Munchflower Zaius is upset. Not about having the name "Munchflower Zaius," (which she chose as her Second Life moniker), but about having her Nomine-branded avatar skins allegedly ripped off by another Second Life user who has been selling counterfeit copies for his own profit. Munchflower (real name: Shannon Grei) has now joined forces with several other Second Life vendors to sue for copyright violations on their virtual products.
All of the plaintiffs in the case, which was just filed in federal court in New York, manufacture and sell virtual merchandise in Second Life, and all of them claim that their work is copyrighted. They're suing a New York man named Thomas Simon (Rase Kenzo in Second Life) for violating both the Lanham Act and the Copyright Act, and claim that Simon has done so "in concert and conspiracy with an number of other Second Life users who identities are currently unknown." In other words, Simon is accused of heading up a virtual counterfeiting ring.
The virtual goods in question are diverse, avatar skins being on the tame side of the spectrum. More, ahem, adult-themed products like the "SexGen Platinum+Diamond Base v5.01"have also been copied. Virtual shoes, boots, and even a "Classic DeVille Floor Lamp" have been ripped off.
The SexGen Platinum+Diamond Base v5.01 lets
avatars place themselves in different… positions
This is at least the third time a Second Life dispute has landed in a federal court. Last summer, a land dispute between Second Life creators Linden Labs and a player that Linden said engaged in a sneaky land grab resulted in a lawsuit seeking $8,000 in damages. Stroker Serpentine… er, Kevin Alderman, CEO of SexGen creator Eros has also gone to court to defend the… virtual device from unauthorized copying.
Simon, the New York resident being sued, wonders what the big deal is. "It's a video game," Simon told ABC News. "I didn't know you could sue anyone over it"
Now remember, all of this takes place within Second Life; there are no real-world objects at issue. But there is real-world cash at stake, along with the reputation of the various brands, and in that sense, virtual counterfeiting operates much like real-world counterfeiting. Eros claims to have sold over 1,000 SexGens in the past year, and at $40 a pop, it's not an inconsiderable amount of money we're talking about.