Eros LLC, and graphic designer Shannon Grei (Munchflower Zaius) have filed a class-action lawsuit against Linden Research Inc, more commonly known as Linden Lab, developers and operators of popular virtual environment Second Life, on behalf of themselves and of copyright/trademark holders and Second Life content creators.
Filed in the Court of the Northern District of California yesterday, the complaint defines four groups of class action and alleges: four counts of trademark infringement (two direct, one contributory, and one vicarious), four counts of copyright infringement (two direct, one contributory, and one vicarious), a breach of California Business Professional Codes §§ 17200 and 17500, one of Intentional Interference with Economic Relations, and one of Negligent Interference with Economic Relations.
The complaint seeks damages, fines under the Lanham act, treble damages (for willfulness), expenses, injunctive relief and declaratory relief.
Kevin Alderman (known in Second Life as Stroker Serpentine), CEO of Eros LLC told us, "First and foremost this is a class action application. As a class we represent evident copyright and trademark infringement. Our intent is not to take down Second Life, nor create a division amongst the community. It is apparent to many of us that our concerns have gone largely ignored. Copybot, Builderbot, CryoLife et al are but symptoms of an ambivalent approach towards IP theft on behalf of Linden Lab. For years we have been promised better tools, more metadata, sticky licenses, aggressive response, verification, watermarks ... ad nauseum. Seven years later and all we are given is a 'Roadmap'." [We covered that roadmap here on Massively last month]
"The pirates know full well how to hedge their bets and leverage the DMCA in their favor," said Alderman, "We are virtually defenseless unless we have the financial means to pursue expensive litigation. We do not expect miracles. We understand the nature of our chosen environment. Unfortunately, there is little to no deterrence under the current regime."
The complaint itself outlines the basics of Second Life and it's economic, currency and asset system for the court, and then goes on to describe how infringers of copyright use the DMCA as both a shield and a weapon against content-creators.
Additionally, the complaint asserts that Linden Lab is both careless (damaging original content) and tardy (late to act or taking no action) in response to DMCA notifications.
Accordingly, Linden Lab has made trademark and copyright infringement free and easy, turning the Second Life community into a vast virtual flea market in which users peddle knockoffs and pirated copies of IP-protected products and services. Despite Linden Lab's actual knowledge of such widespread activity, it has taken no substantive action to prevent, limit, or prohibit such widespread infringement.
Linden Lab directly derives substantial financial benefits from this scheme, including by earning revenue from licensing the virtual real estate used to offer and sell, imposing of a fee for the upload of infringing works, goods or services by infringers, and charging promotional and advertising fees. Linden Lab also retains a portion of the proceeds of nearly every sale associated with the infringed trademarks and copyrights by infringers, and from the overall increase in user traffic and commercial value of its business and property arising from the "draw" of infringing copyrighted and trademarked intellectual property of others.
Further, Linden Lab has continued to willfully infringe Plaintiffs' rights even after Plaintiffs notified them that its use of Plaintiffs' trademarked goods and services and copyrighted materials violates Plaintiffs' rights under copyright and trademark law.
The complaint goes on to detail infringements against both Eros LLC and Grei's intellectual property, and to allege that Linden Lab willfully profited and intentionally either contributed or failed to act when made aware of the infringements.
We contacted Linden Lab yesterday, who declined to comment on the case.
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