Californian judge passes verdict regarding "virtual ownership"

Wollongong

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In California, there has been a class action lawsuit against the company behind Second Life. Plaintiffs basically claimed that they were deceived, as the company made claims about "owning" stuff.

In this amended complaint, they accused Linden Research of making false representations about the ownership of virtual property and said that the company wrongly confiscated virtual property from them.
And the outcome is that Linden Labs (the company) must provide a full refund:
Under the terms of the class action settlement, Linden Research has agreed to return up to 100 percent of the U.S. dollar balances in the Class Members’ accounts to their PayPal accounts within 10 days of establishing the validity of the claim. Linden will also return up to 100 percent of the balance of linden dollars by converting them to U.S. dollars and will waive Second Life’s commissions on the currency exchange. Linden Research also agreed to pay for virtual property and virtual items once the validity of each claim is determined.
I think this verdict has implications for EU too, for instance with the CLD. The only thing about ownership is in the EULA, which nobody ever reads. But iirc MA claims they never will return anything other than the PED deposited in the last three months. This verdict might just put that claim upside down.

Because one could argue we were misled about ownership too: CLD cost 1000 PED, but have a tt of zero. We bought the right to claim land (which never happened) and we were promised voting rights (which never came).
Now, let me emphasize that I am not complaining, nor am I in any way tempted to file any claim or lawsuit. But this does have a clear relevance to our world. While it has been about stuff taken away in SL, my example is about promises never delivered (which is basically the same in the end), and there have been cases where items have become useless (clothes, shops) for a short or longer time (what about the whips and the ped invested in taming skills, for instance?

What do you think the implications of this Judge's decision are?


Source: http://www.topclassactions.com/laws...nd-life-virtual-money-class-action-settlement
 

Sissi

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Interesting.
 

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I think the situation is a bit different, this decision was made in a US court, MA is not a US company. Also, the removal of items / currency from characters isn't on par with broken promises. With the exception of the previously available but still missing professions, MA's broken promises haven't cost anyone anything. And even though taming isn't usable right now the taming items still have their TT value which is all MA is responsible to pay. Speaking of TT values, CLD's were sold with no TT value, this was quite obvious at the time of sale. The land and voting rights were mentioned as future features for CLD holders and no specific timeline was given. At the time of their sale the only benefit of CLD ownership was a share in Calypso's revenues, which has been delivered weekly and without interruption.

While I do agree that this court decision does have an impact on the gaming industry and virtual property it will be a while and will have to go beyond a state court in a single country before we see MA's business practices altered, if we ever do.
 

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What do you think the implications of this Judge's decision are?
None. Mindark is subjected to Swedish laws.

The same laws which protected PirateBay for example for a long, long time until tons of money and pressure were poured by some of the largest companies around.
 

jaydub

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it would be no different....

In California, there has been a class action lawsuit against the company behind Second Life. Plaintiffs basically claimed that they were deceived, as the company made claims about "owning" stuff.


Source: http://www.topclassactions.com/laws...nd-life-virtual-money-class-action-settlement

...than if Apple sold an Iphone that was designed with solder at all the connections that over time dissolved causing the item to fail and it was designed this way on purpose to increase sales volume over the long term...they sold something with a perceived value....if the courts can also see that perceived value or believe a reasonable person would see that perceived value then MA in trouble IF they had to go to court...but good luck getting international class action law suit...do we wanna start a classaction lawsuit group list now, just in case?:laugh:....i dont think so...but no...really do we?...probably not...but maybe we should...no thats silly...im not interested...or maybe I am?...to be continued...

Brick
 

aia

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Plaintiffs basically claimed that they were deceived, as the company made claims about "owning" stuff.
A couple of years ago the text on estate deeds was changed from "owns the property" to "has the rights to manage the property", (or something with that meaning), and the EULA was changed in a simular way (applying to all items ingame).
 

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I never tried to purchase stuff in Half Life do they have 1 cent deeds in that game like EU. I think EU because you agreed to the EULA to abide that tt value is the actual value of an item MA is responsible for could exempt them for this type of lawsuit. Also is Research Labs a US company? I doubt you can do a state class action lawsuit that effects another countries company because they run under different laws.
 

