Monday, May 10, 2010

251: On Property (in Second Life)

Second LifeImage via Wikipedia

To call Second Life a Virtual reality is a nice metaphor, good for marketing purposes, but it is obvious a mistake. The correct name should be Real Unreality.

It is real so far as we see the animated and interactive screen in front of us, but the content of the screen has hardly any relation with reality. Nothing that really shapes us as human beings and controls our lives, exists in Second Life.

To mention a few things: Death, disease, capital crimes like murder, natural disasters like earthquakes or leaking oil wells, starvation, terrorists, fear for your life, fear for illegal imprisonment,

accidents in all flavors, sick and dying relatives or children, depression, pain, loneliness…do I have to go on? For whatever you like to do here nobody asks you to show your certificate of competency or level of education, licenses or permits, all kinds of forms filled out in threefold etc.

It is not that I wish to disqualify Second Life, it is about the level of reality we find in SL and any other virtual world. What could be called real is our communication and emotional attachment to this world and persons in this world and the Linden dollars which we convert into real dollars.

And most fascinating is that what looks the most real, the land we own, the things we make and own as our private property,are the farthest away from reality.

In Second Life is private property really 100% PRIVATE. The owner is entitled to do with it what pleases him, whether it is just a single box prim or 5 sims crowded with houses, rentals, stores, role-play groups and so on.

Suppose he let everyone live on a parcel in his sims. Feel free to do so and enjoy….. These sims are really private property in the most extreme way: the owner can do with his property whatever he likes. So he decides to stop paying the tier. He is done with Second Life…too dull for him.

So he reports to Linden Lab that he abandons the land per date x. He even doesn't inform the "inhabitants" of the sim. And the sims just disappear at date x. THAT is 100% private property in Second Life. Far from reality.

In the preceding lecture I said that it makes a difference to own a chair or a company. I claimed that I could do with the chair whatever I liked…..burn it ..smash it, paint it…whatever…But after second thought I now conclude that even with my very own chair I am not allowed to do whatever I like.

Maybe all is allowed as long as I stay in my apartment together with my chair, but no matter how much I hate that chair, I am not allowed to throw it out of my window of the apartment building at the 15th floor.

All this may show, how difficult the concept of private property in our society is to grasp. What solutions and interpretations are there? We may start with the basic questions.

How, we may ask, would humans come to appropriate the land and its fruits? How could such appropriation be justified? What would be rational grounds for claiming exclusive possession? And could there be any limit on people’s right to do what they would with their own?

“Our property,” said Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 12 March 604), “is ours to distribute, but not ours to keep.” The concept of the owner as steward is the core of the traditional Christian view of property.

By the seventeenth century, property rights came to be grounded in the needs and accomplishments of the individual owner, and ownership implied a natural right to enjoy and dispose of its objects, limited only by the duty to respect the rather narrowly defined interests of others.

According to John Locke (1632 – 28 October 1704) you create private property by adding your labor to a so called res nullius, a common resource, like a piece of land, or wood you chopped, or a stone you carved. To own it gave you also the right to transfer ownership to somebody else, although he did not put any labor in it.

You will understand that the justification of private property based on the idea of "the fruits of one's labor" may be applicable in an agricultural society, but when your labor is only applied to a part of a product in an industrial society, what is then the fruit of your labor?

In a complex industrial society, “the fruits of one’s labor” can mean only the value of a given worker’s contribution to the finished product. But value derives from the relations of supply and demand, both for the commodity and for labor of the various kinds needed to produce it.

As you can imagine, this observation leads to a lot of complex questions in relation to private property. The fruit of one's effort is translated into wages, which become linked with the system of demand and supply.

And is the wage private property? And what about a government which a priori claims a part of it calling it income taxes……
I am still not there, still not sure in what sense I really can call something private property….

Just for your information, in my research I stumbled upon a trail against the avatar Rase Kenzo. He was in Real World sued for making and selling copies of inworld products of an inworld company named Eros. This was in November 2007. No idea, what the final verdict was. Needs more research.

