From next month, Second Life publisher Linden Labs is set to ban all celebrity avatars, with its new guidelines using Barack Obama and Angelina Jolie avatars as specific examples of content that will be dropped.
Also for the chop is First Lady Michelle Obama, pictured above draped over her husband’s virtual lap, and … well, every celebrity out there who doesn’t authorize their likeness to be used in Second Life. Real-world brands, cars, artwork, and copyrighted fictional characters (Darth Vader, for example) will be forbidden as well. That’s a helluva lot of prohibited content.
This move has likely come about because of a trademark lawsuit brought against Linden Labs. After stun gun manufacturer TASER, Inc. discovered a virtual copy of its weapon was being sold as content in Second Life, it planned to sue. The lawsuit was later dropped, but LL is clearly keen to cover its back. Hence, we can wave goodbye to Barack and Angie.
It sounds like a nightmare to moderate this stuff, and New World Notes predicts that enforcing the new guidelines may prove problematic:
“I would think avatar imitations of celebrities, especially political figures, would fall under the parody safe harbor of fair use. In the real world, you can still buy an unauthorized Barack Obama mask for Halloween. Not so in Second Life very soon…”
[New World Notes, via GamePolitics]