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It certainly sets precedent, which is important for any legal argument. Though all suits for EU would have to be Swedish, Swedish consumer laws are actually very good, they could possibly view the issue the same way. Especially with a smart lawyer that just mentions precedent, by any court as a sample for his/her, what would certainly be unique to Swedish law, argument.
 

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It could as easily be looked at from the other side - Mindark provides a platform on which you can play, in order to play you buy a service from MA, they give you X amount of monopoly money that you play with and if you decide to quit MA offers another service for you to turn in leftovers of the imaginary play-money.

Because that's the thing - you don't buy guns from MA, you buy PEDs which isn't even a currency, it's play-money, so its basically just a service they provide. And that's why they offer only 3 month of depos - I think this says they just offer those peds as a service very well. Those 3 months are for you to "decide if you are happy with the service provided", you don't even own the peds.


That's most likely why they changed all those deed descriptions and EULA, so that nowhere it is written that you own something. So you cannot argue that you lost something you own, since you never actually owned it. Imho it actually makes sense, since its all imaginary anyway, if for some reason Mindark goes bankrupt and the servers are taken down - your Modified FAP won't mean anything and will most likely disappear without a trace. And your claim is only for the last 3 months depos for a service that wasn't fully provided.
 

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It could as easily be looked at from the other side - Mindark provides a platform on which you can play, in order to play you buy a service from MA, they give you X amount of monopoly money that you play with and if you decide to quit MA offers another service for you to turn in leftovers of the imaginary play-money.

Because that's the thing - you don't buy guns from MA, you buy PEDs which isn't even a currency, it's play-money, so its basically just a service they provide. And that's why they offer only 3 month of depos - I think this says they just offer those peds as a service very well. Those 3 months are for you to "decide if you are happy with the service provided", you don't even own the peds.


That's most likely why they changed all those deed descriptions and EULA, so that nowhere it is written that you own something. So you cannot argue that you lost something you own, since you never actually owned it. Imho it actually makes sense, since its all imaginary anyway, if for some reason Mindark goes bankrupt and the servers are taken down - your Modified FAP won't mean anything and will most likely disappear without a trace. And your claim is only for the last 3 months depos for a service that wasn't fully provided.
You are right. But what the EULA says and what is implied can be two different things.

Give the illusion that people own stuff and they might very well assume that they do. And in any case a court can still bend the law whatever way it wants to, and say people are entitled to a "fair" compensation.
 

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It certainly sets precedent, which is important for any legal argument. Though all suits for EU would have to be Swedish, Swedish consumer laws are actually very good, they could possibly view the issue the same way. Especially with a smart lawyer that just mentions precedent, by any court as a sample for his/her, what would certainly be unique to Swedish law, argument.
So yes i would imagine that any court decisions regarding virtual property made in the "western" world will have some sort of precedent, especially taking into consideration that basically everything is cross boundary (ie across country borders)
The role of precedent is vastly different between national legal systems. Those matter a lot in Common Law countries like the US but a lot less in Civil Law countries (Continental European law).

This case would have zero impact on any similar case in Continental Europe.
 

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The role of precedent is vastly different between national legal systems. Those matter a lot in Common Law countries like the US but a lot less in Civil Law countries (Continental European law).

This case would have zero impact on any similar case in Continental Europe.
Naturally it would not be a as proper precedent law, due to fundamental differences as you pointed out, but I do believe that it would have an impact. Wouldn't be surprised if something similar to international maritime law would have to be implemented in the long run.
 
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Konve

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The role of precedent is vastly different between national legal systems. Those matter a lot in Common Law countries like the US but a lot less in Civil Law countries (Continental European law).

This case would have zero impact on any similar case in Continental Europe.
Actually, precedent plays a very large role in the Swedish justice system. Though I guess that's not Continental Europe (or is it? I dunno if you're just not including the islands).
 

Leona

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Actually, precedent plays a very large role in the Swedish justice system.
In Common Law (US, GB (not Scotland), Australia, Canada etc.) precedent is a third kind of law beside statutory and regulatory law. Precedent is binding.

While precedent does play a role in Civil Law it is not binding. Judges are not obligated to take it into account.

I only play smart ass here because i often see people assuming different impact from court rulings, depending where they come from.

Though I guess that's not Continental Europe (or is it? I dunno if you're just not including the islands).
Sweden is Continental Law, Scandinavian-German civil law to be more precise.

