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Second LifeAlright, all of you armchair Second Life lawyers. Let’s turn the whole debate about Second Life’s new Terms of Service on its head, because looking at this from another perspective might be very helpful.

The question will be, what rights do you think Linden Lab needs in its Terms of Service to carry on the Second Life business as it stands today, without getting mired in lawsuits?

As an a priori assumption, you will have to allow one premise: That is that Linden Lab owns all of the virtual items/assets in Second Life, as personal property under US Law (per the basic property laws common to almost every jurisdiction, Linden Lab is the only party which passes the basic test of ownership). Linden Lab cannot repudiate that ownership or assign it to another party by any agreement or contract – it would require fresh legal precedent from the judiciary (as happened with the Dutch Supreme Court in 2012) to allow a situation where any third-party could be said to be the legal owner of these assets.

Think of every asset uploaded like a book. Linden Lab owns the book, regardless of whose inventory it is in. Any intellectual property contained in the asset are the words and pictures in that book. That intellectual property is yours, as a creator.

As a part of the Second Life platform as it currently exists today, Linden Lab displays those assets in the viewers and on multiple Web-sites, copies or moves them between the inventory of users (often in exchange for Linden Dollars), destroys them (and occasionally loses them), and allows users (under certain circumstances) to group existing assets together as new, derived assets, and so forth…

So, what are the minimum intellectual property rights that you believe that Linden Lab needs to be granted in the Terms of Service in order for the Lab to operate Second Life under these circumstances?

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