Rules changed for sex in Second Life

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Rules changed for sex in Second Life

Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 02:25PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Second life sex The virtual world Second Life enjoyed a meteoric rise after it was launched in 2003. In addition to meeting others and trading virtual property, companies started advertising within the digital environment, bands started rocking there to win fans, and HBO even bought the rights to a series that was created inside the virtual world.

But let's face it: Most people go to Second Life to have virtual sex.

At first, finding virtual sex was easy enough. But some avatars then demanded a bit more reality and less men-posing-as-women. Not surprisingly, the marketplace answered the call, with cyber-brothels and a cyber-prostitution ring offering their services. Soon enough, finding virtual sex became as easy as paying a couple dollars and being whisked to some private "skybox" where an avatar could enjoy pretty much anything he or she wanted, including S&M, a virtual child, etc.

In 2007, German authorities started looking into crimes on the network and there was a bit of buzz that the U.S. Justice department would soon follow.

Linden Lab, the owner of "Second Life," figuring it might be liable for some of the uncouth behavior in the virtual world, promised a "zero tolerance" policy for depictions of child pornography within its borders and threatened to terminate the accounts of any users who were found guilty.

Did the threats work? Maybe a bit. The illicit sex trade became much more discreet, which could explain why the growth of Second Life perhaps stalled and the real estate market within Second Life crashed.

Now, Linden Lab has decided to change its policing of this virtual world. Today, Duane Morris partner Eric Sinrod writes a column on FindLaw describing the new measures, which including a geographical separation of adult content. The move is being seen in some quarters as a serious step to address some of the problems with the virtual sex trade while also allowing those who are into that sort of thing to still find it in Second Life. And while some might cheer the development, and others might complain that Linden Labs has violated some virtual First Amendment by censoring its users and requiring them to verify their age, we can't help but be a little more cynical.

Is it possible that illicit sex in Second Life is being tacitly blessed in the interests of growing the business?

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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