Wouldn't be surprised that something similar to international maritime law would have to be implemented in the long run.
Thats what would be needed yes, not going to happen anytime soon though.
 

FallenAngel

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It certainly sets precedent, which is important for any legal argument. Though all suits for EU would have to be Swedish, Swedish consumer laws are actually very good, they could possibly view the issue the same way. Especially with a smart lawyer that just mentions precedent, by any court as a sample for his/her, what would certainly be unique to Swedish law, argument.
there is already case law from another EU country that is relevant, the dutch supreme court ruled that virtual property has a real value purely on the basis that people assigned it a value and acted as if it had a value, much in the same way a thief can't argue that a painting by a master is only worth the value of the canvas, the paints and the time spent painting the work. this was regarding a case where some teens beat up someone to get them to relinquish virtual items in a game and their lawyer argued that it was a simple case of violent behaviour without any aggravating circumstances such as extortion due to the virtual goods having no value.

is this thread really tucked away far in the depths of this forum, i dont recall it was earlier, strange. :p
 

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--mod's comment--
Please don't take this off-topic by discussing non-related controversial legal issues.

Thanks
--/mod's comment--
 

billairboy

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Because one could argue we were misled about ownership too: CLD cost 1000 PED, but have a tt of zero. We bought the right to claim land (which never happened) and we were promised voting rights (which never came).
Now, let me emphasize that I am not complaining, nor am I in any way tempted to file any claim or lawsuit. But this does have a clear relevance to our world. While it has been about stuff taken away in SL, my example is about promises never delivered (which is basically the same in the end), and there have been cases where items have become useless (clothes, shops) for a short or longer time (what about the whips and the ped invested in taming skills, for instance?
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You can't accuse MA for not delivering the land claim and voting system yet, because they where very clear that it was something that would don't be something that would come soon.
 

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MA have never been unclear on the matter, you dont own anything. this is completely different to the way Linden Labs ran with the implication that any assets you created you owned.
 

Konve

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In Common Law (US, GB (not Scotland), Australia, Canada etc.) precedent is a third kind of law beside statutory and regulatory law. Precedent is binding.

While precedent does play a role in Civil Law it is not binding. Judges are not obligated to take it into account.

I only play smart ass here because i often see people assuming different impact from court rulings, depending where they come from.
Well I am not even going to attempt playing smart. I am no lawyer, after all. And English is my third language - so I have to rely on the powers of Google and Wikipedia to understand what you just said.

And yes, you are right. I see what you mean now.



The reason I argued is because (as a Swedish university student) I read court verdicts on a daily basis at the moment. And the "assignment" is almost always to understand and/or explain the precedent set by the ruling. While it may not be binding in the sense that it is in common law - it is pretty damn important.
 

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MA have never been unclear on the matter, you dont own anything. this is completely different to the way Linden Labs ran with the implication that any assets you created you owned.
As I see it that is a problem that mindark will have to address in the future, because all the hype is about XY bought TI/FOMA/CP for XXXXX amount of dollars (while all that the owners really have is a nominal value at 1 pec) or XY looted 33.000 USD creature (who is the owner of that? Did he loot for himself or MA?) and the most important is the RCE aspect (real cash economy implying that you own real cash not monopoly money) which again is emphasized by the convertability to US dollars. All these ads/PR give the impression of ownership which are contradictory with EULA/TOU. So mindark are either doing advertisements that are misleading (which is severely sanctioned by swedish law) or they will have to change that when it will be contested by some1 or (inter)national law will start to address virtual ownership.

Nuff of me rambling about, getting late and I'm probably writing incoherently, will check upon my post tomorrow and make amends if necessary.
 

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The reason I argued is because (as a Swedish university student) I read court verdicts on a daily basis at the moment. And the "assignment" is almost always to understand and/or explain the precedent set by the ruling. While it may not be binding in the sense that it is in common law - it is pretty damn important.
No argument there. I think what i am trying to say is that people tend to simplify court rulings and think those set precedent for, what they think are, similar cases.

Thread title says "Californian judge passes verdict", even that is not true. It was a settlement, no precedent there.

Yet we discuss possible impact on a game with different EULA when it comes to ownership from a swedish based company. That is not even speculating, that is just pure fantasy.

