Second Life Virtual Infringement Suit Settled

TAMPA, Fla. —A lawsuit involving copyright and trademark infringement, in a case where the defendant was originally named as an avatar from virtual world Second Life was settled in a real-life Tampa courtroom.

In August, Eros LLC founder/CEO and software developer Kevin Alderman filed suit against a John Doe defendant, aka Volkov Catteneo, the Second Life avatar used by the defendant to allegedly sell unauthorized copies of a software program developed by Alderman’s company.

SexGen Platinum Base Unit is a program created by Alderman that allows Second Life players to install code into objects in the virtual world. Those objects can then be used to reveal menus with options to activate different sexual activities to be accessed with their avatars.

Catteneo was eventually identified by his real-life identity as Robert Leatherwood, after acknowledging to Reuters news service that he was the individual behind the avatar. In the settlement, Leatherwood agreed not to sell or copy any products owned by Eros. He agreed also to not help anyone copy and Eros products, and to turn over the email addresses of anyone that had access to the Catteneo avatar.

There was no monetary settlement in the case. Alderman attorney Francis Taney noted that Leatherwood did not have substantial enough assets to pursue damages.

Taney was quoted in an article in the Tampa Tribune, and said, "Kevin is moving on. "Ability to collect on any judgment is a factor. It's certainly a factor here. The most important thing is to get the conduct stopped so it doesn't create an ongoing problem. We have here an injunction against a real-life person. I'm pleased that we were able to get that relief."

The attorney also pointed out that while the settlement could not be considered precedent setting, that real-life copyright infringement laws should also apply in virtual environments.

"I continue to believe and I really haven't heard any well-reasoned arguments why copyright and trademark laws or other intellectual property laws wouldn't apply in virtual life," Taney said.