This is the URL, where you find the article I discovered:

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: the article contains a like to a PDF with the accusation...really heavy artillery
[13:24] herman Bergson: and also a very peculiar example of property rights
[13:24] herman Bergson: so much on the subject for today
[13:25] Kiki Walpanheim: That is about intellectual property..... the creation in sl, i think
[13:25] Natsuo Winslet: It's not at all obvious that Locke's theory could be applied in the case of intellectual property.
[13:26] herman Bergson: No that too Natsu
[13:26] Kiki Walpanheim: IP is a little *complicated* i think.....
[13:26] herman Bergson: But SL property is at least defined by RL Copyright laws
[13:27] herman Bergson: thinks are not working properly here
[13:27] herman Bergson: Kiki's words didnt show up
[13:28] herman Bergson: I see you type but nothing shows Kiki
[13:28] Art Mint: I am confused: if SL is not reality as for the premise you made Herman how can an avatar be sued in the real world?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Not the avatar was sued but a Mr. Thomas Simon from New York
[13:29] Kiki Walpanheim: because, it is the person behind the avatar that stole ppl's IP--intellectual property
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes...
[13:29] oola Neruda: i have a friend who is a rl artist... sold a painting to someone who used it at their company...
[13:29] Art Mint: but happened in a non real world?
[13:29] oola Neruda: they changed it a little bit then used it as a repeated and dominant part of their newsletters
[13:29] oola Neruda: the artist was livid
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Art that was the special thing in that law suit...
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: oola, i thnk that is the *tricky* part about laws regarding IP---ppl could get around to it
[13:30] herman Bergson: But you should read the accusations...
[13:30] Art Mint: wellL is as real as reality...
[13:30] oola Neruda: his reputaion as an artist was affected by the changes made
[13:30] Natsuo Winslet: oola, did he sue?
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: for example, it says the exact code for a software is protected....but not so with the patterns, maths involved in...
[13:31] oola Neruda: at the time... i don't think all of the info was resolved
[13:31] oola Neruda: do not know
[13:31] oola Neruda: whose property was it?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Neither do I know the outcome of that lawsuit agains Thomas Simon
[13:32] herman Bergson: I am curious to learn what the verdict was and the motivation
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: i think an expert in IP laws could successfully "steal" without violating any laws
[13:32] Natsuo Winslet: Letters are an interesting case.
[13:32] Natsuo Winslet: If I send you a letter, i believe the object is your property, but the content, the words, remain my property.
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: like oola's example, that they modified before using it....the art is on how to modify it
[13:32] oola Neruda: oh Natsu... wow
[13:33] Natsuo Winslet: So in the case of your friend oola,
[13:33] Natsuo Winslet: I guess the company would own the picture s/he made...
[13:33] Natsuo Winslet: but maybe s/he would own the image.
[13:33] herman Bergson: Which means I amy not publish your letter to me without your consent, Natsu?
[13:33] Natsuo Winslet: Yes, I believe so.
[13:33] oola Neruda: one of a kind painting
[13:34] oola Neruda: letter?
[13:34] oola Neruda: what about plagerism then
[13:34] oola Neruda: is that not a form of it
[13:34] Natsuo Winslet: I would think so.
[13:34] herman Bergson: Welll at least we have to look into the difference between intellectual property and material property and what they have in common
[13:35] herman Bergson: I am beginning to believe that there doesnt exist any private property at all
[13:35] Art Mint: I am thinking that maybe property rights in SL are similar if not the same than in RL, only modified by TOS clauses
[13:35] Natsuo Winslet: Well, in the case of intellectual property, as I said, it's not clear how Locke's idea of mixing labor with something would work. Though perhaps one can see a way to apply it.
[13:35] Kiki Walpanheim: :/
[13:35] herman Bergson: What exists are rules and regulations which define or rights in relation to the things around us
[13:36] Art Mint: of course if we accept that property rights are the same we should also accept sl as a reality
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well intellectual property is always represented by some material product..a book a painting...a theory on paper
[13:37] Daruma Boa: well its a part of reality
[13:37] Kiki Walpanheim: i'm just wondering about the case mentioned just a sim owner decides to abandon the sim, then all parcel owners would lose the land with no warnings or refund?
[13:37] Natsuo Winslet: Not necessarily, herman.
[13:37] Kiki Walpanheim: if so....that's nasty....
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes Kiki...I made the story up, but today I heard it back literally...
[13:38] Kiki Walpanheim: wow
[13:38] Art Mint: yes it happens Kiki
