Legal Interest Heats Up In Second Life

Image: virtual world law avitarsVirtual worlds are emerging as a popular new legal topic. They create a host of interesting opportunities as tools for legal practice, and at the same time are a medium that needs to be reconciled to laws from the physical world. 

The apparatus of the law is increasingly present in Second Life :

  • You Can Watch your Trademark in Second Life
    The Non-Profit Virtual Intellectual Property Organization offers virtual trademark watch services and consultations on virtual property and trade to outside world corporations and legal entities through its “Customs Service”.

  • Or Join the Second Life Bar Association
    California Lawyer profiles a few of the more than 200 legal professionals who have joined the Second Life Bar Association.

The virtual world is repleat with trademark issues, and real copyright litigation from there are now in courts. Harvard Law’s Berkman Center has offered courses entirely in Second Life, where I enjoyed a conference on Avatar-based marketing. Even Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is attending conferences as an avatar.

But if you haven’t signed on yet, don’t worry; you’re in good company.  As I talk with practitioners, I find the level of interest among IP-law pros is still far higher than the number of them who have actually used such environments. There’s a good reason for this.

Recent research by the Yankee Group shows the denizens of virtual worlds are still primarily early adopters. 

                 Virtual worlds – 2%
                 Social networking – 33%
                 Watching user-generated video (31%)

Early adopters are those who have the time, and the disposition, to become proficient in new, often undocumented technologies.

Linux Insider writer, Kimberly Hill describes virtual worlds as still having steep learning curves that create a substantial barrier to entry for new users.  If anyone knows about high barriers to entry, it would be Linux users.

So if you’re interested in virtual worlds but haven’t signed on yet, there’s no need to feel like a laggard.  There’s no race to sign-on, but if you have a few hours for experimentation, there are still worlds to be explored close at hand. 

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