Virtual Justice Goes CC

Greg Lastowka’s new book about virtual world law, Virtual Justice, is now available for free download under a Creative Commons license. Get it here from his website. Kudos to Greg and his publisher, Yale University Press.

He had me at the front matter (Thoreau quotation followed by ASCII castle).

Google & Company maintains that their use of their digitized volumes of my work is fair use because they only showed snippets of the work. I am not a virtual games enthusiast, however, by making copies of (in-copyright) my work and making them available for searches on the internet they made use of my whole book and not just snippets. It seems to me if Google wants to maintain their virtual reputation they are going to have to drop their real world attitude towards the virtual property of others.

Jackson West wonders why, for a company so committed to free-market capitalism, Google is rather blasé about private property.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Virtual property is not intellectual property. If you’d like to know about the difference, Greg’s book is a good read.

This has nothing to do with Google Books.

I guess what I was getting at James, was that Google & Company did not consider that the copy of my book that they created was real, just the snippet that they published in their search results was real. To me their copy was real because it had a title, a beginning and an end.

I did read parts of Virtual Justice when you first posted the link. Perhaps I will take another look.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

I discovered on May 13, 2009 that Google & Company had placed a virtual copy of my book in their virtual library; they even had a “cover” to the volume. It was not the cover I designed, but their own. My cover simply said “Fevens” while their cover gave the whole title and my name.

There may be people, for instance, who want to spend time in a virtual world built specifically around Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia. A group of artists and technologists might be more than willing to create such virtual worlds. But without the permission of J. K. Rowling or the C.S. Lewis Company, and some sort of deal regarding the distribution of profits, such virtual worlds are not legally permitted to exist. Virtual worlds based on The Matrix, Star Wars, Star Trek, Conan, and The Lord of the Rings have already been created, but deals were made with the relevant copyright owners first. As a result, creators of fictional worlds based on film and literature tend to own their potential paths of virtual world development.—Greg Lastowka, Virtual Justice, Page 174

My work was not fiction, but it was my creation and I have the right to say how it is to be exploited, in real and virtual worlds, while it remains in copyright. It was published in 2004; in 2008 Google & Company was exploiting it. Is four years too long for copyrights?

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Douglas, Google Books is not a virtual world like Second Life, World of Warcraft, or Club Penguin. Here is Lastokwa’s definition:

All virtual worlds, however, are Internet- based simulated environments that feature software-animated objects and events. Users are represented in virtual worlds by “avatars,” digital alter egos that both embody and enable users within the simulated space. The social and interactive complexity of virtual worlds can be substantial, making users feel like they are truly “present” somewhere else. This is is why virtual worlds are truly called “worlds.”

Your complaint against Google is an issue of intellectual property law, not virtual world law.

“All virtual worlds, however, are Internet- based”

I guess you could call the internet the universe of virtual worlds. If the internet is a virtual world (the Uninverse) in and of itself, then Google’s copy of “Fevens” was a virtual object in the domain (place) known as Google Books, with its own address and identity.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Follow-up to comment. If you went to the New York Public Library and photocopied my book cover to cover and you then set up a vendors stand on a busy street to offer the public searches of your copy of “Fevens”; would this not be infringement of my copyright? You would have to photocopy my entire book to enable you to say that you searched it. Google has to digitize an entire book to legitimize its searches. My book was a volume (an object) in their library.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

That’s enough, Douglas. You’ve made your point. Right or wrong, repeating it here isn’t adding anything.