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Trying to get the Lab to talk about the – much delayed – move of the teens to the main Second Life grid is tricky. Responses either don’t come or are essentially “no comment”. Just mentioning the Teen Grid in front of the Lab causes it to clam right up. I get the impression that the Lab’s spokespeople are not permitted to discuss it. There apparently won’t even be a blog post to let people know.

Nevertheless, according to Terrence Linden last week at an in-world office hours session, teens are moving today, and that’s The Official Word.

Normally, according to the Lab, we’re not supposed to rely on any information given in office-hours sessions, as it may “not be accurate”, “not be Lab policy”, “not reflect internal schedules” or may just “be misinformed or mistaken”. Personally, if that’s the case, I cannot imagine why the Lab even bothers to have them if it tells us we shouldn’t believe the Linden who is hosting it.

Nevertheless, the Lab says that we can rely on any information that is declared to be official, and Terrence did just that:

Terrence Linden: So the official day is next Thursday

That was said last Thursday, so today is the day, and being official we can hold the Lab to it.

The Teen Grid gets turned off, and by close-of-business tomorrow sometime, the 16-17yo teens should be able to zip around any General-rated sims on the main-grid. More recently created (15 December and later) 16-17yo teens whose accounts would not activate should also have access.

So it could be as soon as sometime today, or it might be sometime tomorrow. The number of expected teens is hard to judge, but based on figures and statements given by the Lab at one time or another, I believe the number is between 80 and 200, and I believe is closer to the former than the latter. We’re not talking about a lot of teens here.

Now, a quick lesson in Child Protection legislation.

If you’re in a jurisdiction where Child Protection legislation applies, your local jurisdiction’s legislation is what applies to you and your actions (as is the norm). The situation is made somewhat simpler in that most jurisdictions that have Child Protection legislation have similar standards and protections, which makes the situation generally more uniform than intellectual property laws.

Now, nothing about the migration of teens to the adult Second Life grid actually changes anyone’s obligations, either as a Second Life user, or Linden Lab’s (as we all know that there have been teens using adult accounts in Second Life for some time); but it may increase the overall risks.

The short version is: If you make available prurient, inappropriate or obscene material to a minor (that is, someone under the age of 18 in most countries), and you yourself are nor a minor, then you are liable. You are still liable if the minor lied, cheated, stole or otherwise deceived you into thinking that they were not a minor. It’s a crime, and if your country has a sex-offender register, you will probably wind up on it if convicted.

If the minor did commit fraud or misrepresentation you can generally sue them for damages. That won’t get you back off your nation’s sex-offender register, however, or overturn your conviction.

As for who is at fault for the charge, it is never the minor. If it something handled by IM, inventory transfer, open chat, or scripted communications, then … well, you’re the responsible party.

On the other hand, if it is a purchase through Linden Lab, then it would be the responsible party in any case. Maybe that’s why Marty Roberts bowed out so suddenly recently. I probably would have under the same circumstances.

As for unattended item sales (ie: through a vendor) or use of your scripted furniture, Linden Lab might be held responsible or you might or the listed landowner, depending on where the object is, and the circumstances.

If little Suzy gets caught by her parents doing something she really shouldn’t ought to be doing in Second Life, the parents are going to be looking to blame pretty much anyone outside their home. Just who ends up getting charged becomes a bit of a scary crapshoot.

[Thanks to Bubblesort Triskaideakaphobia for the heads-up]

Footnote: Judging by the Web-logs, apparently I’m a favourite stop in for the search phrase “teens younger”. That isn’t a piece of information that I’m really happy to think about.

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