In an easily read and understood opinion, Judge Robreno DENIED Defendants Linden Labs (Second Life) and Philip Rosedale's request that the Complaint be dismissed, but did agree that the case should be moved to the consumer friendly state of California in San Francisco. The Opinion and the Order are available at the attached links.
A Class Action Virtual Land Dispute Complaint against Second Life (Linden Research and Philip Rosedale) claiming fraud and damages in excess of $5,000.000.00 was filed by Jason Archinacao in the matter of "Carl
Evans, Donald Spencer, Valerie Spencer, Cindy Carter, individuals, on Behalf of
themselves and for the Benefit of all with the Common or General Interests, Any
Persons Injured, and All Others Similarly Situated v. Linden Research, Inc., and Philip Rosedale", April 15, 2010 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania U.S. Federal District Court at Docket No.: 2-:10-cv-01679-ER. The case has initially been assigned to the same Federal Court Judge, Honorable Eduardo Robreno, that authored the published opinion in the Bragg v. Linden case.
The primary focus of the complaint appears to be on the rights of consumers and just how far can a virtual world business go in making public representations to its users to induce them to pay for property and participation where they are promised ownership of what they buy, agree to a terms of service agreement, and then the company unilaterally changes the material terms of the ownership and service agreement depriving access to the consumers' property unless the new terms are agreed by a click wrap TOS. The net result seeming to be that that the company acquires the added value invested by the consumer without up front letting the consumer know this could occur, eventually the consumer's economic loss and the company's economic advantage. Numerous other legal issues and rights of consumers versus the rights of the creators of the virtual world platform are also raised and will most likely be discussed by legal scholars as the case progresses and for years after it concludes.
The Complaint is briefly summarized here pointing out some interesting passages.
Relying heavily on the precedent established in the published opinion of Bragg v. Linden Labs (which was not appealed by Linden), the Complaint begins by identifying the class plaintiffs as individuals who owned land at a time the second life website and the company's representatives promised that a participant owns the land that they buy. (A class is simply a group of individuals that share the same common elements or bundle of rights that were violated at a particular point in time or by a particular action by another for which the law provides a remedy.) The Complaint does not know the entire size of the class that existed at the time Second Life promised its paying customers that they owned what they bought, but anticipates it is quite large and as the case proceeds, Linden will be required to assist these three individuals in identifying all of those other users regardless of whether they remain participants, land owners at this time, or not because if they were damaged, they are entitled to some legal relief. Further on, the specific conduct imposed on the class plaintiffs is described as
". . . that they would receive and retain all
right, title, interest, copyright and intellectual property rights to the land,
objects and virtual property, Plaintiffs purchased and/or created in Second
Life, Defendants intended to and did in fact deceptively induce Plaintiffs to
invest thousands in U.S. Dollars via the wires and mails crossing state lines.
Indeed, over the course of their participation in the
game, Plaintiffs acquired a significant amount of virtual property from
Defendants, or others in-game. Further,
Plaintiffs acquired a number of virtual items from independent third parties.
Plaintiffs trusted and believed that the money they
deposited with Linden, as well as the money they invested in the virtual
property, could not and would not be stolen or otherwise converted by the
Further, Plaintiffs trusted
and believed that Linden’s representations that Plaintiffs would retain all of
their intellectual property rights were true and that Defendants would not
interfere in the use and/or exercise of those rights.
Defendant Linden, despite the representations of
ownership, took the virtual land, items and money in the accounts of Plaintiffs
Plaintiffs’ accounts preventing them from accessing the account to use, cancel
or modify it or enjoy or use the virtual items, land or real world money
In essence, Linden
prevented Plaintiffs from accessing any of their items, land or goods to which
they had all rights, title and interest.
Interestingly, to resolve whether this primary class was damaged and the degree of compensable harm, the court will have to finally resolve the rights of the creators and owners of the avatars that are used to manipulate, create, own, and sell their land and property inside the virtual world."
