>We’ve previously discussed here on the blog the increasing interplay between virtual assets and real-world money. In the coming years, the waves of government regulation and legal action will continue to build amplitude as the virtual assets created within virtual worlds become more easily and profitably converted to real world money. With virtual worlds growing in size and the online gaming player population booming, the development of the law in this area will have wide-reaching ramifications. The Supreme Court of Korea marked its involvement on Sunday, ruling that virtual currency used in online games may be exchanged for real-world cash. The ruling was the result of the acquittal of two gamers, who were originally charged with violating a Korean law targeted at online gambling, which banned the exchange of virtual currency for hard currency. The gamers were accused under the law with selling virtual currency know as “Aden” from a… Continue Reading
>I was out at the Game Developers Convention in Austin last week. I had a great time and wish I could have met more folks. I’ll have some notes and observations on trends that I gathered from the festivities that I’ll be rolling out soon, but the one thing that really caught my eye was the extreme interest in the “Free to Play (with a heaping helping of microtransactions)” business model. My personal thought is that its going to get crowded online with everyone scrambling to attract their preferred gender/age demographic, while at the same time not having minimal (or no) revenue stream. Plus, if you are one of the lucky newcomers to have That Certain Something, what steps are you taking to prevent the existing games from simply adding That Certain Something as a game mode/feature to their own game?
>A favorite topic of discussion for many of the authors of this blog is virtual game worlds and virtual property. According to a recent online survey, about 10% of Americans spent real world money on virtual goods last year, the average tab being about $30. Granted, the survey results may be a bit skewed, since the participants were polled online, and thus more likely to be involved in virtual worlds and more comfortable with online transactions. However, despite its limitations, this survey adds insight to consumer spending behavior that is projected to lead to about $1 billion in sales of virtual goods worldwide this year. So, why spend real money for intangible digital items that you don’t really own? Well, the central goal of almost every player in a virtual game world is to acquire virtual assets that increase an avatar’s abilities or status within the game world. Virtual game… Continue Reading
>Taser International, Inc., recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the publisher of Second Life claiming that the publisher is illegitimately selling virtual Taser stun guns. Specifically, Taser says that these virtual stun guns are being sold next to pornographic material, which harms its brand. The suit states that, by associating Taser products with such content, the defendants have damaged Taser’s reputation. This concept is known in trademark law as “tarnishment.” Taser complains that the defendants sell virtual Taser stun guns and also sell adult-only explicit images and scenes, thus attaching such content to the Taser mark.While there have been a number of cases addressing tarnishment of a mark used without authorization in the context of sexual activity, obscenity, or illegal activity, providing virtual explicit materials within the same virtual environment as the virtual use of the trademark may not be enough to establish trademark tarnishment. Taser is also using… Continue Reading
>Second Life continues to increase its “mainstream” presence. This article from CNN.com explains how musicians have created careers for themselves in Second Life, illustrating with the example of a single mother who has earned $10,000 through her performances. Further, her performances are arranged by her Second Life booking agent.Although this article does not itself explore the various legal aspects presented by Second Life, here the interactions so closely parallel traditional “real world” arrangements, they are readily apparent: tax implications for the artist’s income based on tips; the contractual relationship, if any, between the artist and her booking agent; potential copyright issues with the artists music as it is streamed to her audience, etc. All this is particularly interesting considering the artist, her agent, and the audience members are essentially anonymous, even as they interact. Further, one entering a virtual world such as Second Life should consider what court, if any,… Continue Reading