Friday, March 23, 2007

Who has the Rights?

This is an interesting arguement cited from

by Andrew D. Schwarz, Robert Bullis

A section of this article questions the many gray areas game developers prey on to "preserve" gaming experience of their online virtual worlds/ games.

Principle of the first sale doctrine:
  • A copyright holder who sells to a wholesaler could not bind a downstream retailer to selling at a given price, even if the book itself explicitly included such a price-maintenance claim.
  • The purpose of the copyright laws was to prevent unauthorized copying of the work in question and to grant the sole right to sell the copies into the market, but "[t]o add to the right of exclusive sale the authority to control all future retail sales, by a notice that such sales must be made at a fixed sum, would give a right not included" in the copyright statute.
And so the classical example of Napster being sued for infringing music publishers' right to control the reproduction and distribution of their copyrighted materials clearly explains this law. Purchasing copyrighted content does not mean you own the content, it only means you licensed it and have the rights to use it. For this scenario, duplication of copyrighted content from one computer into the next allows someone else to use the content and redistribute it for free again and again outrightly violates the laws of copyrights.

Here comes the question, does this really apply to intellectual property (IP) in the online games? Virtual items sold in these games, do not work the same way. Once the virtual item is sold, the seller no longer has it and will have to commit to dedicate time to develop or look for this item again. Like passing on a physical item, no duplication is involved here unlike file-sharing in the case of Napster, the distributor still retains his/her copy of the original file.

Say a physical object example a book. The book can change hands and resold over and over again, what matters is that at each point in time only one person can have the given copy of the book. This makes it questionable for online game developers to say players infringe their IP should they sell an virtual item for cash and then there is also no way to justify the facts that giving these items away for free do not violate the law.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hype of MMO and non-game virtual worlds

Multiverse, maker of a free MMO-creation platform has plan to bring FireFly to life by turning The universe of Firefly into an virtual world environment.

FireFly the US science fiction TV series that was the Star Trek of 21st-century sci-fi fandom is one of the first TV series to be developed into a MMOG. Even the entertainment media industry is acknowledging the potential of MMOGs.

We see virtual worlds as an extraordinarily promising new entertainment medium." - Adam Kline, Fox Licensing's vice president of media enterprises

With that Multiverse was contracted to take this project off.

The potential of MMOGs is huge and according to sources some 7,000 development teams had registered for the Multiverse beta and more than 150 are making MMOs and non-game virtual worlds on a full-time basis.

Considering this being still an expanding industry, it is a significant number of developers and with that many people going into it, it can't be wrong that the virtual industry will be the next main economic driver of the world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Inspiration: Changing the World Through Creative Entrepreneurship

From article about Kalev Leetaru.

“The spirit of creation is at the heart of entrepreneurship.”

Well said, these were inspirational words from the man, a renowned entrepreneur in the field of virtual reality.

From the article, Kalev started his entrepreneurial path in his 8th grade, writing a software which allowed users to develop their own web pages. And together with his father, launched Gamacles Software.

Entrepreneurship starting from young or at least when one undergoes education is the best way to practice the trade where one can practice to Perfection under "controlled" enviroments. In this way, it minimizes the risk of failing and increase the number of successes of startups run and managed by these people.

“the biggest hurdle for entrepreneurs in general, and student entrepreneurs in particular, is the business savvy to know how to bring an idea to market and find the resources to actually do so."

Business savvy is a taught process and goes best with education in technical/ professional knowledge. It stimulates one's mind to develop ideas and businesses around the their field of expertises therefore benefitting the industries and economies.

Entrepreneurship is not just a startup knowledge, it is knowledge that works for any field. To be an entrepreneur is to "create products/ services that are meaningful to people, that provide solutions to make their lives easier."

Only through creative thinking that the world is changed and solutions are derived. Without entrepreneurship, who knows what this world will be like.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Virtual currency replacement for Real Cold Hard Cash?

Virtual currencies will become a dominant global curreny. Not possible? These guys in China might be able to do it.

In view of this article from Asia Times online, Chinese government central bank is worried that the rise a popular virtual currency in China could affect the value of the yuan. "QQ" coins that what they call it issued by China's largest instant-messaging service provider, Tencent, mainly used for transaction of virtual items. However see the opportunity, many third party websites are expanding its use into other unintended areas.

"The QQ coin is challenging the status of the renminbi (yuan) as the only legitimate currency in China." - Public prosecutor Yang Tao, Asia Times Online

And it is believe that the Chinese central government would act to "limit the application of QQ coins" and assure that their use is restricted to the virtual world.

"QQ " coins can be easily purchased with a bank, telephone or "QQ" card at an official price of 1 yuan per coin. They were originally designed to pay for Tencent services such as electronic greeting cards, online games and anti-virus software. But with no law built around their usage, "QQ" coins found their way into other illicit services like online gambling and online sex chats.

So far, from the article "QQ" coins hasn't got any impact on the yuan. Nevertheless there is a huge potential of using the coins for real goods, but judging from the way Tencent would want to reduce financial risks, chances of it becoming a Virtual Bank of China are silm.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Virtual property banned on eBay

eBay is now delisting all auctions for 'virtual artifacts' from the site.

First reported on Slashdot, game currency, items, and accounts/characters are being actively delisted from eBay. However SecondLife was spared in from this delisting.

The rationale behind this ban was as Mr. Hani Durzy, speaking for eBay, explained due to the 'legal complexities' surrounding virtual property.

Mr Duzy pointed out:

"The seller must be the owner of the underlying intellectual property, or authorized to distribute it by the intellectual property owner."

"For the overall health of the marketplace" the company felt that the proper course of action, after considerable contemplation, was to ban the sale of these items outright.

There are a few conflicting points to bring out here:

First most if not all MMOGs encourage users to exchange virtual properties, do transactions within the game environments. Where's the legal complexity/ intellectural property rights issue here?

Second, some games encourage real money transactions (RMT), these games shouldn't be even considered in the ban.

Last, by banning virtual properties in eBay is just to shift the economy of transacting virtual properties to other independent sites like IGE. Virtual transactions will still continue to thrive.

To eBay, this would be a huge lost in revenue.

What is the Virtual Economy?

For many who do not know, the Virtual Economy is now a common term used to describe an economy of trading of virtual property revolving Massive Multiplayer Online Games.

So what's so special? They are just games, its not like it's your "bread and butter". Well, THINK AGAIN.

Back in late October 2005, an independent filmmaker from Miami, spent $100,000 purchasing a virtual space station in the game "Project Entropia." He became the first person in the history of online gaming to to spend so much money.

MMOGs are no longer just a leisure space, many players of the games are getting into the games for the financial benefits they bring. Transactions of virtual items involving real money is creating an economy of its own. Numbers involve are huge, it was estimated that total global transactions for 2006 amounted up to USD 2.09 billion.

This spur the creation of many games directed at transacting game currencies using Real Cold Cash. One good example would be SecondLife, where players are involved in creating virtual items and buying/ selling among themselves using Linden Dollars (L$). In order to get your Linden Dollars, you'll have to trade for it at the Lindex using US dollars.

Now who gonna say it's not a social impact?