Sunday, May 31, 2009

First Known Legal Case in Second Life

Wow, we all knew it would happen. A couple of years ago, I blogged about the presence of law firms and the emergence of legal issues within the virtual world. And I recently chanced upon this report by SF Gate (shamelessly reproduced because I like how it's written:)



Like so many things, virtual law started with sex. Specifically, the first known legal case originating in a virtual world was over a bed designed for rolls in the virtual hay.
Eros vs. Volkov Catteneo was not unlike business dustups that happen in the real world every day. One person created something and sold it, and another person allegedly copied it and sold cheap knockoffs.
The only thing novel about this case is that the item in question was a piece of furniture made entirely of computer code, and it was bought and sold by 3-D avatars in Second Life, a virtual world run by San Francisco's Linden Lab.



Second Life user Kevin Alderman of Lutz, Fla., created the very interactive bed, which enabled avatars to engage in a range of activities (cuddling, more). But when another user started selling copies, Alderman hired real-life lawyer Francis Taney, who tracked down the real person behind the bed-copying avatar and secured a consent judgment from Florida's U.S. District Court ordering him to quit.
This happened in March 2008, and since then, Taney, of the Philadelphia office of law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, says that he has devoted 20 to 30 percent of his practice to virtual law, or disputes that happen in virtual worlds such as Second Life.
He's not alone. Although the courts have seen only a few such disputes so far, a number of law firms have created practices focused on virtual worlds and video games, or set up offices within Second Life itself.
Benjamin Duranske, who recently joined the Silicon Valley office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to help build such a practice, even wrote a book on the field, "Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds."
"It's an emerging area of law, which is really a treat for attorneys, because the law (in other areas) is somewhat stable," Duranske said.
Occasionally these attorneys deal with disputes that arise inside multiplayer video games, such as World of Warcraft. But most often, these attorneys are focused on Second Life, a free-to-join 3-D environment that looks like a video game except that it has no set goals, nothing to win or lose. People log on to hang out, do business and hook up (hence the popularity of Alderman's sex bed).
Besides its lack of missions and scores, what distinguishes Second Life from video games is that Linden allows users to buy virtual property and create objects that are protected by intellectual property rights.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Law + Technology = Fewer Lawyers? - Richard Susskind at Radio Berkman

More from Richard Susskind from Radio Berkman (which is the podcast production arm of Berkman Center for Internet and Society):

Law + Technology = Fewer Lawyers

If you like the idea of the above equation, well, you are either looking forward to a Robot vs. Lawyer stand-off, or, like today's guest, you simply believe that law can be made better and more efficient through the use of software and applications to streamline repetitive legal tasks. Richard Susskind is the IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and author of the recently published (and provocatively titled) The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services. He recently sat down with the Berkman Center's Brock Rutter to chat about how technology might be able to simultaneously make the work of lawyers more efficient, reduce overhead costs, and improve access to justice.

Many similar points from his presentation last month, but worth listening for the DJ's facilitation. Main points:

- Much legal work will be automated, outsourced, or even handed over to end-users
- Technology can drive lawyers out of jobs, but also create many new opportunities (such as access to justice for the poor)
- Lawyers will still have a role over the creation of these systems: lawyers will not disappear, but will take on different roles. 
- Emphasis will go away from one-on-one traditional direct consultation, but via cheaper tools created or maintained by lawyers. For example: online compliance, decision tree for online document creation, end-users input through Web 2.0 interaction. 
- Lawyers will deal more with high level programmers through new ideas of providing services

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hague hosts the European launch of 'Making The Law Work for Everyone'

On 25 May, the Peace Palace in The Hague hosted the European launch of the UN Commission of the Legal Empowerment of the Poor report, Making the Law Work for Everyone (see my previous post), organised by the Hague Academic Coalition in partnership with theHague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law, Tilburg University, the Institute for Social Studies and the Centre for International Legal Cooperation. Along with various international experts and policy-makers, former US Secretary of State and co-chair of the Commission, Madeleine K. Albright spoke on the need to empower the poor through legal rights.

From The Hague Academic Coalition:
POVERTY REDUCTION THROUGH  LEGAL EMPOWERMENT OF THE POOR

The Hague played host to the European launch of the report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, to expound the belief in the crucial importance of legal rights in fighting world poverty.

Two thirds of the world’s population, or around four billion people, have limited or no access to legal rights according to the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, a global initiative established to focus on the link between exclusion, poverty and the law. The Commission’s eminent group of experts in foreign policy and development issues argue that access to legal rights for the poor will break new ground in the fight against poverty.

On 25 May 2009, the Peace Palace in The Hague hosted the European launch of the Commission’s report, Making the Law Work for Everyone, organised by the Hague Academic Coalition in partnership with theHague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law, Tilburg University, the Institute for Social Studies and the Centre for International Legal Cooperation. Along with various international experts and policy-makers, former US Secretary of State and co-chair of the Commission, Madeleine K. Albright spoke on the need to empower the poor through legal rights.

The authors of the report expressed the hope that through the event both public and political awareness would be raised about the importance of legal infrastructure as an element of human development and good governance. As legal capital of the world, The Hague will also seek to explore what it can offer to the Legal Empowerment agenda.


The Law Can Be An Extremely Powerful Asset […] But It Has Been Chronically Underused

The work of the Commission is based on that of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto who argues that legal rights, especially property rights, are essential in fighting world poverty. Simply being registered as citizens means that people can function under formal systems, taking part in society with redress to law, voting rights and the ability to engage in commercial activity, though according to former Canadian foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, these are low priorities for most governments and aid agencies.

