I am in California.
There seems to be a lot of confusion as to the legal status of various actions within the computer game [URL=http://www.secondlife.com]Second Life[/URL].
Background: Second Life is a multiplayer game with thousands of players in a Three Dimensional world that, while cartoony/computery-looking, does bear a strong resemblance to the real world. Second life seems to be unique in that is offers:
A. Tools for players/users to create their own objects and programs in the world and share/sell them with other players. For example a player can create a car in the world that is readily recognizable as a model of a 1960's convertible of a particular make.
B. EULA that allows users to retain all copyrights to any original creations in the game. For example, if a user creates a purple fuzzy rabbit in the game, they could then make t-shirts and sell them for their own personal profit in the real world.
C. The company endorses the exchange of their virtual "currency" Linden Dollars, with US dollars, through the use of services such as [URL=http://www.gamingopenmarket.com]the Gaming Open Market[/URL]
These combination of attributes in intended to promote creative enterprises within the context of the game.
However there seems to be much confusion among the players of the game as to how Copyright law actually works. There appears to be rampant copyright violations resulting from abuse of the creative tools within the game. I would appreciate any opinions or insight about the following cases of possible copyright:
1) Player A creates an entirely original automobile in the game. It has three wheels and a distinctive shape. Player B purchases a copy of the automobile form player A, then by observation and measurement creates his own three wheeled vehicle with the same shape. Is player B violating player A's copyrights?
2) As above, but Player B changes the shape of the vehicle in a minor way, "improving" it by incorporating features like shiny hubcaps and racing spoiler. Is player B violating player A's copyrights?
3) As above, but Player B is selling a 3 wheeled automobile that serves the same function - two seater sports buggy - but who's styling and body shape is significantly different. Is player B violating player A's copyrights?
4) Player C has created and is selling and automobile that is a replica of a popular 1960's sports car. It has the same name, shape and detailing. Player C has taken images of the original manufacturer's logo's, uploaded them and applied them to his car. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer?
5) As above, but Player C has manually reproduced the manufacturer's logos. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer?
6) As above, but Player C has manually created a logo that looks similar to the original Manufacturer's, but is not the same. Example "Ford" written in script in a blue oval, is replaced by "Fort" written in script in a purple oval. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer?
7) As above, but Player C has eliminated all logos from his car, and has named his vehicles something different from the original. For example "1960's Ford Mustang Convertible" is replaced with "1960's convertible sport car" The shape and styling of the vehicle is still recognizably the same regardless of the fact that it is a primitive computer representation. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer?
8) As above, Player C has removed all trademarks and names. Player C is now giving away his representation of the vehicle for free so that people may experience his artistic interpretation of a vehicle of historical interest. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer?
9) As above, but Player C only shares his 'car' with close friends who are restricted from further sharing of the vehicle. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer or is this now fair use?
10) As above, but Player C only uses his 'car himself and never gives a copy to another player. Is player C violating the copyright of the original manufacturer or is this now fair use?
11) Player D has is selling a "costume" that can be worn by player in the game which gives them the likeness of a famous movie actor playing a famous movie character. For example the Indiana Jones character played by Harrison Ford. Player D is not using the name of the character or the movie in advertising his creation. Is player D violating copyrights?
12) Player D is selling "clothing" that looks very similar to that worn by a famous movie character. For example just the leather jacket, hat, and bullwhip used by Indiana Jones. Player D is not using the name of the character or the movie in advertising his creation. Is player D violating copyrights? Does the degree to which the clothing is unique and distinctive matter? For example a fairly generic leather jacket like worn by Indiana Jones, versus a detailed period costume very similar to that worn by Scarlet O'Hara?
13) Player D is selling a "costume/clothing" that gives the likeness of a popular cartoon character, for example Mickey Mouse, or Snoopy. Player D is not using the name of the character in advertising his creation. Is player D violating copyrights?
14) Player E is engaged in selling items which admittedly infringe on an existing copyright. Player E never exchanges his in game "play" currency for US dollars. Player E claims that his actions are not really "selling" but only "playing at selling inside a video game" and that his copyright infringement should not be considered a serious attempt to make a profit off from another's copyrighted material, but rather a fan tribute intended to promote interest in the copyrighted property. He cites the exchange rate between L$ and US$ in his defense - the fruits of his many hours of labour within the game are sold for the equivalent of US pennies.
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to any of these questions. I think the topic is quite interesting, and I believe that many players are engaged in infringing behavior without fully realizing it! To further confuse the matter, the game servers are located in California, but players are citizens of countries from all around the world.