The Complaint then describes in great detail and with specific citations, the many representations that were made to the public about the ownership of land and how that change in company direction essentially saved the company from the brinks of extinction, the growth of Second Life, and how it acquired well publicly known investors such as by coat-tailing on the same business model, you own what you buy, unlike any other virtual world at the time.
associated themselves with Lawrence Lessig, the respected legal scholar, the
March, 2006 press release announced that Linden had obtained $11mm in new
financing from Globespan Capital Partners, with participation from Jeff Bezos,
the founder of Amazon.com.Linden also
noted that other investors, including Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus
Development Corp., was also involved in their business as an investor.It is unkown whether Defendants have
disclosed to Lessig, Bezos or Kapor that the representations that they make to
consumers about land ownership in Second Life ..."
Further on, allegations describe Second Life's "Liquidity Event", generally defined as that point in time when Second Life decided to change its business model such that it would eventually devalue all land to zero in an attempt to grow the number of servers providing the services on a "leased" basis. The gist of the liquidity event seeming to be that users were duped out of their money via the promise of ownership because the company didn't have sufficient resources and reserves to grow on its own and by allowing anyone to "connect" their own server and "create" their own land, the initial participants land would eventually devalue to zero and by default the company would own all that others had paid for and built. The latest TOS now terms land acquisition as a lease and/or license, including allowing any user to photo or video copy the creations of another (under certain "nonsensical" limitations), which seems to have been interpreted by long-term users as removing any vested interest those users were originally promised in their own creations.
The Complaint directly alleges: "The sad reality is that Defendants are simply planning a return to their original business model, i.e., that consumers truly own
nothing, through deceit."
"Defendant Linden has quietly gone about doing so by
removing, one by one, the representations of ownership on its website yet
providing no compensation to those that it induced under the false promises of
ownership.Despite the quiet removal of
such representations over time, Defendants’ prior representations continue to
proliferate and cause consumers to believe that when they purchase land in
Second Life, they own it.For example,
to this day, the publicly monitored and edited Wikipedia entry for Second Life
continues to state that consumers can “own” land in Second Life."
Of course, whether this can be proven will be one point of debate, but these plaintiffs appear to believe they have some proof:
"Kapor has acknowledged specifically that such decisions will
cause a devaluation of the money invested by consumers and has stated that
Defendant Linden needs to engage in a “managed transition” and it would be
“insanely stupid to do it any other way.”Kapor has also stated that there will be “plenty of advance notice.”"
The allegations then spell out the Lindex exchange trading lindens to U.S. dollars and back and forth, the "fine print" of the Terms of Service and unilateral changes made by Second Life after customers have invested based on a different discrete set of expectations. This issue, whether any company can unilaterally change and then bind a consumer by the company's terms of service agreement after the consumer has already become an invested participant, is one of the currently biggest consumer related issues pervading our economy and our personal lives. Changes in this type of practice have already begun to surface in the changes recently imposed on credit card companies and the governments march towards instituting consumer protection mechanisms in every aspect of our lives: health care, credit cards, college tuition, etc.
CLASS ACTION ALLEGATIONS - NATIONAL CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT
I would think that information will soon surface on how to contact these plaintiffs and their attorney if you seek additional information, have a differing point of view, or want to join the class if you found yourself in a similar situation with Second Life.
Then the class action allegations begin; first, recognizing a main class being essentially all property owners of land, virtual personal property, and U.S. dollars, between a certain date and the date the court certifies the class, and a second class, individuals that had property or U.S. dollars and whose accounts were frozen and their property and money not returned or released.
