Blurring the lines: IP in a virtual world


Blurring the lines: IP in a virtual world

With the line between reality and online games becoming ever more fluid, new intellectual property challenges present themselves, as TB&I discovers.

SackBoy is apparently the cutest ‘burlap chap’ you have ever seen. He can be turned into a dashing hero, made to ride a wooden horse with fluffy ears or used as part of a mind-boggling puzzle game. LittleBigPlanet, the video game on which SackBoy features, encourages players to upload their “brilliant creations to the PlayStation Network and share them around the world”.

This is where customisation is the name of the game, where players are encouraged to create their own content. There are many similar games, some allowing players to create avatars (alter egos) that embark on dangerous adventures, others enabling users to design a champion wrestler or exchange virtual goods with other traders.

These games, while aimed at lovers of fantasy, pose some difficult IP-related questions in reality. Should a player or a publisher claim ownership of user-generated content? Who is to blame for infringing third party rights? Is the current law adequate to deal with complex disputes in this area?

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