Intellectual property and copyright issues in social VR spaces/virtual worlds


A look at intellectual property and copyright issues in social VR spaces/virtual worlds, touching on VRChat, High Fidelity, and Second Life.


I think the future of sustainable growth in VR worlds is no longer in the direct sale of creations, but rather the delivery of experiences.

-my two cents-

Nice article!


Pasting the comment I put into the article:

One distinguishment we have to remember with High Fidelity is that the model files them selves are not hosted by High Fidelity inc. It is an independent user who is hosting them on github with the domain server on what ever platform aws/digital ocean.

So Unlike VRChat or Sansar or Second Life, there would be interesting legal cases because High Fidelity inc can say they are not hosting the models, but instead point to where ever the models are being hosted. Only placenames, and items in the Marketplace are subject to High Fidelity control, and that they do vet that nothing belonging to someone else ip can be placed there, as they can be sold there.

This means that companies going after High Fidelity would only get the domain placename turned off but the content would still be available until they actually go for where ever the models are being hosted (in avatardz case github). The server would still be up and connectable via IP address just a DNS domain: so instead, the company defending would need to go against the server hosts them selves, not High Fidelity.

Granted, some models are probably ripped, and the identity of the user is in question but that’s hard to say: What makes this interesting is, if VR platforms can be chased down for models created (not ripped) by someone, based on an existing licenses, what about platforms where users create fan art of these subjects, such as on Deviant Art or other user generated contents, some even for commission and for profit. It feels like a slope


There is already long-established legal precedent that shows the “we’re just linking to them, we don’t host them ourselves” excuse doesn’t work.

“The defendants had maintained that they were innocent because they did not actually host any of the copyrighted material on their servers.”

Yet they still lost the case and went to prison. Yes, because of a bunch of links. Of course this particular case was in Sweden, but the U.S. is known for even stricter copyright laws than the rest of the world. If even Swedish courts don’t buy that excuse, I doubt American ones would.

People are asking the wrong question. The question we should be asking isn’t “Can High Fidelity avoid legal trouble despite displaying/distributing ripped models?” The correct question is: “Is distributing ripped models conducive to the platform’s success?” (REGARDLESS of what the legal ramifications are).

Several months ago, a High Fidelity employee added a ton of ripped models to BodyMart’s backroom. Bodymart is an official High Fidelity domain. If High Fidelity is actually serious about its marketplace and creating a healthy ecosystem for commerce, they should have never allowed those models to be displayed there. A third-party domain displaying them is fine. But for the parent company behind the whole platform to be seen doing it, it is the equivalent of Walmart opening a “Stolen Goods” section of their store for dirt cheap prices or even free. Why would any merchant sell their product at Walmart again, knowing that the company promotes and distributes stolen ones? Merchants would leave in droves. They’d never take Walmart seriously ever again. That’s what High Fidelity was running the risk of doing.

They can’t be seen distributing ripped models if they actually want the Marketplace to ever get off the ground. Whether they’d get sued for it or not is not really as important. What IS relevant is the very real HARM that this practice does to the public’s perception of the platform. To the perception that creators have of the platform.

Do you know what the general reputation of Opensim is? People think it’s the place where Second Life users go to use copybotted crap without consequence. And they’re kind of right, that reputation didn’t come from nowhere. There is a ton of copybot content in Opensim. And because of this reputation, commerce in Opensim never had a chance. It never got off the ground (despite admirable efforts by a few, like Kitely). Creators from SL don’t really create for Opensim, because they know most people in Opensim already copybotted their items anyway. Why would those users buy anything when they’re already happily using it all for free? And without the possibility to make money, the amount (and variety) of content in Opensim has forever paled in comparison to SL.

High Fidelity will become the next Opensim if they don’t learn from its mistakes.
Though technically right now Opensim’s level of “success” would be an improvement. Even Opensim, with all of its problems, still has hundreds (or thousands?)of more users than High Fidelity. :stuck_out_tongue:


Well this clears things up, maybe for Americans
For the time being Im covered by European laws , but as we leave Europe who knows

Fair use and the european Fair dealing seem to be intent based laws.
Did the person walking around in a Mario avatar do it to make money or destroy Nintendo.
I think you would be as sure of a conviction as you would be taking a 5 yearold to court for running around with a blanket tied around their neck going im supermannn.


Are people really selling copyrighted stuff in VRchat? I thought all that was free.


Pirated things are often free :wink: