A piece of code that enables fans of the online world Second Life to simulate sex acts is at the centre of a lawsuit [PDF] in a Florida court. Kevin Alderman, creator of ‘SexGen Platinum’ alleges that his copyright has been infringed and that his software has been unlawfully copied, distributed and sold. The accused, ‘Volkov Catteneo’ is an avatar in Second Life whose true, human identity remains unknown. It seems that when challenged, Catteneo didn’t seem to think that the owners of SexGen Platinum could do anything to stop him.
“We confronted him about it and his basic response was, ‘What are you going to do? Sue me?'” Alderman said. “I guess the mentality is that because you’re an avatar … that you are untouchable. The purpose of this suit is not only to protect our income and our product, but also to show, yes, you can be prosecuted and brought to justice.”
This story is making waves in some parts of the Second Life community – and not just because of the sexual content of the script in question. It has once again shaken the hornet’s nest that is online confidentiality. Second Life owners, Linden Lab has agreed to hand over information identifying the owner of the ‘Volkov Catteneo’ – a move which has some observers concerned that spurious lawsuits could now be used to ‘out’ the owners of avatars.
To me, this doesn’t look too worrying. The owners of Second Life have a legal responsibility to provide information to the courts if a demand for such data is made in relation to a specific case. This isn’t the same as Google being forced to hand over data on hundreds of thousands of users just so the government can ‘check’ whether anyone is searching for illegal material. ‘Volkov Catteneo’, if that is his real name should face the court just like anyone else accused of stealing sexy code.