Questions common to all class members, i.e., what did these consumers experience or lose as a result of Linden's conduct, are listed in the Complaint as:
The nature and
scope of Defendants’ wrongful practices;
Whether Defendants falsely and uniformly asserted that
Plaintiffs and Main Class members were owners of virtual land, when they were
Whether Defendants wrongfully deprived Plaintiffs and
Main Class members of ownership, access to, use and/or possession of their
Whether Defendants wrongfully deprived Plaintiffs and
Main Class members of intellectual property rights, such as copyrights;
Whether Defendants’ actions and representations breached
the terms of the TOS agreements with Second Life users;
Whether the TOS agreements (as they were presented to new
users and as they were unilaterally revised and imposed upon existing users),
were contracts of adhesion and/or were unconscionable;
Whether Defendants’ actions breached their implied
covenant of good faith and fair dealing with Second Life users;
Whether Defendants engaged in and continue to engage in
fraud and/or fraud in the inducement;
Whether the Defendants have been and continue to be
Whether the Court can award declaratory and injunctive
The proper amount of damages.
falsely asserted that the class members owned the virtual land, when they truly
represented that class members owned virtual land;
representations about the ownership of virtual land and items was a violation
of California Civil Code Sections 1770(a)(5), (7), (9), (14) and/or (16);
Whether Defendants are subject to liability for violating
the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), Civ. Code §§ 1750-1784;
have violated the Unfair Competition Law, Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200-17209;
have violated the False Advertising Law (“FAL”), Bus. & Prof. Code §§
subclass is entitled to an award of compensatory damages pursuant to Civil Code
subclass is entitled to an award of statutory damages pursuant to Civil Code
subclass is entitled to an award of restitution pursuant to Civil Code section
subclass is entitled to an award of punitive damages pursuant to Civil Code
Defendants have been unjustly enriched as a result of the unlawful, fraudulent,
and unfair conduct alleged in this Complaint, such that it would be inequitable
for Defendants to retain the benefits conferred upon them by Plaintiffs and the
Whether the class is entitled to an award of restitution
pursuant to Business & Professions Code section 17203; and
Whether the Defendant violated California Civil Code
§1812.600, et. seq.
questions of law and fact common to Subclass A are:
Whether Defendants lawfully confiscated virtual and
real-world property owned by Second Life users;
Whether Defendants lawfully terminated access to users’
virtual and real world property;
The value of the property Defendants confiscated from
individual Second Life users; and
The proper amount of damages related to the confiscation
of virtual and real-world property owned by Second Life users."
On behalf of all class members, the plaintiffs seek to have their rights defined and numerous damages and relief including restitution, that they be returned what they paid; also, that they receive their property back and their rights once defined, then restored, any out of pocket losses, punitive damages as appropriate, and attorney fees.
Further analysis and updates will be coming once the lengthy descriptive complaint is digested and as filings with the Court become available.
Not far different than the panacea during the California Gold Rush, the promises of Linden Labs about SecondLife, and the life itself are littered with tiny bits of gold dust and huge chunks of fool's gold in an ever growing desert of segmentation. Unlike the achievers during the Internet boom that made real dollars off of their ingenuity and created real unfettered opportunities, second life's game provided a very limited drinkable "virtual opportunity" during its heyday for only a very few which now appears to be feeling the drier results of its inevitable evaporation (gambling, landbots, and now banking). Only a few it seems will ever be allowed to extract any gold if ever a gold vien is struck in them thar serverfarms of San Francicso. Most that now newly start the wagon treck cross the internet wires to LL's servers, like the many innovative pioneers that have already died or are drying out due to the lack of virtual water (Ginko, Bragg, W University , Europoeans - VAT, casinos... add more as the list grows), these new "venturers" seem destined to starve or be given up or to be slowly eaten one small linden at a time by the vulturebots of SL;; these poor SecondLife avatarsouls, land of virtualdead it would appear, will live out their posterity permanently encoded in a tiny bit of magnetic server space in the isolated growing desert that has become this virtual unorganized unstable web-kind of game.
