Lessig In Second Life, and CC-Licensing Virtuality

Lawrence Lessig will be in Second Life next Wednesday. I wonder how SL are getting on with Creative Commons licenses in their game world?

I think it depends on whether you view virtual worlds as collaborative works or as ISPs (internet hosts).

If you view VRs as ISPs, then Creative Commons – Licensed work in one user’s posession is like Creative Commons – Licensed work on one user’s website. It doesn’t affect the other users. Or you could argue that even if the world is a collection of different people’s work, it is a collective work or mere aggregation.

But if you view virtual worlds as collaborative works there are two ways of treating CC licensing then this doesn’t work. I could take BY-SA work from a BY-SA world and use it in a world of my own (or a non-BY-SA area of Second Life) without return. Which breaks the BY-SA licensor’s intention. But it does impose a single license (or a couple of compatible licenses) on a world which is meant to support individual intentions.

It might be possible to suggest a “containment principle” for copyleft licensing and virtual worlds. If the world is copyleft licensed, then any object within it is *and must be* copyleft. If the world is not copyleft licensed, then any object or area within it may be copyleft licensed, but this does not affect the rest of the world. Non-copyleft items may interact with copyleft items (notably my non-copyleft avatar may walk into a castle or a mall that is copyleft without having to be relicensed), but if they are to be permanently contained by them then they must be made copyleft.

How workable and easy to subvert this is in practice I don’t know. But I feel it should be possible both to allow freedom of contract in Second Life and ensure that a GPL-ed VR isn’t ripped off by proprietary competitors.

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Posted in Free Culture