Legality prides itself as being the first virtual law firm in the UK, having set up in business some five years ago now. So it seems fitting that it should be providing advice to those businesses looking to set up shop in the daddy of virtual worlds, Second Life.
Now I appreciate that this is still something of a shady area when it comes to law, no matter where you are on the planet. After all, there have already been reports of law enforcement agencies in Europe investigating such apparently absurd situations as an avatar being raped by another avatar, and even underage avatars being pimped for sex with other avatars. I use the word 'situations' rather than crime because it is far from clear that any crime has been committed in either case. An unpleasant activity, no doubt about that whichever of the two things you are looking at, but criminal? I suspect that one day we will get to the point where avatars do have rights, both moral and under the eyes of the law. But for now, that isn't the case. Well beyond the possible legal argument that as you agent, something that harms your avatar might be said to harm you, in which case there might be a case.
It's a long shot though.
There seems little doubt that when it comes to the virtual world we will see laws develop over time, as circumstances dictate. This is the natural way of things, and even in the hyper-accelerated world of IT development it has to be said that 'slowly slowly catchee monkey' would appear to be the most prudent approach to law creation within the virtual sphere. Rush in with knee jerk legislation and, well, the result is as obvious as it is unworkable.
However, are things any more clear cut when it comes to business law? Is there a clear correlation between setting up shop in the mall and doing the same in Second Life? Legality has been helping with one such development, the creation of Mancunia within Second Life. This works to recreate a famous part of Manchester, England within the virtual world and is the brainchild of UK advertising agency BJL Group Limited.
Mancunia replicates the Deansgate area of Manchester centred around the mile-long road running through the city centre. The BJL office in Mancunia provides a creative thinking space where individuals can share their innovative ideas.
Legality advised BJL how to protect their investment in Mancunia, and how to safeguard the intellectual property rights of BJL's clients wishing to advertise and establish a presence in Second Life. Mark Roberts, managing director of Legality, told DaniWeb: "real-world participants in virtual worlds want to know how to protect their business from a range of legal pitfalls - from copyright infringement to liability for statements made by employees online."
But this then raises another interesting question: how many lawyers actually know what Second Life is, let alone the legal implications of doing business there? Sounds like the perfect chance for our legal friends to climb the virtual learning curve on the client dollar to me.