CAUTION: Second Life owns your IP

The virtual world of Second Life has become a hot topic of discussion among marketers. But Second Life isn’t a game; it is a medium in which like-minded people meet inside a global environment and ponder common issues. The appeal for marketers is clear; more than 1.7 million tech-savvy men and women with a median age of 32 comprise its population.

Several companies, including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Reebok, Starwood Hotels, Reuters and Wells Fargo have all set up online storefronts and identities on Second Life, where they are selling products and services to other Second Life visitors, testing concepts and products, and holding virtual events.

But beware Linden Lab, the company that created Second Life, explicitly states that Second Life residents do not own their accounts or any data on Second Life servers. “Linden Lab retains ownership of the account and related data, regardless of intellectual property rights you may have in content you create or otherwise own,” the company’s Terms of Service agreement says.

Possible Buzz Kill for Buzz Marketers: While I truly believe this is the start of something really revolutionary, brands have to watch what they do on Second Life. Recently, I blogged about Starwood Hotel who has been testing a new hotel brand called Aloft that will offer loft-style rooms with flat-panel TVs and Wi-Fi Internet access. But since they were built on Second Life and won’t be built in real life until 2008 – does that mean that Second Life owns the design? Yes it does!

2 comments to CAUTION: Second Life owns your IP

  • Joseph

    Paul, interesting post (as per usual). I’m not an IP attorney, but I think any copyrights or trademarks registered prior to their appearance on SL still would be upheld regardless of what SL’s terms of service state, if it ever came to a challenge in court. From what legal professionals have told me, most of these TOS agreements are not as ironclad as the companies would like us to believe and the broader the claim the less defensible it will usually be in court.

    Regardless, though, companies like Starwood would be very dumb not to have secured trademarks on the names, room plans, etc. before testing them on SecondLife. Likewise Linden would be stupid to try an usurp the IP of another company’s brand in such a visible way. But then, stranger things have happened!

  • Paul Dunay

    Thanks Joseph

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>