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  Live Video From Inside ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2005-06-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab has opened a peephole into their virtual world, allowing any drooling savage to gaze into the walled garden of Second Life and at the dwellers within. At the time of this writing, the "camera" seems to be aimed at one of Second Life's zillion dance clubs. This is the most realistic depiction of Second Life you're going to get without visiting it in avatar form, but be warned--the virtual world isn't likely to run as smoothly for you as the video.

After viewing the live footage, there are a number of unique legal considerations that come to mind. I'm not a lawyer (duh) so you can take this with a spoonful of salt:
  • Do the residents know they are being filmed?
  • Is Linden Labs reponsible for the content of the video page? If so, are the Lindens responsible for any IP infringement that might be displayed?
  • The audio is currently a streaming feed from RadioParadise.com. Is the audio being streamed from within Second Life? Or via the Linden web page? Either way, there's bound to be some sort of rebroadcasting issue here.
I'm sure Linden Labs has covered its collective ass on these issues, but it's fun considering the implications of a real-world peephole into a virtual world anyway.
 
     
 
   
 
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  11 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Gwyneth Llewelyn
June 27, 2005 @ 2:36 pm
     
 
Well, when radical new things appear, all sorts of issues are raised.

The residents know that they're being filmed - Linden Lab has specifically asked on the internal forums about people willing to let them film them. It's only natural that some dance clubs are happy for the free advertising. :) Also, Linden Lab is not responsible for the content of the video page - they're the "data carrier" and nothing else...

The audio is not being streamed from within Second Life, although it may look like it. Basically, in-world, you can select an URL for an external streaming server (either for audio or video streaming - both are possible). Embedded inside your Second Life client is a client for audio/video streaming which connects to that URL and gets the feed from there. In no way this feed goes "through" Linden Lab's servers or systems.

So, if there is any sort of IP violation, is by the person owning the dance club, who has set up the URL for everybody.

I also wonder about "rebroadcasting issues". If I'm chatting in a room in MSN or Yahoo or a channel in IRC, and send my friends an URL for a public streaming server like Radio Paradise, and now everybody "tunes in" to that stream - is that a violation of IP? I think not, because in this case, there is no "rebroadcasting" - I'm just announcing a way to "tune in" to a public streaming server. It's the same as yelling in a bus "hey, everybody, tune now to 100.0 FM", and having all the people in the bus listening to that on their personal radios.

The same happens in Second Life. You just announce the URL for your client to connect. Each client will have a separate connection to the original, pubic streaming server. The cool thing about the Second Life client application is that it's embedded into the virtual world, but it's exactly the same as having WinAmp or any other streaming client on your desktop, and change streams according to what other people tell you to change to.

"Rebroadcasting" is a tough issue in the Internet. *If* Second Life's servers were connecting to the original streaming server, and then distributing the streams to the client applications - thus, effectively, acting as a "repeater" or "relay" or "proxy streaming server" - I agree that the issues would be a bit more trickier. But not like it's done right now.

- Gwyn
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 27, 2005 @ 3:20 pm
     
 
Thanks for the comments, Gwyn, I've got a few replies. Your previous comments in bold:

The residents know that they're being filmed - Linden Lab has specifically asked on the internal forums about people willing to let them film them.

I hadn't seen that thread. I'm sure LL has this sort of thing covered in their TOS already. I'm pretty sure they are entitled to use your avatar's image however they like. I think there are privacy expectations, though. When I am walking down the street in RL, I don't expect that I'll be shown in a video on a web page. I have the same expectation in SL -- however wrong that expectation might be.

Regarding the IP/rebroadcast issues, I was already aware that SL streaming audio is not streamed via the SL servers. I'm not sure how long LL will continue to be able to disclaim responsibility for the actions of their users when they knowingly establish a public peephole into SL. When LL serves up video with embedded audio, I would think they would be responsible for the content. A comparison might be an ISP that takes a screenshot of a user's web page, and then publishes that on the ISP home page. That content is no longer solely a product of the user, it's been handled and served up by the ISP. When I talk about "rebroadcasting" here, I am not talking about "relaying." What it seems LL is doing is making a recording of the streaming audio playing on that parcel of land and then playing back that recording embedded into the streaming video. That's sort of like pointing a webcam at your television set. You wouldn't be the source broadcaster, you'd be rebroadcasting what someone else had to pay to broadcast. I'm no IP lawyer, but I think there are some issues here. The more visible SL's innumerable IP violations become, the more like the RIAA or MPAA are to take notice. The more participation LL has in the content, the more likely they may be seen as reponsible.

There was a very recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court against the "Grokster" file sharing software, where "One who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright ... is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device's lawful uses." Now obviously, Linden Lab is not promoting copyright infringement here, but this court decision is a big step in "Copyright Liability" -- a step closer to holding the makers or maintainers of software responsible for the actions of their users.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Gwyneth Llewelyn
June 27, 2005 @ 3:44 pm
     
 
Ah, I think I understand your concern, Tony. Yes, if you point a webcam to a TV set, and use that to promote your product, there may be IP violations there.

On the other hand, if a TV broadcasting company films some action on the street, and some copyrighted brand names are filmed as well (say, as the camera pans across shop fronts), IP violations are not intended, and there certainly is "fair use" of them, in the interests of the TV broadcasting company to promote their news/documentary.