Concerning the pervasiveness of poverty, Madeleine Albright noted,“We have the knowledge and the resources to make rapid progress if the political will is there. Reducing poverty is not only a moral imperative, it is also an economic and security necessity. A more inclusive and broadly prosperous world will also be a more peaceful and secure world and that is a goal well worth pursuing.”

The core idea of the Commission’s report is making the principle of legal empowerment a central theme in the debate on tackling poverty in the future, though the Commission recognised the embryonic nature of the concept and that its evolution into practice will take time.


The Law Can Be An Extremely Powerful Asset In Fighting Poverty”, Madeleine Albright Declared, “But It Has Been Chronically Underused And That Must Change.

The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor was launched by a group of developed and developing countries including Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Tanzania and the United Kingdom, and was hosted by the United Nations Development Programme, the UNDP, in New York. The Report was first released on 3 June, 2008 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Microjustice Web Portal Launched

In addition to the mircojustice4all website, as well as Micojustice in Bolivia and now Peru, the microjustice folks have created a portal to all things microjustice at http://www.microjustice.org/. Hmmm.... here's hoping that maybe at some point in the future, I will be listed there as well! :)

(Updated 2/27/10) Here are the resources listed so far:

WELCOME TO MICROJUSTICE

Microjustice links
International Legal Alliances (ILA) Microjustice for All | www.microjustice4all.org
Coordinating and network organisation for implementation of microjustice country programs, implementing microjustice in the field.
Microjusticia Bolivia www.microjusticiabolivia.org
Country Program implementing microjustice in Bolivia
Microjusticia Perรบ www.microjusticiaperu.org
Country program implementing microjustice in Peru
Micro Justice Initiative www.microjusticeinitiative.com
Platform for microjustice
Tilburg University | www.tilburguniversity.nl/TISCO
Conducting research in dispute resolution system design.
UNDP Legal Empowerment of the Poor | http://www.undp.org/legalempowerment/
Report of the UN Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor


Reproducing the home page: 

WELCOME TO MICROJUSTICE

What is Microjustice?
Microjustice is an umbrella term for a variety of initiatives that provide basic legal services to the poorest people around the world. In many societies, the poorest lack access to lawyers, courts or government services. Hence, they cannot enjoy even the most basic rights they have according to the law. Basic legal services may range from obtaining correct identity papers, legal proof of land ownership to basic legal assistance with legal proceedings, for example in the field of employment and labour conditions, housing or family matters.
Why Microjustice?
For many people without access to justice, relatively small legal issues like obtaining identity or property documents or solving even the most common legal problems, are often the biggest obstacle for full participation in society. Microjustice aims to solve these basic legal issues - hence the term ‘Micro'.
More broadly, Microjustice, wants to be a part of the global movement for self-empowerment of the poor, like for example Microfinance. Like access to elementary financial services, access to justice is proven to be of great importance for overcoming poverty and stimulating development. In many cases, access to justice means access to education, health care and the economy.
Who provides Microjustice?
Microjustice services can be provided by many different actors, ranging from community based initiatives, small non-profit organizations and universities to commercial law firms.
Who is involved in Microjustice?
A number of initiatives are working in the field of microjustice and develop and practise low cost processes and solutions. The aim of this portal is to provide a comprehensive overview of current initiatives.

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Second Life Law Suit!

Wow, some time ago, I blogged briefly about the presence of law firms in Second Life as well as possible emerging legal issues WITHIN the virtual world. I've since left that virtual life (I believe my Avatar is still standing immobile somewhere), because of my real travelling life, but I chanced upon this story recently. I didn't know that there was a real case started last year with a cause of action arising in Second Life:

(reproduced from SF Gate's brief here:)


Like so many things, virtual law started with sex. Specifically, the first known legal case originating in a virtual world was over a bed designed for rolls in the virtual hay.
Eros vs. Volkov Catteneo was not unlike business dustups that happen in the real world every day. One person created something and sold it, and another person allegedly copied it and sold cheap knockoffs.
The only thing novel about this case is that the item in question was a piece of furniture made entirely of computer code, and it was bought and sold by 3-D avatars in Second Life, a virtual world run by San Francisco's Linden Lab.
Second Life user Kevin Alderman of Lutz, Fla., created the very interactive bed, which enabled avatars to engage in a range of activities (cuddling, more). But when another user started selling copies, Alderman hired real-life lawyer Francis Taney, who tracked down the real person behind the bed-copying avatar and secured a consent judgment from Florida's U.S. District Court ordering him to quit.
This happened in March 2008, and since then, Taney, of the Philadelphia office of law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, says that he has devoted 20 to 30 percent of his practice to virtual law, or disputes that happen in virtual worlds such as Second Life.
He's not alone. Although the courts have seen only a few such disputes so far, a number of law firms have created practices focused on virtual worlds and video games, or set up offices within Second Life itself.
Benjamin Duranske, who recently joined the Silicon Valley office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to help build such a practice, even wrote a book on the field, "Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds."
"It's an emerging area of law, which is really a treat for attorneys, because the law (in other areas) is somewhat stable," Duranske said.
Occasionally these attorneys deal with disputes that arise inside multiplayer video games, such as World of Warcraft. But most often, these attorneys are focused on Second Life, a free-to-join 3-D environment that looks like a video game except that it has no set goals, nothing to win or lose. People log on to hang out, do business and hook up (hence the popularity of Alderman's sex bed).
Besides its lack of missions and scores, what distinguishes Second Life from video games is that Linden allows users to buy virtual property and create objects that are protected by intellectual property rights.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...