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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