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

Advertisements

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.

Related Links