This result seems to me is constistent with the historical outcomes of simliar historical larger closed communal loopback systems subject or carriers of of ME, "malignant egophenia" (coherently described by Paul Levy in his recent work The Madness of George W. Bush). While not enough space here to fully discuss Mr. Levy's analysis and its applicability to the hysteria and addiction surrounding Second Life, a few points he makes for the world at large and collective hystiera are notworthy for considering why domain farming the phrase "second life" in the real world, like buying virtual land or selling scripted objects in Second Life, is ultimately valueless and detracts from productivity gains in the real world lives of its participants. (Currently aggregating as many "secondlife" domain names and their current status: intial results indicate that over 99% are "parked" awaiting great speculation. A few recently showed up on ebay, (here's a new one:
SLAvies.com - SL domain name short Second Life Avatars http://cgi.ebay.com/SLAvies-com-SL-domain-name-short-Second-Life-Avatars_W0QQitemZ250130292320QQihZ015QQcategoryZ11153QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQtrksidZp1638.m118.l1247QQcmdZViewItem
prior ones were not purchased). (Oops, I bought a few too... have to put them up soon). Though a virtual world, Second Life cannot escape, and unfortunately emboldens and propigates this current affliction of the human psyche.
To paraphrase and apply Mr. Levy's analysis within the context of Second Life (using "" to signify this author's opinioned modifications to Mr. Levy's original text):
"One of the signatures of ME disease is that it hooks people through their unconscious blindspot, so when people are afflicted by this deadly disease, they are truly asleep to what is being acted out through them." [Participants are] "being manipulated, used and victimized, like  puppet[s] on a string, by a deeper matrix of coverup and deceit that has been perpetrated -- and has now taken on an autonomous life of it's own. Malignant egophrenia is an expression of, and is at the root of, the extreme polarization and dissociation in both the human psyche and the world process at large." "Egophrenia is a disease of the consciousness -- it is consciousness itself becoming so sick so as to create a greater level of health and wholeness in itself. The disease is the conduit through which consciousness grows into greater orders of freedom. In the disease, consciousness is revealing itself to itself, which is to say that the disease is an unfolding relveation." (Which is one of the reasons I insisted I was quite lucky to have been banned and my land taken from me. That act by LL conferred an unintended benevolent result upon me; I was broken free of the disease and its concurrent loopback addicton.)
Looking at the grid and participant and commentators infatuation with the process, it occurs that Second Life engenders a collective psychosis within its limited community, no different than a cult. "It induces a very hard to recognize form of insanity. "When we fall prey to egophrenia, we are unable to recongize that we are taken over, as we become bewitched by our own porjections, [our avatars], accusing other [avatars] of what we ourselves are doing." ... "Part of the sinister nature of the disease is that when we point at it and call it by its true name -- as being a form of insanity called ignorance -- people who are stricken with the disease will see uas as the one's who are crazy. Because egophrenia hooks us through our unconscions, when we are infected with it, just like a sociopath, we don't experience ourselves as being sick or needing help. When we are taken over by egophrenia, we always see the problem as existing in someone else."
"By being duplicitous and trying to hide [ulterior motives are] unwittingly reveal[ed]." The pleadings in my case declaring to the real world that essentially "own" did not mean "own" but rather something like leasing server space (see cite / quote) (Clintonspeak ... "does 'is' mean 'is"?), and in the near past, Mr. Ginsu Yoon's description as recorded by Neva at [secondthoughts.typepad.com], seem to evidence "unkonwingly giving voice to the unconscious shadow, the part of the [entity] whose intentions are the polar opposite [of] they consciously imagine and represent them to be at the moment." In their pleadings in my case, and their later statements, and in numerous other ways cited across the internet, the LL had finally begun to meet one of its objectives, to be transparent, "blowing its own cover in the process" and presumably hoping for forgiveness or hoping that there was sufficient momentum, that it had passed the "tipping point" to corporate freedom within the corporate brothehood, so as to continue its way unharmed untarnished and uninhibited by its prior shadows. "Unless we recognize the insidious nature of this psychic disease, there is a crazy-making field around it that will make us a part of itself. Collective psychosis is like that."