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Old 05-10-2007, 06:48 AM   #1
KaVir
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Here's another case that may have a potential impact on muds:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6638331.stm

"Second Life is being investigated by German police following allegations that some members are trading child abuse images in the online world."

As far as I can tell, Linden Lab (the creators of Second Life) isn't being blamed, which is pretty positive - my biggest fear in such a situation would be that the mud owner could be somehow held liable.

However it does also raise some questions about privacy, an issue which was touched on in a previous incident:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5365148.stm

"Some feared that the loss of personal information would be used to link Second Life avatars with real people - a situation that could have serious consequences for many."
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Old 05-10-2007, 07:36 AM   #2
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As I understand it, though, Germany is particularly persnickety when it comes to computer games of *any* stripe - especially when they depict violence of some kind.
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Old 05-10-2007, 08:20 AM   #3
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Agreed, Brody, but child pornography is a rather sensitive issue in other countries as well, not to mention the fact that most muds are internationally accessable.
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Old 05-10-2007, 09:29 AM   #4
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That's crazy. Mud owners will never be held liable, it's the same reason mmorpgs are never blamed for any crazy #### that happens to people while playing it for 14 hours a day, they have to check that terms box, which clears liability from the company.
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Old 05-10-2007, 11:08 AM   #5
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If ISPs can be found liable for content posted by their users, what makes you so certain that the same could never happen to mud owners?

UK case: "Ruling on a pre-trial motion, the court found that an Internet service provider can be sued for libel, and that any transmission by a service provider of a defamatory posting constituted a publication under defamation law."

Germany case: "In a decision that could have a chilling effect on online auctioneers, Internet service providers and e-commerce companies, a German judge has ruled that AOL Germany violated copyright law by taking no action to prevent subscribers from swapping pirated digital music files."

You might also find this article of interest, which points out that ISPs in the United States generally have better protection. In this US case for example, it was determined that "...AOL is not liable for the statements made by a subscriber in an AOL chat room" (although they still had to fight it out in court, which is more than most mud owners can afford to do).

There is also some information about the issue on BitLaw, which touches on the concepts of contributory infringement and vicariously liability, and also makes a brief mention of Prodigy (which was held responsible for the statements of its customer because of its strict moderation policies) and CompuServe (which avoided liability because it made no attempt to monitor or control discussions).

Please note that I am not saying muds will be held liable for the actions of their players. However I personally believe it is within the realm of possibility that such a legal case could one day occur, and therefore find such legal cases like this of interest. I posted it on the off-chance that someone else might find it of interest as well.
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Old 05-10-2007, 01:10 PM   #6
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I don't disagree that we should pay attention to it, or that in our litigious society *anything* is possible when it comes to playing the blame game. However, I don't think most MUD owners have deep enough pockets to bother going after - unlike an ISP or an MMO developer.
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Old 05-10-2007, 01:47 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Brody @ May 10 2007,1:10)
I don't disagree that we should pay attention to it, or that in our litigious society *anything* is possible when it comes to playing the blame game. However, I don't think most MUD owners have deep enough pockets to bother going after - unlike an ISP or an MMO developer.
Most MUD owners are not worth going after financially, regardless of how much infringement they engage in, it's true.

Trading child porn is the sort of thing that invites criminal rather than civil action though and whether you have or don't have deep pockets isn't likely to make nearly as much difference there.
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Old 05-10-2007, 02:05 PM   #8
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While basically everybody is going to agree that trading child porn is not cool, the fact that it happened in Second Life is, I think, just another example of the media jumping on the "Second Life is new and interesting" bandwagon (when in fact Second Life is a MUSH with graphics...not new). I'm sure far more child porn gets traded via email, MySpace, and other social networks than in SL.

The interesting thing here are that laws differ quite dramatically from country to country regarding what is child porn. For instance, as I understand it, simulated child porn may be illegal in Germany, for instance, while it is protected in the US (see Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcrof...ech_Coalition)

So if you're Linden, do you then ban ageplay? (Adults having virtual sex with other adults who are using an avatar that looks like a child.) It's a protected activity in the US where you're located, but the majority of your customers are not in the US.

If you start banning things because they're illegal in countries other than the one you are based in, where does one stop? Do you ban any slight on the King of Thailand, since insulting the royal family is strictly illegal in Thailand? Do you create a sort of electronic Iron Curtain in your game and partition content and users in ways that imposes ruleset X for user-created content that will be viewed by people in country Y but ruleset A for user-created content viewed by people in country B?