[13:38] herman Bergson: friend of mine went on vacation for a few days...
[13:38] herman Bergson: when he came home the sim where he had rented land was gone...just gone including all his belongings there
[13:38] Kiki Walpanheim: would what the parcel owner create go back to his inventory? or lost too
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim: wow
[13:39] Daruma Boa: oh 2 bad
[13:39] herman Bergson: All is gone...vanished into thin air...not a note not a message or warning...
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim: what i hate the most is what i spent lots of time writing or creating suddenly become no more
[13:40] Daruma Boa: did he write a note to lindens?
[13:40] herman Bergson: That is the consequence of the fact that Linden does not define private property or just in the crude sense...
[13:40] Art Mint: mmm is the concept of property different across the globe? If so that makes defining it in sl even more complicated
[13:40] herman Bergson: It happened today so I dont know what the next step will be
[13:41] Daruma Boa: i read about some probs on the sl news page
[13:41] oola Neruda: yes it is different across the globe
[13:41] herman Bergson: But what is interesting in this SL situation is that it proofs that we do not accept the definition of private property in this way
[13:41] Art Mint: si with which one we compare sl's?
[13:41] oola Neruda: in malawi... land is used, not owned.. the head men say.. you may use this particular spot...but when you leave or die it reverts back to the village and the head man allows another to use it...
[13:42] herman Bergson: that you can do with you property as you like regardless anything or anybody
[13:42] Daruma Boa: humans always want to own things "save";-)
[13:42] Natsuo Winslet: oola, is that a different concept of property? Or just a case where there is no property?
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: yes, as ppl pay "tier"---fees for ppl are only renting land rather than owning land
[13:42] oola Neruda: it is a concept of property
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes oola... group property
[13:43] oola Neruda: the area i am thinking of has a lot of just unused land around it
[13:43] herman Bergson: I mentioned that in the former lecture
[13:43] Natsuo Winslet: Well we have group property int he west too.
[13:43] oola Neruda: this was unused but it was acquired by getting permission to use it
[13:43] herman Bergson: Oh yes....
[13:43] Natsuo Winslet: A club owns a car; the chair can give the car to a member to use on a particular day.
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes Natsu like we have common property....
[13:44] Natsuo Winslet: But oola, in what sense was it acquired with that permission? Why not just say it was borrowed, or used, with permission?
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: and residing on other ppl's place does not give a sense of safety
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: because it can be withdrawn any time....
[13:44] herman Bergson: the park is 'owned ' or may be used by restriction
[13:44] herman Bergson: however the tenniscourt is owned by a group..the tennis club
[13:45] herman Bergson: and the other system is private property...
[13:45] Natsuo Winslet: Hi Pia
[13:45] Pia Janic: hey:) hi all:)
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: .hi pia
[13:45] herman Bergson: We live in a society where you find a mix, and where it is hard to find a definition of private property
[13:45] oola Neruda: this is a long story... but the base line is that there is no ownership by anyone
[13:45] oola Neruda: not anyone
[13:45] Daruma Boa: hi pia
[13:46] oola Neruda: it is just that the headman is allowed to tell people they have permission to do ... whatever
[13:46] oola Neruda: it saves arguments
[13:46] oola Neruda: over... i put the labor into this
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well oola..ownership as such is also a special subject..I will discuss that next lexture...
[13:47] oola Neruda: if you do not treat the land properly the permission can be revoked also
[13:47] Natsuo Winslet: But aren't ownership and property just two sides of the same coin?
[13:47] oola Neruda: not in malawi
[13:47] Kiki Walpanheim: which means, we live in a society where one can't possibly be isolated from social influences, some of which might be even compulsory
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: not in Holland either
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes natsu....
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: that some choices we make cant be that free...because there are many things to consider
[13:48] Natsuo Winslet: But your description, oola, suggests exactly what I was suggesting; the land isn't property because nobody owns it. What is added in saying something is property once it is agreed that no-one owns it?
[13:48] herman Bergson: As I said last is a triad: Owner - Object - third Party
[13:48] herman Bergson: I own a chair in society
[13:48] oola Neruda: the original question ... i thought... was... is the concept the same everywhere
[13:49] Kiki Walpanheim: Rousseau's theroy seems to begin to make sense to me gradually....
[13:49] herman Bergson: IN what way Kiki
