Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Attempting to Capitalize on Popularity of Second Life, DMC Creates "World"

Already considered a pioneer in music, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels has decided to explore uncharted territory once again. The legendary member of Run DMC announced that he will try his hand at alternate reality by launching DMC World, a virtual program that aims to provide fans a more direct means of communication with the artist.

DMC World (pictured at left), which can be accessed by downloading software from its website, is hosted by That website competes with the more popular Second Life to attract virtual “residents”, who use avatars to mask their true identities while establishing entirely new lives in these virtual realms. Although the virtual constructs in which the residents operate are fake, their interactions are very real. For instance, Second Life residents wishing to acquire virtual property must use currency in the form of the Linden Dollar, which is currently worth 1/266th of a U.S. dollar. Residents with private property can then invite other users to their homes to create sellable goods, party, or even engage in sexual intercourse.

Virtual worlds such as Second Life give ordinary people the chance to completely recreate their personas, which is very difficult to do in our physical world. However, they also provide opportunities for crime that are not so different from those seen in reality.

For instance, copyright infringement is an ongoing problem, as virtual vendors frequently find that the design of their virtual goods has been copied and sold for profit in both the virtual and real world. One example involved the products of Kevin Alderman, who created the first virtual sex bed allowing for avatar intercourse through the use of built-in animations. When Alderman noticed exact copies of his product being sold in Second Life by Thomas Simon (operating under the virtual sobriquet Rase Kenzo), Alderman sued for copyright infringement in New York Federal District Court. Simon ultimately agreed to pay Alderman $525 as restitution for the profits he made from the copying and distribution of Alderman’s product and destroy all remaining unauthorized copies of the product in his possession. Simon also agreed to inform Alderman of any alternative accounts he used or plans to use on Second Life and show Alderman his transactional records on PayPal.

There is also growing concern over other “real life” crimes that have been repeatedly documented in the virtual worlds. Aside from copyright infringement, sexual harassment is perhaps the most prevalent offense perpetrated by users. However, money laundering by criminals and terrorists is also a concern, as is identity theft, tax evasion, and illegal gambling. Furthermore, jurisdiction is a particularly sticky issue when parties to an action emanating from the virtual world are actually residents of different countries. And while virtual residents are usually required to consent to the Terms of Service and Community Standards establishing by their respective hosts, these end user licensing agreements often fail to sufficiently regulate the actions of residents and lack the deterrent quality of real life laws and penalties.

A seasoned veteran of the rap game, DMC overcame numerous obstacles to earn his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He may need to draw on every bit of his experience to guide him through the potential legal minefield that is virtual reality.

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