Interesting times, interesting times.
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Old 05-10-2007, 02:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ May 10 2007,1:47)
Most MUD owners are not worth going after financially, regardless of how much infringement they engage in, it's true.

Trading child porn is the sort of thing that invites criminal rather than civil action though and whether you have or don't have deep pockets isn't likely to make nearly as much difference there.
Right, but I don't think you could criminally charge Second Life or the ISP for trafficking in the material unless its employees did it. Individuals trafficking in child porn could be held to criminal account, but someplace like Second Life might be held to a civil liability.

The big "Second Life" buzz is definitely an issue here, I think, with the likelihood that the game (and Linden Labs) won't face criminal charges BUT, failing that, we'll probably see people suing for negligence and such.
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Old 05-10-2007, 03:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Brody @ May 10 2007,2:10)
Right, but I don't think you could criminally charge Second Life or the ISP for trafficking in the material unless its employees did it. Individuals trafficking in child porn could be held to criminal account, but someplace like Second Life might be held to a civil liability.
Linden Labs could certainly conceivably face criminal charges, but as long as they co-operate I'd guess they won't have to.

Even in the US, where greater protections tend to exist for ISPs, Linden is very unlikely to have that same protection extended to them. Common carrier provisions apply to ISPs, not MMOs. Even if virtual worlds were ruled common carriers in principle, Linden's pro-active policing of content in Second Life would seem to rule SL out. (Linden actively seeks out and bans things like swastikas, for instance.)

Analogy: If you own a bar and know people are trading child porn in the back room, then you are almost certainly going to face criminal charges along with the people doing the child porn trading. You're aiding and abetting in that case, and since you (in this hypothetical example) already stop people from using the back room to play checkers, you can't claim that the back room is an unregulated place where you can't/don't patrol what goes on there.

MUDs/MMOs are not like ISPs. ISPs got protection from the FCC because they are truly neutral carriers (and if they start discriminating on content in a way that the network neutrality proponents dislike, then I think they should also lose that common carrier protection, but that's another issue). Almost every MUD/MMO engages in censoring of user content, whether it's banning inappropriate names, enforcing RP on some channels, banning or regulating foul language and so on.

Besides all that, the FCC didn't actually extend common carrier protection (I believe) to broadband providers until they first decided that they weren't going to look at broadband providers as a network running on top of the telecommunications backbone (which already had common carrier provisions). Once they decided to treat the cable/dsl providers as a single service (rather than a network layered on top of the telecomm backbone), it became logical to grant common carrier status to them.

I can't really see that ever happening for virtual worlds though.

--matt
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Old 05-10-2007, 03:33 PM   #11
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Tony Walsh over at Clickable Culture wrote a good summary of the ****storm Linden is in right now. http://www.secretlair.com/index.p....nd_life

Looks like I'm behind a little. Yesterday, Linden decided that it will, after all, crack down on ageplay. I like how Linden tries to make it sound like a principled decision rather than a fear-based reaction to the media coverage. Ageplay has been going on, openly, for years in SL and Linden was fully aware of it.

--matt
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Old 05-10-2007, 04:20 PM   #12
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Of course the real BS nature of this issue comes down to how arbitrary it often is to "define" who is a child. The law tends to make "public" images or acts to be 18+ only, but that is damn fuzzy because you can find real world adults that are 18 that look like they are 13. Do you ban images, video, etc. of them because they "may be" mistaken for someone younger? In the case of Age Play, this is on some level what is happening. So, how do you fix it? Insist that the person doing so *claim* to be at least 18 in the game world, even if they use an avatar that is younger? And that doesn't even cover the existing consent laws, which in the US can range from 13 in Hawaii to even 19 for certain same sex cases in a few obscure states (where you will probably be lynched for having a same sex relationship anyway).

So, we have an entirely arbitrary line here. Even if you are living some place where the consent laws say 16, or even 13, you have to *be* 18 and *look* 18 in the game (never mind how impossible it is to specify what the hell *looking 18* means) in order to avoid Germany or some other idiot country attacking your game world's owners for allowing you to do anything, and banning you for doing it... Some people, especially in Germany, need to get their heads out of their asses imho.
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Old 05-10-2007, 08:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ May 10 2007,3:33)
Tony Walsh over at Clickable Culture wrote a good summary of the ****storm Linden is in right now. http://www.secretlair.com/index.p....nd_life

Looks like I'm behind a little. Yesterday, Linden decided that it will, after all, crack down on ageplay. I like how Linden tries to make it sound like a principled decision rather than a fear-based reaction to the media coverage. Ageplay has been going on, openly, for years in SL and Linden was fully aware of it.

