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Legal rights to your avatar, a problem?

A Second Life land developer has convinced YouTube to pull down an off-color video of her virtual self being harassed during an interview, raising novel questions about the legal rights of virtual-world participants.

>Last month, Anshe Chung Studios demanded that YouTube delete the recording, citing the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which generally requires Web sites to remove material that infringes on copyright laws. The controversy stemmed from video taken during an interview with Anshe Chung, the virtual world's biggest land owner, conducted by CNET News.com in its Second Life bureau last month. > >During the interview--which took place in a digital theater in front of dozens of audience members' avatars--a group intent on sabotaging the event attacked it with 15 minutes of animated penises and photographs of Anshe Chung's real-life owner, Ailin Graef, digitally altered to make her look like she was holding a giant penis. > >Afterward, a video of the attack was posted on YouTube. When Anshe Chung Studios filed a complaint with the popular video service claiming that Graef's copyrights had been infringed because images of her avatar were used without her permission, YouTube promptly removed the video. > >Anshe Chung Studios has also, in a private e-mail, alerted The Sydney Morning Herald, which ran a December 21 story, along with a screenshot, on the attack, that it should take down the photograph because the newspaper, too, was hosting an infringing image. > >"I have to point out to you that you, most likely by accident, posted an image that contains artwork copyrighted by my wife Ailin Graef and by Anshe Chung Studios, Ltd. and without obtaining our permission to do so," Guntram Graef wrote to Sydney Morning Herald reporter Stephen Hutcheon in the January 5 e-mail. > >"The source of the image, a video posted on YouTube, has already been removed. We can not authorize the use of this image and the replication of the artwork and textures of the Anshe Chung avatar in this context." > >While it's true that Second Life users own the content they create, a legal expert and others in the online news business, as well as the virtual world's publisher, Linden Lab, argue that the use of images or video from the "griefing" attack are almost certainly protected by fair use doctrine.

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