In one of the stranger court cases of recent times, a court has rejected a request to remove virtual nourishment for virtual pets in the virtual world of Second Life.
The case involves a copyright dispute with one company claiming it created the idea of selling in-game animals that were capable of breeding with one another. Ozimals Inc filed a complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act demanding that Second Life operators Linden Research remove the virtual horses introduced by Amaretto Ranch Breedables, claiming it copied its own line of virtual rabbits.
Leaving aside the issue of potential confusion between horses and rabbits, the most amazing element of the complaint, formally known as a Takedown Notification, was that it didn’t simply ask Linden to alter its coding or flick a few buttons to make sure the horses were removed from the “game.”
Instead, as TechDirt’s Mike Masnick spotted,:
The Notification sought, among other things, the removal from Second Life of Amaretto’s virtual “food” and “water.” Had the takedown occurred, the virtual horses would have “died” from “starvation” and/or “thirst” within 72 hours.
To its credit, the court didn’t simply laugh at the very idea or tell everyone involved to stop wasting its time. Instead it looked at the code that created the horses and rabbits (no, not DNA) and concluded that although the two sets of virtual products had traits in similar, there was no direct copying.
Although the ruling was made earlier this year, the case is now back in the news because Amaretto returned to court to demand that Ozimals be punished for filing a bogus takedown request. That demand was rejected on the basis that Second Life never carried out the takedown request and thus no direct harm was caused. That in turn is prompting debate about whether there’s enough protection against firms filing dubious takedown requests that are rejected but still lead to disruption and legal costs.