all the ways the conservatives have limited Congress. It should have been framed as a-- you choose-- principled or political, question.

The second thing would have been to make the case less about Mickey Mouse, and more about the rest of culture that gets locked up just so we can protect Mickey. Probably 90% of the creativity that had its copyright extended is not commercially available at all. For creativity like films, that means that that works is totally inaccessible.

And when the copyrights for those films expire, the works themselves will literally have expired-- film decays; it will be dust before the copyright ends.

The point is they should recognize that they're choosing-- either help Mickey, or help preserve and make accessible our culture-- at least on terms different from the terms that Hollywood offers.

HL: OK, I think that sets the framework for the book-- I want to turn over the floor to Philip to let him discuss your relation to Second Life and other themes of these ideas impacting with virtual worlds.

Continued tomorrow...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Perfectly timed to coincide with and complement Lawrence Lessig's appearance today, Zarf Vantongerloo is debuting a Creative Commons license generator, for Residents who want to affix those standards to their in-world creations. Creator of the first in-world notary public (and now a Linden staffer), Zarf will demo his technology on Democracy Island, in the hour before Professor Lessig's avatar arrives at the Pooley Auditorium. Full details at the island's blog here.


Though reservations to the event are already full-up, text repeaters (which "broadcast" the event conversation anywhere in SL) are available-- IM me (Hamlet Linden) to request one.

At least one repeater "listening" party has been scheduled-- details here.

Video streaming expert Fremont Cunningham is generously creating a live simulcast of the event-- watching parties are scheduled here and here.

More updates posted as they arrive. And I'm still compiling a standby/will call list to accomodate any cancellations. To get on the standby list, IM me ASAP.

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Monday, January 16, 2006


When Arin Enfield glanced at the sun this morning he squinted and did a double take, because it looked like there was man with a dream staring down from it.

"Thought my mind was playing tricks on me," he admits laughing. "Gotta watch out for those subliminal suggestions." I flew toward the sun to see for myself, and confirm that it wasn't subliminal, nor a trick of the brain.

"I thought it was a very cool gesture," Enfield tells me. "I know politics is touchy [subject] in here, but hey, it is a national holiday in [the] United States." And since I happen to be in the Linden Lab office today, I could walk down the hall, asking who put Martin Luther King Jr. in the sun, but I suppose that'd be missing the point. I guess the idea is to always have him on your periphery today, and if you do notice him there, take some time to contemplate why he is.

Then again, I checked the Events for the day, and while there were dozens, advertising casino games and clothing-optional hot body contests, and so on, I didn't find any related to the holiday. Quite a change from a couple years back, when the world, far smaller than it is today, still held a memorial in his honor-- and a well-attended one at that.

And the fact that there aren't any announced now, least that I can see-- well, that's worth thinking about, too.

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If you've just come here through Der Spiegel's profile of Anshe Chung, welcome. Ms. Chung has made several appearances on this blog, including this story on a Chinese "virtual sweatshop worker", and the focus of this story on her purchase of an artist's commune which she converted into a vacation resort for the French-- which in turn began with this story on what the artists were building when she came. She appears in person, so to speak, in this story written after the first real world Second Life convention.

The New World Notes article she refers to at her e-commerce site-- "What happens when Linden Lab invites a journalist from a real-life architure magazine to Second Life? Of course he picks most of his architectural highlights on our Dreamland continent!"-- is taken from an extended tour of Second Life with virtual architecture critic Chip Poutine, whose comments on a Dreamland home are here.

Other highlight articles are along the left column of this site-- or check "The Best of New World Notes 2005" for a handy compendium.

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