Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Virtual Production - Real Issues

HBO has acquired an animated "documentary" entitled "My Second Life: The Video Diaries of Molotov Alva," that was shot entirely in Second Life, Variety reports. The production legal questions must have been interesting.

For instance: Did the filmmaker get personal releases and location releases? In what form - were hardcopies signed? In whose name - the avatar's or the RL person? If there is later a dispute over the release, what law and jurisdiction apply?

Location releases pose an interesting problem. Buildings in a virtual world are actually just artwork, of course - and artwork is more highly protected under the Copyright Act than physical buildings generally are. The release should be drafted in a way that takes account of this.

Likewise, an incidental image of an avatar may constitute copyright infringement, whereas an incidental shot of a RL person is not copyright infringement, and if it is in a public setting, it is generally not an invasion of privacy either.

Another difficulty is posting notices at virtual locations. How do you post effective notices in a world that allows people to teleport right into a space without ever seeing the posted notice? And how do you post a notice at all if the virtual building won't permit a virtual notice to be taped up onto it?

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