Evans et al vs. Linden Lab – L$43 million settlement

secondlifeIn April 2010, and following Tateru Nino’s lead, I reported on a class action lawsuit brought against Linden Lab by plaintiffs Carl Evans, Donald Spencer, Valerie Spencer and Cindy Carter  on behalf of Second Life users, citing misrepresentation and fraud on property ownership, misrepresentation and fraud.

The action was brought by the plaintiffs after having their accounts terminated and their assets (land, content, Linden dollars) seized. What made the case particularly interesting at the time was that the plaintiffs had retained Jason Archinaco as their legal representative. Archinaco was himself no newcomer to the legal complexities of virtual worlds – he had represented Marc Bragg in a similar lawsuit brought against Linden Lab in 2007 which resulted in an eventual settlement between the two parties.

Judge Eduardo Robreno
Judge Eduardo Robreno

Nor did the similarities end there: the Evans et al case was initially set to be heard by Judge Eduardo Robreno, who presided over the Bragg case.

Given this, it is no surprise that the papers filed by Archinaco on behalf of his clients pursued a similar line of argument as had been put to Robreno in 2007, when  – and despite the confidential nature of the final settlement – Robreno appeared somewhat sympathetic towards the plaintiff at that time. Indeed, in a further twist, it was Robreno’s published holding on the matter of Bragg vs. Linden Lab which may have resulted in alterations to the SL Terms of Service which may in turn have contributed to the case involving Evans et al.

Even without this, Archinaco had a strong case to put before the court. Despite ToS changes, etc., Archinarco argued that the Lab continued to systematically represent that virtual items and land were owned by users and that the Linden Dollar constituted a valid currency. At the same time he outlined the Lab’s moves to withdraw such representations and present virtual goods and the Linden Dollar as ‘limited licenses’ and “tokens”, thus presenting Linden Lab as the owner of all as effectively altering users’ title “without consideration, the consumer’s knowledge or consent” through ToS, which Robreno himself had previously held as a Contract of Adhension.

The papers filed by Archinaco set out two potential class actions:

  • The Main Class, comprising: US residents “who are or were owners, possessors, purchasers, creators or sellers of virtual land or any other items of virtual property or items as participants [of Second Life] at any point between November 14, 2003 and the date of class certification”
  • A subclass of plaintiffs who found their Second Life assets “deliberately and intentionally converted, taken, ‘frozen’, or otherwise rendered unusable by Linden Lab” (SubClass A).

The case ran on through 2010, with the Lab moving for the case to be dismissed in July of that year, citing grounds which – and while I stress I’m certainly not a lawyer, I didn’t think at the time would carry much weight. After that, the case tended to fade from public thought – although it clearly continued with further papers being subsequently filed by both parties, including Amended Complaints on behalf of the plaintiffs, which included the names of further SL users who had seen their accounts suspended.

Judge Donna M. Ryu
Judge Donna M. Ryu

Move ahead to 2012, when Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu, of the United States District Court, N.D. California, published holdings on the case, which granted Subclass A of the motion, which was defined by the court as:

All persons whose assets, including virtual items, virtual land, and/or currency in lindens and/or U.S. dollars, have been deliberately and intentionally converted by Defendant Linden’s suspension or closure of their Second Life accounts.

The Main Class of the action, which involved claims of violation of a number of Californian Laws, was denied.

It now appears that a settlement in the matter has been reached between Linden Lab and some 57,000 plaintiffs who met the criteria of subclass A before the matter came to court. This has apparently resulted in an agreement for a payout of some $172,000 by the Lab – which is to made in Linden Dollars (and so presumably to active SL accounts), amounting to approximately L$43,000,000.

Given settlement has been reached, and as Peter S. Vogel of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP notes, we will “need to watch for other lawsuits to see how virtual property ownership will ultimately established.”

Related Links

With thanks to Aimee Weber, NWN

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Of friendship, love and politics

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice, brought to Second Life by the staff of the Seanchai Library SL.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday 30th June, 18:00: Charlotte’s Web (Part 1)

Caledonia Skytower commences a reading of E. B. White’s (of Stuart Little fame) children’s classic, originally illustrated by Garth Williams.

First published in 1952, Charlotte’s Web weaves a story of friendship, hardships, joy and tears. When her farmer father is about to slaughter the runt of a litter of pigs, Fern Arable intercedes and saves the tiny pig, calling it Wilbur. A bond forms between child a pig, but when Wilbur becomes too big to remain with his mother and is shipped off to the farm owned by Fern’s uncle, he is left shunned by the other animals and  – with Christmas approaching – once again facing slaughter.

