posted: June 14th, 2006
There’s an article on Terra Nova about the lawsuit filed by Marc Bragg against Linden Labs, makers of Second Life. Most of the article is a pretty interesting read that talks about how this is probably not going to be the big groundbreaking case that Marc Bragg wants to make it out to be.
Since the article is focusing more on why this isn’t going to be the case that is remember for setting important precedents of virtual property it is a little short on details about what, exactly, happened. There are plenty of links upon the page which can be followed to get to the information but I’ll save a little time and try to sum things up, at least as I understand it.
In Second Life when a piece of virtual land is being prepared for sale there is some way in which it is possible to get an ID number for that plot of land. This may be a sign sitting in the middle of the land or something else but it is easily accessible to the players. At this point the land goes into some form of queue.
Linden Labs has a website that lists the lands which they currently consider to be ‘up for sale’ which can be bid on by players. Only the lands at the front of the queue will appear so there are often lands which have been given their ID number and which have been marked as sell-able which will not yet appear on the ‘For Sale’ list.
What Marc Bragg appears to have done is find one of these lands that was set up to be sold but that was not yet on the ‘For Sale’ list. He went to the website and clicked on a link for a land that was on the list that took him to the appropriate auction page. Evidently the ID of the land is a part of the URL so he replaced the ID of the land he was looking at with the ID of the land he had found and it took him to a page for the auction of this ‘unlisted’ land.
At this point I am speculating but it seems that by entering a bid on that land he started the auction for it without the land moving onto the ‘For Sale’ list. This started the auction clock ticking down on a piece of land that didn’t appear to be up for sale yet and so he was able to buy it unopposed. According to the articles a piece of land that size typically sells for about US$1000 but since there were no other bidders Marc Bragg was able to buy it for US$300.
When Linden Labs found out what he had done they cancelled his account, which put all the property he owned into the queue to be sold and which prevented him from selling his Linden Dollars to convert them back into US currency.
Marc Bragg, who happens to be a lawyer, filed suit against them.
Now I’ve skimmed around and the opinion from other lawyers seems to be that he’s got no case. Contracts revolve around the concepts of Offer and Acceptance and since there wasn’t a direct link to the parcel Linden Labs had not yet ‘Offered’ the property. What’s more the EULA for Second Life gives them permission to cancel your account at any time, so Linden Labs can always argue that they fulfilled their contractual obligation and sold him the land, then cancelled his account.
There are two things I’m wondering about here. The first is that among Marc Bragg’s claims he states that Linden Labs made unauthorized charges on his credit card.Â Is this just lawyer speak? He makes a second claim that they failed to fulfill a contractual agreement so it seems redundant, but maybe that claim is because they failed to give him the land after they had ‘agreed’Â and he would make the exact same claim even if they hadn’t charged him. It still seems off to me but I am not a lawyer so maybe someone out there who is can clear this up for me.
The second thing I am wondering is if this is as intentional as it looks to me. It certainly seems like he figured the odds were good he would get caught. Otherwise why bid $300 when there’s no competition and you are almost assured of winning. $300 wasn’t the minimum bid the system would accept so why not bid $5? I can only assume so he would have stronger ground to argue from if he got caught.
And if he was serious about this case wouldn’t he have hired another lawyer to represent him? Certainly there is the old adage about a lawyer having himself for a client. Can the grandiose statements he makes in his press releases (such as this being the first case of its kind)Â really help his case? I wouldn’t think so, meaning he isn’t a good enough lawyer to realize that or he doesn’t care that he’s hurting his case and he’s using this for publicity (always assuming, of course, that I’m right).
Since I’m not a lawyer I don’t really know the finer in’s and out’s of the game, those things they don’t teach you in law skill but that every good lawyer knows. Are his statements something that have any possibility of strengthening his case? Inquiring minds want to know.