TIM FAULKNER — Second Life may face a new threat, the need to apply and enforce real law in its virtual world. A Pennsylvania court has denied two requests by Linden Lab, which would have effectively ended the first legal challenge, Bragg v. Linden, to the Second Life creator. Instead, the decisions may grant greater rights and control of the online world to the users. Maybe that can be viewed as validation, but it also spells trouble for the online fantasy world.
The case stems from Linden Lab removing "property" allegedly acquired using an exploit by a SL user, Bragg, and then closing his account. The deciding factor being that real rights to virtual property are being observed and marketed by Linden Lab. Exactly what their CEO Rosedale has been trumpeting as Second Life's redeeming value!
Since Rosedale, the former CTO of Real Networks, has been marketing real IP, property, and economic rights in his virtual world, he will remain a defendant. His company's ToSes requiring arbitration in disputes have been deemed "unconscionable", a "contract of adhesion," meaning it can't be enforced just because the user clicked a button.
The case will still need to play out and only concerns the sum of $8,000. However, it appears that greater scrutiny and enforcement of commerce within Second Life and other virtual worlds is possible and may be necessary. The "commerce" (largely characterized by pyramid schemes, faulty valuations, and unreal exchange rates) could be subject to real world law. Policing griefers could give way to policing "real" crimes. Possibly validating the impact of virtual worlds, but certainly a massive complication to Linden's business plan, which they could previously enforce because of a click of their now unreal ToSes.