[13:49] Natsuo Winslet: Right. But I wondered whether the situation you described was a different concept of property or a case where there was no property. If it's a different concept of property, one has to say what is involved in being property. And if no-owns that thing, I can't see what can be meant in saying it's property.
[13:50] oola Neruda: smiles... you should be a lawyer...
[13:50] Natsuo Winslet: Maybe I am. :)
[13:50] oola Neruda: smiles...
[13:50] herman Bergson smiles
[13:50] Natsuo Winslet: Actually, it's worse. I'm a philosopher, not a lawyer.
[13:50] oola Neruda: saying that nobody has property is a concept about the idea of property
[13:51] Natsuo Winslet: Ahhh, OK.
[13:51] herman Bergson: well you have common property, group property (oola's example) and individually ownd property
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: that in civilized society... things get complicated...ppl are less capable of living on his/her own...and have to abide by lots of artificial rules, which are unnatural
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Lili it si a point to consider...
[13:52] oola Neruda: and there are some countries where land has been nationalized
[13:52] herman Bergson: Kiki, I mean...
[13:52] oola Neruda: distributed evenly so to speak
[13:52] Art Mint: well property is not acquired only thru work, capital gains are an a example of a different way of obtaining property
[13:52] herman Bergson: makes it group property oola
[13:53] Kiki Walpanheim: ?
[13:53] oola Neruda: k
[13:53] herman Bergson: the government decides the use of the resources
[13:53] Kiki Walpanheim: yes oola
[13:54] herman Bergson: common property means that nobody can call for any restriction of access to the resources
[13:54] Art Mint: ..unless we accept the idea that stockholders work...:)
[13:54] herman Bergson: That Art is an extra problem.....
[13:54] herman Bergson: people who do no labor at all but just fund money to others and wait for the dividend
[13:55] Art Mint: yes
[13:55] herman Bergson: complicates the property question even more
[13:55] Natsuo Winslet: Usuaiiy. Forbidden to Christians.
[13:55] Kiki Walpanheim: yes....
[13:55] Kiki Walpanheim: i think that was why marxism was developed....
[13:55] herman Bergson: I guess you mean muslims Natsu..the are not allowed to ask for interest
[13:55] Daruma Boa: oh - i am sorry. i have to go now.
[13:56] oola Neruda: another friend... land was nationalized... family's land was taken... father and uncle went into village... villagers stoned them
[13:56] Natsuo Winslet: Christians too, herman.
[13:56] herman Bergson: Bye Daruma
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: wow
[13:56] Natsuo Winslet: That's why they had the Jews act as moneylenders.
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: oola, where is that friend from?
[13:56] Daruma Boa: but will do my best to be back next week;-)
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: which country?
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: south africa?
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: Rhodesia
[13:56] oola Neruda: this was the exit of the shah of iran
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: oh
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: wow
[13:56] oola Neruda: i am elderly
[13:56] Abraxas Nagy: thats a while back
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: so em I
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: this kind of story is very familiar to me actually
[13:57] oola Neruda: smiles to abrax
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: I saw the first moon landing live
[13:57] Natsuo Winslet: Me too.
[13:57] herman Bergson: Me two ㋡
[13:57] oola Neruda: me too... on my birthday
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: wow
[13:58] Natsuo Winslet: What a great present, oola.
[13:58] herman Bergson: cool
[13:58] Art Mint: me too but I won't say it:)
[13:58] oola Neruda: in my ... over 15
[13:58] herman Bergson smiles
[13:58] oola Neruda: parr.... teeee
[13:58] herman Bergson: As we are drifting away from our subject I suggest we prepare for the next lecture ...
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes
[13:59] herman Bergson: So...may I thank you for your participation
[13:59] Natsuo Winslet: Thank you, herman.
[13:59] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: ty for an amazing lecture professor
[13:59] Art Mint: ty:)
[13:59] Natsuo Winslet: Take care everyone.
[13:59] Kiki Walpanheim: thank you professor and was again a nice lecture
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: tc Natsuo
[13:59] herman Bergson: thank you
[13:59] Kiki Walpanheim: yes amazing lecture
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: I am gonna ponder some on it
[14:00] herman Bergson: Do so Abraxas ㋡
[14:00] Art Mint: bye everybody:)
[14:00] Kiki Walpanheim: see you
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: bye Art
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: my friends.. see you nexttime
[14:01] oola Neruda: be well
[14:01] herman Bergson: Be well Abraxas
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: ty and you 2 to
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