Monday, November 3, 2008

Copybot as Revolutionary Part 3: Legal and ethical questions

I really appreciate the great comments on the first two articles in this series. They included posts from content creators, content consumers and the distributor of (SL) Copybot. I think we all agree that distributing copies of digital works to other people without the consent of the intellectual property owner is wrong. Our disagreement is about what rights an IP owner has to dictate personal use of digital goods.

The legal aspects of virtual property are complex and and will have to play out in the courts. For instance Bragg v. Linden Lab is questioning whether unfair TOS clauses are legally enforceable. The music industry is still trying to claim that it is illegal to rip music from a CD to a hard drive. When you add the complicating factors of international transactions, I suspect it will be a long time before there is a definitive legal answer.

It seems to me there are reasonable ethical arguments against either extreme position. Until there is a technological solution for a "middle way" it might make sense to just agree to disagree. IP owners will continue to develop DRM technology to restrict use. Consumers will let their conscience be their guide as they figure out how to circumvent restrictions they believe are unfair.

I plan to conclude this series in Part 4 which will return to the initial question of the relationship between DRM and the power balance between Linden Lab and Second Life residents.

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