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Friday, May 26, 2017
More On Ozimals: Akimeta Responds, Speculation of Consequences For Second Life
Since we last wrote on the closing of Ozimals last week, much has been spoken on the subject, and more information has come out. To begin with, the person ordering Ozimals to "cease and desist" has finally given his side of the story.
We wish things could have gone another way, but as we have outlined in detail with this document, since Ozimals LLC/Inc. is no longer an operating entity, Cameron Holt does not possess the rights to the Intellectual Properties. Yet, he continued to operate and profit from the business even though it has allegedly been dissolved 9 months ago.
We are genuinely upset that the actions undertaken by Ozimals LLC/Inc , Cameron Holt and Candace Sargent have led them to the abrupt discontinuation of their game and we regret that in doing so, all members of their community have been so adversely affected.
Reaction from the people in the "For The Love Of Oz" group, at least that I was observed, was skepticism. Some called Aki's claims outright lies. Others felt both sides needed to be listened to. In the SL Universe forum, the comments ranged from dark humor to blaming one side or the other to suggestions that the founders of Ozimals may simply have been incompetent, at least in understanding the legal side of a business.The Second Life Enquirer interviewed several distraught pet owners.
PC Gamer and Kotaku, and even mainstream news sites such as BBC News. To Second Life residents whom would otherwise not have cared much about the pet bunnies, this was mixed news at best. While they had wanted more mention of the virtual world in the news, this wasn't what they had in mind. Hamlet Au called it a PR problem, "the implication is that user-created virtual content is frequently in danger of real world legal disputes." He also wondered if Linden Lab itself could take a financial hit as dispirited bunny owners could abandon their land, and therefore stop making the payments for it. On the other hand, the increasing discussion of Second Life was leading to a surge upward of Google searches of the name, which could lead to more people signing up. If there was enough money being made to sue over, perhaps some people were curious how they could make some.
So what can Linden Lab do about this mess? Hamlet had one idea for a possible solution. If a brand of virtual pet, or any other user-made content, becomes "massively successful," the Lab should purchase the rights to it, "and make that content an official part of Second Life." But those commenting were skeptical, feeling there would be consequences, "Why would anyone want to create in a world where their content was going to be acquired or have their efforts duplicated by the company?" Or feeling it shouldn't. Suppose Linden Lab did acquire Ozimals, only to make bunny food available to Premium accounts only? Another felt considering Linden Lab's record of handling even Premium support issues, he wouldn't want the the Lab "handling the level of support pets require."
Another option: instead of taking over virtual pet companies, Linden Lab could just make plans for their going out of business. They could make backups of the code for the food and anything else needed to keep them alive, and should the company go out of business or somehow find itself having to suspend operations due to legal trouble, it could step in to keep the pets alive. To avoid possible legal trouble, they would probably have to communicate with the legal owner of the company. Linden Lab would be balancing the interests of it's customers whom are owners of the virtual pets in question against the small but real possibility of having to go to court with an irate virtual company owner. This may be a issue the Lab would rather not deal with, even if it means taking a hit to it's bottom line.
There is a possible real-world parallel, at least for the future. As genetic engineering becomes more sophisticated, it will be possible to resurrect extinct species or create new complex ones. Many would love the chance to have a pet dinosaur, at least a small one, if they had the means to care for it. But the plants and/or animals the critter ate in it's time would not have been around for millions of years, so the company would have to make food it could eat as well, and likely put a copyright on that to maximize it's profits. Should the company go out of business, the pets could be in real trouble.
Someone commented "in a few weeks, this will all be forgotten." Probably not, as in a few weeks is Second Life's fourteen anniversary. While both Linden Lab and the residents celebrate the virtual world's birthday, there's little doubt that the mess over the bunnies will be on the back's of peoples' minds. A chance to tout the joys and fun of being in a virtual world can easily be challenged by skeptics, "but what about those who spend months to years caring for virtual pets, only to see them croak because the maker got served in court?"
One person I talked to called the case evidence that if a resident had a great idea, do it him or herself. Trouble is, the more complex a product, the more difficult it is for one person to handle, in the case of virtual pets, the coding, the design, the marketing, the financial paperwork, organizing events around the product, and more. Most people, especially those with real life jobs and family, would have to get help for such a project, or their idea will never see the light of day. And unless they can get all the needed people from within their circle of friends, that means looking for a business partner. One side effect of the Ozimals trouble may be some aspiring content creators shelving their ideas out of fear of legal trouble should the business partnership dissolve.
In the meantime, virtual life for the bunny owners, at least those who used the timepieces, goes on, continuing to trade and sell nests in the "For The Love of Oz" group. But no more will be created. A number of them have thanked the Newser and others for helping to spread the word about the timepieces and other tools used to keep the virtual pets active. We at the Newser appreciate their kind and heartfelt words, and wish them the best of luck with their pets.
Sources: New World Notes, BBC News