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Mark Bragg File’s Virtual Property Complaint Against Linden Labs

Categories: CheatingHackingMisc. Contract CasesModding CasesPlayer BansUnfair Business Practice CassesVirtual Property Cases

Text of Bragg v. Linden Labs Complaint (Oct 4, 2006)[.zip format]
Jurisdiction and other Interim Court Filings
While I was converting this blog to WordPress over the last 8 weeks, Mark Bragg sent me his updated complaint against Linden Research Inc. ("Linden") that was filed on October 4 in the Chester County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas.  Mr. Bragg is seeking a jury trial. On November 7, Linden petitioned the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to take jurisdiction of the case. 

I'm just now getting the time to review the claim and post this blog entry about it. 

The complaint contains a terrific history (frankly, the best I've read) of Linden, its MMORPG Second Life and describes how Linden differentiated Second Life from its competitors by granting "ownership rights" to in-game property (most MMORPG publishers claim/retain ownership in all related virtual property). It also contains a history/description of virtual property generally in the context of the growing MMORPG phenomena.

The 239 paragraph complaint alleges violation of Californian and Pennsylvanian unfair practices and consumer protection laws, fraud, violation of California's Civil Code concerning auctions, conversion (theft), interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and tortuous breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. He discounts many of the provisions of the Linden Labs Terms of Service ("TOS") as being unenforceable due to unconscionably. Suffice it to say, when this case is over, I suspect Linden will be updating its TOS! Laughing

This Law.com article provides a good summary of the facts. The complaint, itself, is worth reading if only for its best-in-class description of the MMORPG industry and related virtual property issues. Excellent job Mark!

Dale's Comment: Given that many courts in many countries have upheld the validity of extremely one-sided Internet-service click-wrap/shrink-wrap agreements, I think Mark will have a tough time overcoming the clear provisions contained in the TOS. But he makes many compelling arguments pertaining to the contradicting public statements of Linden representatives, rights in and to virtual property purchased from other Second Life users, and the right to recoup the real $U.S. dollars he paid into the Second Life economy and not returned when Linden booted him from the game.

Bragg is claiming ownership to his in-game property. I am quite sympathetic to his arguments and have advocated, here, for the the recognition, at law, of rights in and to virtual property. But, if analogies to real-world and intangible property are taken to their logical extreme, Second Life players could argue that Linden would never have the right to shutdown their MMORPG and deny virtual property owners of their "right" to access, use, sell and other wise deal with their virtual property when, as will inevitably be the case one day, Second Life ceases to be a profitable game for Linden. 

This could be a very important, precedent setting case if it goes to trial. It could set the ground rules for the application of laws to virtual property going forward. Needless to say, I'll be following this one closely.

[Dec 13, 2006 Update: Mark has sent me this link where the most recent court filings in the case can be found. At the moment the parties are fighting over the most appropriate jurisdiction for further proceedings.] 

Sources: *Law.com | Blogger News Network | MMORPG BLog | Pilly.com

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4 comments

1  Marc Bragg { 11.17.06 at 11:41 am }

Recently, the Defendants in the Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc. and Philip Rosedale case have removed my case to Federal Court. Further, the Defendants have recently filed several motions not only seeking to dismiss Rosedale personally, but to compel arbitration and transfer this case to San Francisco, CA.

Although I cannot speculate as to their intent, the effect of the Defendants’ acts are to make this litigation as costly as possible for me to pursue perhaps, in the ultimate hope, that I will abandon it. In fact, in one motion filed by the Defendants, the clear suggestion to the court is that attorneys fees in this case will be exorbitant.

Given the above, I am reaching out to you that wish to help support this case and assist me in deflecting some of the substantial costs that could arise from these acts. The issues being litigated are important to many people participating in Second Life, as well as MMORPG generally and they should not be abandoned simply because the Defendants succeed by stretching the financial resources of a single man.

Should you wish to contribute to help deflect the costs of this litigation and help to properly litigate the matter, donations can be sent anonymously and/or confidentially to my attorneys. Any donated money will be utilized to help pay for my attorneys and costs in this case. Thank you.

Donations can be made to:

c/o Jason A. Archinaco
White and Williams LLP
The Frick Building
427 Grant Street, Suite 1001
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-6003

2  HiredGun Destiny { 12.05.08 at 6:35 am }

Second Life Customer Service is nothing but a line for players to call to be told Linden Labs WILL NOT do anything about anything that happens on their Grid.
I got scammed in a mainland deal….got pissed off…..called LL…only to be told they would investigate.
Well needless to say nothing was done within the timeframe that allowed me to recieve a refund from either PayPal or my Bank.
So Be It…I frackked up and it only cost me 12$ to learn…cheaper than a night out drinking.
So Linden Labs makes me pay 9.95$ a month +5$ a week Land Maintence Fee
WHAT THE HELL FOR?
If they readly admit they can do nothing about what happens inside their game.
Why Pay Them to have Non-Existent In World Support
Now the same day …as this land problem…they charge the WRONG PAYMENT METHOD for my account…I had updated the payment inforamtion that same Morning and made a purchase to confirm it was moved to my new payment method.
Now I log into my bank account only to see they had charged the wrong account…I called “Billing Support”…support my arse…they made me feel a fool..then told me they would do nothing about this problem either.
So I decided to Google any Message Board Associated with SL and tell the players my problem.
DON”T LET LINDEN LABS STEAL YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!!

Keep a free account or don’t play at all.
Just my .02 on the matter
HiredGun Destiny

3  frank { 02.07.11 at 7:18 pm }

I'm of the thinking that the so called Terms Of Service are against consumers right, if by their own acknowledgement that they at Secondlife are indeed as it states in the main story,The complaint contains a terrific history (frankly, the best I've read) of Linden, its MMORPG Second Life and describes how Linden differentiated Second Life from its competitors by granting "ownership rights" to in-game property (most MMORPG publishers claim/retain ownership in all related virtual property). It also contains a history/description of virtual property generally in the context of the growing MMORPG phenomena,,,, now if I am granted Ownership rights that meens to me as a consumer that if LL/SL takes any content that is in my inventory as being mine, whether i have sole ownership or that i have some form of lease on anything thats in my inventory, so that would meen to me that LL/|SL has no rights to take anything from my inventory or losses to my inventory should be returned to me or resonable compensation of monies for my losses, well what about when LL deems something against their TOS and subsiquintly comes to your virtual land and boots you for 24hr and then proceeds to remove objects that they deemed to be your property in the first place, isn't that theft of consumer goods ? being as they have been paid for in some way, as you have a paid account and your paying for your time on sl, even when your offline, you get booted by them and still you pay for that time your booted, what they call suspended services, your still paying a monthly amount for your suspended services, you don't get any form of rebate, thats called theft, a TOS does not void consumer rights and must be applicable to consumer rights, they can not have one law for the consumer and another for the writers of the TOS.

4  Bartley Ridge { 09.18.13 at 4:01 am }

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