Then he is befriended by Charlotte A. Cavatica, a spider living in the rafters of the barn where Wilbur is kept.Charlotte hatches a plan in order to save him from death, and Wilbur finds himself the centre of new and strange attention…

Join Caledonia at Magicland Park. as she starts this tale of friendship, hardship and the miracles which can be found in the simplest of things

Monday 1st July, 19:00 – An Island Miracle

With Caledonia Skytower.

Tuesday 2nd July, 19:00: The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

With Independence Day approaching, Shandon Loring and Caledonia Skytower read from one of the definitive works of American history which spans the period before, during and after the revolution.

AdamsJohn Adams is perhaps best known as playing a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and was its primary advocate in the Congress.

After Independence, he served as the first Vice President of the newly formed Republic, and the second President of the United States, eventually defeated by Thomas Jefferson. Adams then went on to become the United States Minister to the Court of St. James’s (Great Britain), playing a part in the peace negotiations between the two countries, and also the United States Minister to the Netherlands in what was a long and fruitful political career which also served his home state of Massachusetts.

Throughout this time, he enjoyed and intellectually and emotionally fulfilling relationship with his wife, Abigail that lasted fifty-four years and withstood all the upheavals of the time, long periods of separation and personal tragedies.

This volume brings together the correspondence Abigail Adams, herself a strong and forthright individual and advocate of women’s rights, shared with her husband through these times. That correspondence in turn reveals the strength of the bond between her and her husband which gave rise to something of an American political dynasty, and provides unique insights into the emergence of a new democracy, the role of women in the period and much more.

Wednesday 3rd July, 19:00: “My Dear President”: Letters Between Presidents and Their Wives

presidentGerard Gawalt, a curator of presidential papers at the Library of Congress for thirty years brings together an inspiring collection of correspondence between U.S. presidents and their wives culled from the Library of Congress, private collections and assorted presidential libraries.

Many of the letters in this book had never been previously published, and all of them provide a wealth of insight into the lives, times, hopes, fears, triumphs and setbacks of America’s most public political figures: the President and the First Lady of the United States.

Regarded as the most comprehensive compilation of its kind ever put together, Gawalt presents the letters thematically throughout the book, rather than in any set chronology, although each letter is set in its historical context. Covering topics such as love, travel, sorrow, politics and war, every letter appears as originally written, with grammar and spelling intact. Many exchanges between husband and wife are included to help build even more of a picture of the couples behind the titles.

Kayden Oconnell and Caledonia Skytower read from this fascinating volume.

Thursday 4th July: Library Closed

The Library will be closed on July 4th to mark Independence Day.

—–

Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and additions to the week’s schedule.

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At the point of inspiration in Second Life

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point

A little while ago, I dropped into Inspiration Point and started to grab some snaps. This is a beautifully crafted full region which is home to four stores of varying sizes, and which again amply demonstrates the fact that while the SL Marketplace is a great shopping convenience, it can cause us to miss out on visiting a lot of quite delightful regions.

The stores operating here are House of Fox, Laviere & Tee*fy, The Secret Store, and Kirin, all of which are spread around a cafe sitting towards the centre of the region, and which forms something of a focal / meeting point, which I’ve used here as the default SLurl. All four stores are reasonably separated from one another, and each sits within its own landscaped area, all of which flow together into a whole which in turn both invites visitors to come and spend time exploring, and is itself framed by an offshore sim surround of green hills.

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point

From the cafe, you can follow the paths leading around the island and find your way to each of the four stores and their surroundings. There are direct teleports available to three of the stores, in the form of the store logos pinned to a noticeboard (which is the technique used at each of the stores), but I really recommend that you ignore them and simply follow your nose, or you’ll risk missing a lot of the touches which make this region a really worthwhile visit – and for which I’m not sure the images here do justice.

As regular readers know, I’ve started having some issues with my current PC. Whether the issues are GPU-related or something more serious is proving a little hard to get sorted out (I’m no expert in these things), so the result is the images here (as with the majority in my recent posts) are not actually snapshots, but screen captures. I’m hoping this will change in the future, now that one or two RL issues have been sorted out, but time will tell on that.

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point

For the photographer and artist there are a lot of opportunities here for some creative and memorable shots. The default windlight works well, and the region lends itself perfectly to windlight tweakings. All of the stares are themselves photogenic in various ways – but best to obtain prior permission if intending to use them in any form of photo shoot, etc.

There’s a great balance here between open spaces and buildings, and land and water, which gives the region a very harmonious feel. There are also some familiar set-pieces which the keen SL explorer will immediately recognise and which provide a feeling of comfortable familiarity with the reagion: Alex Bader’s Enchanted Tree Tunnel, trees and Boardwalk; Masomaso Quan’s mesh footpaths, Lilith Heart’s flora, and so on.

