Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s “avatar” recently engaged in an online discussion in “Second Life,” a virtual online world. A transcript is now available at New World Notes here.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Posner, he is perhaps the most influential, and certainly the most prolific, federal judge alive. For those of you who aren’t familiar with avatars or virtual worlds–and, to be quite honest, I fall in this camp, having only heard about this phenomenon secondhand (in Larry Lessig’s great book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace)–see these descriptions.
Here’s a taste of the sometimes surreal discussion (“JRP” is Posner, SL stands–I think–for “Second Life”):
Ludwig Swain: Copyright question: would you consider the “cloning” of a copyrighted real world architectural work into SL to be infringement or fair use?
Ben Solomon: No fair. That’s Bill Patry’s question…
JRP: I think Patry is in here somewhere– maybe he’s the raccoon.
Basman Kepler: I believe Patry has described his avatar as looking like Swiper the Fox from the Dora cartoons.
JRP: Great question on cloning a copyrighted real world architectural work into SL– probably infringement, on the theory that the SL counterpart is a derivative work, hence the property of the copyright holder. These are excellent questions!
Say what you will about Posner, he has a sense of humor.