Second Life Will Save Copyright?

Wired News: Second Life Will Save Copyright

Previously: Second Life and the Post Scarcity World

I’m not convinced a reputation or peer-pressure-based system plus timestamps is enough to stop digital cloning of objects in SecondLife. I hope they’re doing more than that. The Wired article cites fashion and cuisine as areas where there is very little IP protection, but innovation is still high. The thing is, new dresses are created all the time. New food is made for each meal. That creativity is going to happen anyway. And it’s a mark of pride for these artists to innovate. It’s a way of life.

I guess the same could be said for any art form — as long as the artists are the ones creating, they generally care about being original, even when they knowingly or unknowingly copy from other influences. The difference is that they can’t simply copy designs in digital form — they can only emulate, so it’s just as expensive work-wise to make something new as it is to copy (thought-wise, copying is easier), and more rewarding to innovate.

The people who do the mass copying are not the artists, but the consumers and wholesalers of art. If cuisine could be digitally copied, the threat would come from mass producers and consumers in the supermarket, not a prime restaurant. And it already does for fashion. Popular dresses for each season are copied and fakes are sold wholesale. To say the designers don’t copy each other is to miss one of the key problems with sweatshops in Asia (apart from the labor issues), who really don’t care about peer pressure or reputation, and not even that much about law.

So these changes for SL are worth a shot. But it’s a good idea to start planning the next steps too. I think it’s more likely that Second Life can kill copyright and replace it with something better than merely saving it. But it’s not going to be easy by any means.

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