--matt
I wasn't familiar with this "ageplay" concept, amazed that they ever allowed it at all.

Second life is definitely having a bad PR week, this similar article on "virtual rape" was doing the rounds earlier this week:

http://www.wired.com/culture....ve_0504
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Old 05-11-2007, 06:38 AM   #14
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Long live the sissification of mankind.

Back in the days people were having mud sex on the temple square, nowadays 'penis' and 'vagina' are on the default censor list. Child porn is a booming business just like any other forbidden substance while consenting adults engaging in some innocent roleplay have dropped into range of the ever increasing cross-hair of big mother.

So much for women's suffrage.
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Old 05-11-2007, 04:37 PM   #15
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TMSOne... I think you are missing the point here. To give an example, one artist that made a series called, "Shayla The Pink Mouse", modeled her on someone that *looked* under age. The model for the idea had almost no breasts to speak of, was maybe a bit shorter than average and could "easily" pass as 14-15. He later decided it was best to give her bigger ****, since about 20% of the people that came to the site where morons and tried to accuse him of drawing child porn, never mind the fact that big breasts hardly mean "older"... I have also seen people 18-20 come through the store I work in that could be 13-17, instead of their real ages, and these are people well known by other people that work there, so we *know* they are actually over 18. All that this BS comes down to in the end is *if* one of the roleplayers says, "I am 14", or something like that, before engaging in some activity. It doesn't matter their real age.

The problem is, it never stops there. In any other circumstance people would check IDs, determine that the people involved **where** adults, admonish them for the horribly bad taste of giving a fake age, and stupidly doing inappropriate things for that age in a public place, then tell them not to do it again. In this case, it has already gone way past that. Why? Because it is public, so any idiot who **thinks** an avatar looks under aged can now accuse them of age play, even if they are not age playing. After all, despite **clear** evidence to the contrary, it should be possible to *tell* just by looking if they are old enough or not, or if they are pretending to be someone far younger, right?

Sorry, but it doesn't fly. Its, "It looks like child porn, therefor it must be child porn, and we are going to stomp everyone involve under our boot heels because of it."

And then there is the somewhat sick, but real possibility that some of these people *may* actually be borderline pedophiles in reality and this gives them a way to avoid hurting actual kids. But that would just be too sick to consider or accept right? Such people are just supposed to get locked up or magically stop doing it. Catering to them, so you keep them from doing it for real, that just doesn't make any sense. After all, there is no known case of any other addiction/maladjusted behavior where one thing replaces another successfully, like people chewing pens or gum, instead of smoking... It would just be completely silly to suggest it didn't make them more dangerous, so why bother even finding out.

Sigh.. The lack of logic and reason in this whole thing is almost as insane as some of the BS coming out of the people that defend various forms of Creationism, probably because it comes from the same, "We know what is right and nothing can sway us, especially your 'logic' or 'evidence'!", thinking. The stupidity, it burns!!
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Old 05-12-2007, 10:37 AM   #16
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Scorning religion is hardly logical shadowfyr. Your points are moot!
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Old 05-12-2007, 12:19 PM   #17
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How is it not logical Delerak? Other than that you may place value in it, while a lot of people think its bloody silly. Sorry, but the simple fact is that I deal with people whose **only** argument against scientific facts are, on a daily basis, based solely on their religion. The arguments are illogical, internally inconsistent, often don't reflect the actual text they claim to be quoting, and even if they are quoting it right, they ignore other passages that contradict those things. Its all cherry picking from a half dead tree, where what you want to be true or feel must be true trumps everything, including what the bloody text itself says. Mind you, I don't scorn *people* that are moderate religious, or those religions that do not actively strive to be irrational, anti-science and denialist of basic reality, but those people/religions are not trying to tell me bald face lies about reality, for their own self promotion.

And, just to be @#$#$ clear, if I hadn't mentioned creationism as an example, why would any of my points be moot, other than the BS argument that the idiots pushing this crap get special treatment for their delusions of morality, while everyone else gets screwed because they can't wave a book of fairy tales around as justification for their views? Sorry, but your argument against my points shows a blind spot in your own logic and a pandering to stupidity for the sake of its supposed untouchability that I have always found horrifyingly disturbing when I have seen it.

But this is getting into an argument that is much better handled someplace else. My statement still stands that the people attacking this behavior are doing so on the basis of completely unfounded and baseless assumptions, rather than approaching it rationally, and that people are going to get deleted based **solely** on witch hunt style accusations, not on any valid basis. Prove me wrong.
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