If there would have been a verdict in the Linden case (there was none) and if the case would have been a swedish one (it wasn't) and if MindArk would have similar terms and conditions on ownership of virtual items (they haven't)..
..even then it would not be untypical that a judge under Civil Law would not account for the precedent.

Very different to an US judge who would have to go through a lot of trouble to simply ignore precedent (in fact he / she can't).

I think that was my point. :) So the Linden settlement has zero impact on EU.

That all said i would not be the least surprised if the EU EULA won't hold up in many points in an serious case in any european country. So i am really just saying arguing the impact of this case on EU has no point.
 
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Leona

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But iirc MA claims they never will return anything other than the PED deposited in the last three months.
Wollongong, MindArk never claimed that. You have mistaken the liability clause for something that it isn't.
 

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I think this verdict has implications for EU too, for instance with the CLD. The only thing about ownership is in the EULA,
MA knew about this lawsuit... and acted based on that already... not sure anyone would want to sue Mindark, but it'd not surprise me.



changed from



 
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thoreau

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MA have never been unclear on the matter, you dont own anything. this is completely different to the way Linden Labs ran with the implication that any assets you created you owned.
I don't know about 'never.' From Feb 9 2005.

While on the planet Calypso you use the PED currency to invest in your personal development. The assets you acquire can be exchanged back into real world funds.
When people start talking about acquiring I start thinking about ownership. I took me about 5 minutes to find this.

 

Wollongong

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I think the situation is a bit different, this decision was made in a US court, MA is not a US company. Also, the removal of items / currency from characters isn't on par with broken promises. With the exception of the previously available but still missing professions, MA's broken promises haven't cost anyone anything. And even though taming isn't usable right now the taming items still have their TT value which is all MA is responsible to pay. Speaking of TT values, CLD's were sold with no TT value, this was quite obvious at the time of sale. The land and voting rights were mentioned as future features for CLD holders and no specific timeline was given. At the time of their sale the only benefit of CLD ownership was a share in Calypso's revenues, which has been delivered weekly and without interruption.

While I do agree that this court decision does have an impact on the gaming industry and virtual property it will be a while and will have to go beyond a state court in a single country before we see MA's business practices altered, if we ever do.
I beg to disagree. I bought CLD primarily for the other features, not for the revenue (which I considered a nice secondary benefit). Broken promises can cost money.
 

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I beg to disagree. I bought CLD primarily for the other features, not for the revenue (which I considered a nice secondary benefit). Broken promises can cost money.
Ok, but the primary function for CLDs are the payouts, those things you are looking for are mentioned as a possible extra features in future.
 

Leona

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I beg to disagree. I bought CLD primarily for the other features, not for the revenue (which I considered a nice secondary benefit). Broken promises can cost money.
You clearly have an point. You purchased CLDs, say directly from MA / PP when they released them at 100 USD a piece. Those got advertised with certain future features. So if you think MindArk / the PP has broken a promise here you certainly could try to sue them.. at some point.

That you would have a hard time to make a case in any european court is another thing. What are you going to sue for, compensation? Compensation for what, how much, why?

Indemnification works very different in Europe then we are used to see it from US law TV series. :)

Class Actions, don't even get me started. They basically don't exist in most european countries. One way nowadays is to have a consumer organizations mobilized, but on your own, no way.

That those features would be implemented really quick, in one way or the other, before you even would have the first court hearing and you are then left with costs but little arguments is also another thing.

Anyway, all this has nothing to do with the Linden case in your opening post, not even much with ownership of virtual items.

That we do not own virtual items in EU, until a judge says otherwise, is mostly to our benefit. I could write a lot about that but it would go off topic fast.

Sissi already said it, MindArk is very aware of all those issues.

If one would impartially observe MindArks actions over the years in certain situations (banned accounts) one would come to the conclusion that they acted very smart and very careful. But the player base don't understand and complains when MindArk does the only sensible thing in certain situations. I can give some examples if you want me to.

Mastermesh rides the change of text in deeds thingy since years, i doubt he ever spent one minute thinking how much those changes benefits us players.

All in all i think MindArk is actually really good at legal things. And obviously thats good for us players as we don't want to pay for law suits on top of everything, do we?
 

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There are only one place in sweden where th US law is in action, US embassy.
 

thoreau

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There are only one place in sweden where th US law is in action, US embassy.
Does Google have to follow EU law?

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/oct/15/google-privacy-policy
 
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