July 31, 2007
Followups on Coverage of Gambling, Viacom, Decency, and Fairness

I wanted to spend a few minutes this afternoon going through some recent news that provides updates for issues I have written about continually here on the blog. These include the Second Life gambling issues, the Viacom/YouTube case, and the indecency and Fairness Doctrine bills currently making their way through Congress.

1.) Gambling in Second Life. Word has officially been released that Second Life has shut down gambling inside the virtual world. I found out about it from Raph Koster's blog, as the new policy was released through the Second Life blog. The blog's Robin Linden writes that, even though there is no official gambling service in Second Life, they are still required to operate under governmental laws that regulate online gambling.

Users on Raph's blog debate issues such as whether poker is a game of chance, whether Second Life is better off or not with the gambling gone, and what this might mean for SL longterm, especially if the door for government intrusion stays open.

I wrote back in April that:

The question right now is the culpability of Linden Labs if the government is to crack down on these gambling sites. At issue is the fact that the Linden dollars can be exchanged to and from U.S. dollars, as evidenced by the daily measurement of the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Linden dollar measured on the Reuters Second Life Web site.

Some governments have questioned, for instance, the right to be able to tax within the virtual world.

These questions raise important conceptual arguments about how the virtual world intersects with the physical world and, consequently, questions about how the Internet should be handled by public policy and law.

2.) Viacom v. Google. Over at MediaPost's "Just an Online Minute," there is a post from Wendy Davis pointing out that Viacom "isn't just suing over clips that have been uploaded to the public portion of the site. It claims the clips that users uploaded but marked 'private' also violate copyright." The best point, though, is her concluding one: "In the pre-YouTube world, it was clear that inviting a few friends over to watch a movie didn't violate copyright. But in the digital era, where people can share movies with hundreds of friends at once, the definition of public performance becomes far murkier." This goes back to fair use arguments we have had here on the blog regarding classroom viewing and a variety of other questions related to how to balance questions of blatant massive piracy and the value of quoting and other issues.

See more on these issues here and here.

3.) Indecency and the Fairness Doctrine. The Senate is moving forward with trying to rid our airwaves of even single words or images that are indecent. Thank goodness we elect these folks to protect the moral fiber of our country! (More here). We need to get rid of all these "fleeting expletives," eh? Meanwhile, the Senate has also decided...not...to block the FCC from talking about the Fairness Doctrine, as some senators are trying to get the ban of the Fairness Doctrine attached to any bill that comes through, it seems. This, of course, is not an indication that the Senate wants to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but rather that they aren't ready to ban the idea altogether...The vote was 49-to-48, though, so the Fairness Doctrine doesn't necessarily prove that popular on the Senate floor. The House does indeed want to ban it, at least for a year.

More here.
See my previous writing about these issues here.