Well, Linden Lab is not exactly a TV broadcasting company, since their interest on the "Live Feed" is giving potential users of the Second Life platform a "taste" of what's inside. Assuming you're filming willing users with their consent, this should be definitely "fair use".

The announcement for volunteers to participate in the "Live Feed" was done here, for those of you with access to Second Life's forums.

Copyright issues are tricky at best - and sadly US law does not follow the international regulations on copyright use too closely - and while I definitely am not an IP lawyer (although I often struggled with IP-related issues), yes, I would agree there are a few shady areas that Linden Lab's legal department should take a look at, even if it's only to protect the company's interests. In any case, Linden Lab is definitely not promoting copyright infringements, and their Terms of Service are very strict on IP violations: trademarked content is removed without warning; copyright violations are removed as soon as the lawful copyright owner informs Linden Lab of the violation. All users must agree to those Terms of Service, and I think we can fairly assume that Linden Lab is doing its best to protect IP as broadly as it can.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Kathmandu
June 28, 2005 @ 4:34 pm
     
 
Well, I think most folks will know they are being filmed just from the fact the video is being shot by an avatar shaped like a video camera and named Video Linden.

It's an experiment right now. As time goes on and the novelty wears off it will become more refined.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 28, 2005 @ 4:49 pm
     
 
Video Linden is now shaped like a video camera? Eegad. That's pretty funny. I'd seen a screenshot of Video in the standard avatar gear, I guess they changed its costume.

I agree that this experiment will be refined, I just think it was deployed without much forethought.

I think that if the Lindens are going to keep Video Linden inworld, they need to tell people via the global system and via policy changes that they might be captured for replay on the public web site. For example, if you enter a sim that Video Linden is in, there is an on-screen warning informing you that you may be filmed. My expectation when I joined SL was not that I may be filmed at any time (even inadvertently) for the entertainment of the general public. It's not a big deal, it's just one of the many smaller deals that keep me from logging into SL more often.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Kathmandu
June 28, 2005 @ 5:40 pm
     
 
The TOS does warn that your avatar may be "filmed" and used for promotional purposes and that base is covered quite nicely. Considering the small window size, narrow field of view and such I wouldn't worry about it at all. Besides, whenever you are in a public area, you are providing "entertainment" to anyone who is there just the same as if you walked into Disneyland and were filmed by a news crew. Adding more pop ups and warnings about trivial things like that would anger players a lot. Don't wanna be filmed? Stay away from a giant video camera in Morris. :)
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 28, 2005 @ 5:56 pm
     
 
Kathmandu, I don't doubt that filming is already covered in the TOS, but I wasn't aware of it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. This is the kind of policy I was talking about in my earlier comment.

You wrote: Considering the small window size, narrow field of view and such I wouldn't worry about it at all.

I'm not worried about it. I just don't think it's been handled very well. Linden policy and strategy interests me.

Besides, whenever you are in a public area, you are providing "entertainment" to anyone who is there just the same as if you walked into Disneyland and were filmed by a news crew.

A news crew is taping news footage--this is editorial content, not entertainment. I've worked in the commercial television industry here in Canada, and in this country you can't just walk into a crowd with a camera and then air the footage. You either need release forms from every person on camera, or you need to establish an area that clearly states those inside it might be filmed.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
June 29, 2005 @ 11:16 am
     
 
Just a quick reply to Gwyneth's post.

Quote:
On the other hand, if a TV broadcasting company films some action on the street, and some copyrighted brand names are filmed as well (say, as the camera pans across shop fronts), IP violations are not intended, and there certainly is "fair use" of them, in the interests of the TV broadcasting company to promote their news/documentary.

Actually, several documentarys and films have been held up in production for exactly this reason. Just try to release a film where you have a street scene with a Seattle Coffee shop in the frame. You will find out just how little protection "fair use" provides.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Gwyneth Llewelyn
June 29, 2005 @ 12:57 pm
     
 
So how do US/Canadian TV broadcasting companies do interviews on the streets? It's almost impossible not to film a trademark or shop front or some IP when doing a live interview.

I thought the freedom of the press allowed them certain liberties when doing their work :) I mean, if a reporter films a bank robbery and broadcasts it via CNN, while the camera pans over the "Citibank" logo, is Citibank allowed to sue CNN for improper usage of their logo?

Although, of course, we would need to understand if the video broadcast from inside SL should be classified as "news" or "entertainment". I would say that most people would classify it under "entertainment" or "promotional video". I wouldn't, but then again, as said, I'm not a lawyer :)
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jos 'Hyakugei' Yule
June 29, 2005 @ 1:08 pm
     
 
I guess i fixated on the "documatary" bit of the quote. I'm sure you are correct for "News", but for most other products, docu's, films and tv shows, you could be against the wall wrt Logo's and TMed signage.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Gwyneth Llewelyn
June 29, 2005 @ 2:21 pm
     
 
Ah yes - I never questioned that. I think that the major issue here is that if that video is "promotional use" for Linden Lab - and in that case, I understand that some issues should be raised, like Tony's original post points out - or if this video is "news from Second Life".

Now, in both cases, I think it's clear that Linden Lab will benefit from the exposure. But I think that the current "Live Feed" video is rather different than this old promotional video. The Live Feed is a window on a world, like a TV reporter broadcasting from street or so; the promotional video is completely different (and there are no trademarks "hidden" there... I think!)
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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