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point

With the mix of open spaces, care in the design and water features, it’s pretty obvious why I’m drawn to Inspiration Point. Whether you are window shopping or exploring SL, it is well worth adding to your list of destinations. And of you’re trying to think of a place where you can meet-up with friends, why not try the cafe there? You can meet, chat, shop and explore, all in the one region!

Related Links

 

SL projects update week 26 (3): more viewer, SSB/A and cache

Materials Processing

As reported in part 2 of this update, the release viewer was updated on June 27th with a release containing a number of updates and fixes, including some for materials, such as occlusion culling is less effective than it should be, especially with regards to very large objects; light function sampling being incorrect in advanced lighting model and the legacy Shiny options being overly strong in deferred rendering. The initial fixes for these issues are considered important for TPVs to pick-up when integrating materials into their viewers, while follow-up releases (such as the new 3.6.1277824 beta viewer released on June 25th, being viewed as slightly less important at this time.

Materials continues to be updated and refined, and the Lab is gathering stats on viewer use with ALM enabled
Materials continues to be updated and refined, and the Lab is gathering stats on viewer use with ALM enabled

The latest stats the Lab has on viewers show that some 30% of users are currently running with the Advanced Lighting Model option (ALM – otherwise known as deferred rendering), and are thus able to see materials in use in-world, although the stats also appear to indicate that up to 75% of the user base have hardware capable of running with ALM enabled, “with reasonable performance” in terms of frame rates (e.g. an average somewhat above 10 fps). However, given that fps is a highly subjective measure and somewhat dependent on a range of external factors (such as how many other avatars are in the region with you, whether you are moving around a lot or not, etc), the “YMMV” rule comes into play.

The Lab has already carried out a fair amount of performance tuning with ALM, and at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday June 28th, Oz Linden reported that further work is going on in this area, which will include some profiling of the shaders in order to try to further improve performance.

Currently, and as previously reported in these pages, the Cool VL viewer experimental branch and the Black Dragon 2.2.3 beta both provide materials processing capabilities.

Viewer Release Process and Viewer Updates

The expectation is now that the new viewer release process will come into effect during week 28 (week commencing Monday 8th July). The process is actually ready to go, but as with the server-side of things, the 4th July no change window means that the process cannot be implemented in week 27.

Vivox Update

Once the new process is running, the Vivox update is likely to be one of the first items to go to a viewer release candidate. This update should greatly improve Voice quality within SL. A further Vivox update is liable to follow this at some point.

Interest List Improvements

The viewer-side interest list updates are coming, although the viewer repro has yet to be made public, although again it is anticipated that a project or beta viewer with the updates will be made available after the holiday period, and TPVs will be able to obtain the code.

Viewer Settings

The Lab is moving to eliminate the use of viewer settings files based on channel name. This means that in future, a single SETTINGS.XML file will be used for all versions of an SL viewer which is installed. The code for this is moving towards the release channel of the SL viewer, and the hope is that it will prevent issues of confusion when settings appear to be “wiped out” when using multiple versions of the viewer (e.g. such as moving between the SL release viewer and  the SL development viewer and back a few months ago resulted in people’s toolbar buttons “vanishing” from the release viewer).

Continue reading “SL projects update week 26 (3): more viewer, SSB/A and cache”

SL10BCC: Was it good for you?

SL10B-CC_WordPress

Yes, the celebrations are at an end. The regions will be closing their doors on Saturday June 29th, and will forever vanish shortly thereafter.

That leaves but one question to ask: was it good for you?

To help understand where the team got things right or wrong, or where things might be improved, everyone who participated in or visited this year’s SL10BCC celebration is invited to provide feedback.  Please take a couple of minutes to complete the form below and let the organisers know your thoughts. It won’t be possible to respond to every comment received, but do feel free to leave your email. Rest assured, however, that every comment received will be read.

The Lake Stage
The Lake Stage, SL10BCC, June 2013

The Drax Files 8: Gaming Second Life

“Second Life is not a game.” How often have we heard that claim? And it’s true in many respects. Second Life doesn’t by default have any of the mechanisms associated with games. There are no levels to achieve, no goals to attain, no objectives to meet, and so on. So to simply dismiss it as a “game” is to both underestimate the potential of the platform and demonstrate a lack of understanding about it, and we’re right to point out that it isn’t, of itself “a game”.

However, there are times when “Second Life is not a game” can be used as a rolling-pin with which to thwack Linden Lab because of changes they bring to the system which appear to be focused on gaming or because of initiatives the Lab takes to reach out to potential users. When I come across this latter aspect of the rallying-cry in forum threads blog comments, etc., I’m actually surprised and not a little disappointed.

