Friday, October 31, 2008

Copybot as Revolutionary Part 2: My avatars and I are one


I appreciate the thoughtful comments from yesterday. I'm still mulling through this issue and have a few more ideas to throw out before taking a break for the weekend.

"Do not steal" has been a core injunction in every major religion for thousands of years and is a foundational principal that informs every legal system in the world today. The applicability of DNS is relatively straightforward in questions of physical objects. But as Cristopher Lefavre and Dandellion noted in their comments yesterday, digital technology has introduced questions about the nature of property and ownership that are still winding their way through the world's courts and philosophy departments.

My personal take on digital property is that sellers should not have the right to dictate my personal use of any item I buy, including using it in different accounts and on different worlds. The analogy of music that was brought up in the comments seems very relevant.

The limits of the Second Life DRM system have a lot to do with the problem. There is no technological reason that Majic (my alt) and Botgirl can't be tied together in a database so that I, the sentient being who actually paid for items can have access to them in whatever identity I choose to use. The same holds true for authentication between worlds.

Why should a seller be able to dictate how I use a digital asset I purchased, as long as I am not duplicating it for another person? Botgirl owns nothing and has no legal standing that is separate from me. So it's a bit fantastical to imagine that it is somehow any more wrong for Botgirl to transfer an item to Majic than it would be wrong for my my right hand sock puppet to transfer an item to my left hand sock puppet. Clearly it's just one owner who is moving an asset from place to place.

I don't think I hold a radical position on this. I do believe that copying someone's work and then selling or giving away duplicates to others is theft. Distributing mp3s on a bittorrent site is against the law in most countries, while ripping a CD to an mp3 for one's own use is legal.

Well, that's enough for now. I look forward to a continued dialogue.


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A beautiful thought experiment personified through the imagined perspective of a self-aware avatar. My creator's site can is at