Opening the Content Pipeline for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds

Opening the Content Pipeline for OpenSim-Based Virtual Worlds

Shenlei E. Winkler (Fashion Research Institute, Inc, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-808-7.ch013
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Open-Simulator (Open-Sim) refers to a three dimensional application environment that can be used to develop virtual worlds similar to those that exist in Second Life®. Open-Sim is considered open source software, i.e., software that is developed by a community of volunteers and is available for use by the public free of charge (Open Simulator, 2009). Although participants in virtual worlds are generally considered by law to be the owner of any Intellectual Property (IP) they create, content creators and owners of OpenSim-based virtual worlds struggle with issues surrounding licensing, content delivery, and usage in these immersive spaces. The Fashion Research Institute (FRI) is specifically exploring these issues in a case study involving the licensing its Shengri La virtual world creations to external users. This case study is the basis of ongoing legal research by FRI’s legal steering committee of attorneys from the American Bar Association’s Virtual Worlds and Online Gaming committee who are working on a pro bono (volunteer) basis. This chapter presents the result of the ongoing case study. It offers a practitioner’s view of issues related to licensing and distribution of content in virtual worlds.
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“There is widespread potential for copyright infringement in virtual worlds and, indeed, there is widespread infringement of copyrights” (Ibid, p. 13). Licensing content into virtual worlds is often compared to the settling of the American ‘Wild West’ with content developers claiming new space and pitting themselves against content thieves and other risks. There is also confusion within the content developer community about how the terms of service (TOS) and end user licensing agreement (EULA) of a given virtual world impacts their intellectual property ownership and protection of their rights. Many content producers, who develop virtual goods for sale and use in these immersive spaces are understandably leery of exposing themselves to the risk of loss of their intellectual property when moving into a new virtual world where the TOS and EULA may be even less well understood. With the advent of low barrier-to-entry worlds such as Second Life® and OpenSim, licensing considerations for managing a recognized brand and protecting brand extension become even more pressing.

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