SAN FRANCISCO—Linden Lab, the company behind virtual world Second Life, is being sued in federal court by two vendors of erotic products for violation of trademark and copyright. Eros LLC and Shannon Grei dba Nomine filed the class-action lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the developer not only sells knockoff versions of their goods to Second Life players for real money, but also provides other intellectual property infringers with the tools to do likewise.
“Linden Lab has made trademark and copyright infringement free and easy, turning the Second Life community into a vast virtual flea market in which users peddle knockoffs and pirated copies of IP-protected products and services,” states the complaint. “Despite Linden Lab's actual knowledge of such widespread activity, it has taken no substantive action to prevent, limit or prohibit such widespread infringement.”
The plaintiffs point to the fact that Second Life players—or "residents"—who want to purchase Eros’ SexGen virtual beds, which unlike other virtual beds allow avatars to have virtual sex, are presented with “a selection of infringing knockoffs of trademarked goods and services, as well as the genuine article sold by Plaintiff Eros. The same is also true for Plaintiff Grei’s copyrighted salable works.”
Copyright and trademark claims within virtual worlds such as Second Life are at least partially regulated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which plaintiffs claim is sometimes “not only ineffective, but actually counter-productive.
“Often times, Second Life infringers will counter-file against the DMCA, which results in the restoration of the pirated content and the release of personal information to both the rights-holder and the infringe," the suit claims. "Because many content creators in Second Life choose to remain anonymous, this aspect of the DMCA has an intimidating and chilling effect on those content creators who do not wish to jeopardize their privacy and anonymity.
“Additionally, some Second Life infringers threaten rights-holding merchants with the release of their protected assets for free if they file DMCA claims against the infringers. Second Life infringers are all too familiar with these aspects of the DMCA and use the DMCA as a shield to continue infringing and profiting with minimal or no consequence.”
Plaintiffs also claim that although residents have been banned from Second Life because of suspected infringement activity, Second Life “will not ban a user for simply uploading or even selling copied content.
“Thus, Linden Lab effectively allows piracy to run rampant in Second Life and does not afford its resident businesses any effective protection against it,” the suit asserts.
Plaintiffs are seeking statutory and actual damages under the Lanham Act, injunctive and/or declaratory relief, restitution from Linden Lab for all money owed plaintiffs and classes and attorney fees.
Linden Lab promptly responded to an email from AVN seeking comment: “Thank you for your email. However, Linden Lab does not comment on pending litigation.”
For more information about the lawsuit and to read a copy of the complaint, click here.