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Second Life

Open Culture

CC BY-NC — Courtesy of Second Life

Second Life, the virtual world created in 2003, has recently been hosting various “free culture” related events in world. Mia Garlick caught up with Wagner James Au, who writes the blog New World Notes as an embedded journalist in Second Life, to learn more about these events and how people who are interested in Creative Commons in real life can get involved in CC and “free culture” events in Second Life.

Mia Garlick (“MG”): For those who don’t already know, can you explain a little about Second Life?

Wagner James Au (“WJA”): Second Life is a user-created 3D online world—almost everything you see in it was built with the internal building and scripting tools. Residents retain IP rights to all their creations, and can do with them as they please. As of today (February 10, 2006), there are well over 135,000 members, and it’s growing at nearly 5,000 a week.

MG: You recently had Creative Commons’ CEO & Chairman Lawrence Lessig appear, using his own special avatar, in Second Life. Can you give some background information about how this came about and also, why the Second Life community would be so interested in the issues & law of copyright and technology?

WJA: A longtime Resident, Eggy Lippman, is the proprietor of an SL history Wiki, and was helping a student of Professor Lessig’s with a research paper on the world. As Second Life’s embedded journalist, I run an ongoing book club series where I bring established authors into SL to discuss their books— Ellen Ullman, Cory Doctorow, and Thomas *Pentagon’s New Map* Barnett. Eggy suggested this as an idea for Larry to his student, the student brought it to Larry’s attention, Larry contacted me, I had a heart attack, but from there it was all logistics. Some ten Lindens and a handful of Residents jumped in to turn it into a huge event. Resident Lilith Pendragon created Larry’s avatar to eerily resemble him, while Falk Bergman imported the full text to Free Culture into a virtual edition of the book which can be read in–world—and thanks to his autograph technology, signed by Lawrence Lessig himself, at the click of a mouse. Check out these screenshots.

In a very real sense, Second Life exists as it does because of Lawrence Lessig. A few years ago, he advised Linden Lab to allow their subscribers to retain IP rights to whatever they built. The result of this has been an explosion of sustained creativity, with many Residents making all or some of their real life living by their imagination and efforts in SL. As I told the Linden Lab staff after Larry offered to appear in world, “This is like Thomas Jefferson suddenly returning to the US to see what his ideas had inspired.”

MG: Second Life recently held an in world meeting to discuss planning and ideas for “free culture” events. What lead to this meeting being held?

WJA: After Larry’s appearance in Second Life, which attracted a huge overflow crowd (easily 300 or more), there was a lot of enthusiasm for more events related to Free Culture, the Second Life group I created to reserve spots for that event. Fortunately, Larry told me he had a great time in Second Life and was willing to do more such projects, so we’ve taken it from there. That meeting a couple weekends ago was one of the first to plan future events, most of which will take donations to Creative Commons through the non–profit’s Paypal account (which has been set to Larry’s Second Life account.)

MG: What does Second Life and the Second Life community hope to grow out of these “free culture” meeting?

WJA: Speaking for myself, I’d love to see a more active relationship between the Second Life community of creators, who already “get” the philosophy of Creative Commons in an emotional and cultural sense, with Creative Commons the real world movement. I would want anyone passionate about a new kind of “rip, mix, burn” creativity to take their energies into Second Life, which is already a kind of 3D wiki built with those ideals.

MG: What can people who are interested in Free Culture issues do to participate in and assist the development of “free culture” in Second Life?

WJA: Well, first get a Second Life account and join the Free Culture group, already some 150+ strong. Within the Second Life interface, that’s as easy as clicking Find>Groups>entering “Free Culture” in the find slot, and clicking Join. Also drop by the Free Culture group forum in Second (you need your SL account info to get in):

Most importantly, bring your passion for free culture to Second Life, for no matter what your specific interest, you’ll find others just as enthused. Already in the works are plans for bringing CC–themed film festival, music festivals, art festivals, and more, into Second Life itself. (Not to mention events that will feature Larry himself, in avatar form.) Come on in, contact one of the Free Culture officers, and join the fun.

Posted 13 February 2006