True, Second Life may not itself be a game – but that doesn’t rule out the fact that it is a very legitimate platform for game play in a wide variety of forms (of which role-play is perhaps the largest, and possibly the reason why (leaving the sex aside) a good proportion of SL users keep logging into the platform. It’s also a more than capable platform for game development and offering people many and varied means of game-like entertainment.

The fact is that Second Life is a platform which allows you to log-in and say, “OK, today, I will be a pirate!” and go off and sail the high seas,” or, “Time to go dogfight over the trenches of World War 1”, or don a period costume and explore some of the history of 18th Century France where yesterday you logged-in a followed the clues to solve a mystery (and gained some nice prizes and trinkets along the way) before engaging in some combat with friends, and tomorrow you might set-out to kill a few zombies before sitting down and enjoying a few rounds of a board game.

madpeaOne team of people who perhaps best exemplify the ability of Second Life as an environment which can enable and support games are MadPea Games, the subject of the eighth segment of The Drax Files.

Started five years ago by Kiana Writer (Mari Mitchell in real life), MadPea Games has become synonymous with the provision of immersive, imaginative and genre-leading games in Second Life and stands as a shining example of something Rod Humble recently pointed-out in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle: that while it may be true that “big business” initially jumping into SL and then deserting SL, this didn’t leave the platform dead. Rather, it left the way clear for “amateurs” and “specialists in it” (the platform) to establish very successful business presences in Second Life – and in some cases, extend their reach well beyond SL.

MadPea Games is an international team. With Kiana leading the operation out of Finland, other team members are based in France, Germany, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA. Over the years they have created a broad range of games in Second Life, spanning the genres of mystery, adventure, horror, cartoons, hunts, role-play – and more.

“I really don’t know why more people are not using virtual worlds like we do,” Kiana states at the start of the video. Looking at MadPea’s résumé, she makes a fair point. Not only have the team produced some of the most memorable games in Second Life, they’ve also worked on a  number of SL / real-world cross-over projects as well. In 2009 they produced The Kaaos Effect interactive adventure in collaboration with Orange. A second collaboration with Orange in 2012 resulted in Firefly, described as a “haunting love story”.

notesMadPea have also worked with Nature Publishing Group and MacMillan Publishers to produce Notes from the Voyage, an educational game about the travels of Charles Darwin, and with Sigma-Aldrich to create Reaction, an interactive means to learn about chemistry. All of these demonstrate the sheer power of Second Life as a immersive medium – and the value in allowing gameplay and game-like mechanisms within it.

Kiana was not herself a “gamer” but more of a storyteller, and in Second Life she immediately saw a new potential, “I came to Second Life and I was, ‘Hey! This is a great place! I could actually bring my stories to life here!'” In describing the uniqueness of the platform compared to other games, she observes, “Immersive storytelling is when you get so lost in the story that you become the hero of the story; you’re feeling the whole environment. This is why our games are working … because with a lot of console games you become a totally different person, but in Second Life, so many people identify themselves as their avatars, so they get to play as themselves, and that’s really huge.”

Of course, there are limits to what can be achieved in Second Life; as a dynamic environment where so much is open to the users themselves in terms of how they develop their avatars, there has to be a number of checks and balances to keep gameplay in line with some of the more limiting factors of the platform, as Kiana notes, “I don’t think many people actually realise how much work it is to make sure the island is smooth. Everything is so optimised that there is absolutely zero lag. And then the crowds come in, (laughs) and then they start complaining, ‘there’s a lag! there’s a lag!’, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, because you are, as an avatar, taking most of the resources of the sim!'”

Explosions! Gunfire! Chases! Elephants!  - Unia promises to break the boundaries
Explosions! Gunfire! Chases! Elephants! – Unia promises to break the boundaries

Throughout their time in SL, MadPea Games have constantly pushed the boundaries and repeatedly raised the bar on what they strive to achieve. In keeping with this – and as teased during the show – their next project Unia, promises to do so again, as they work to implement an action game within SL.

Fittingly, this segment of the show is itself a rich piece of storytelling, demonstrating not only the power of creativity within Second Life, but also the way in which it can bring people from around the globe together both as colleagues engaged in collaborative efforts and as friends. It is also one which dives into the complexities of creating immersive, interactive environments not so much by what is said, but by what is shown – kudos again to Drax for bringing together an ideal mix images and scenes to perfectly underline Kiana’s words and views.

And I have to say, I really like the role-reversal!

Continue reading “The Drax Files 8: Gaming Second Life”