Sunday, December 19, 2010

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Bunneh v. Horsie: Linden Lab Partner Ozimals Embroiled in Totally Adorable Virtual Animal Copyright Suit

Amaretto Horses Ozimal Bunnies Second Life

Fluff Enemies: Amaretto Horses and Ozimal Bunnies

Amaretto Ranch Breedables, LLC v. Ozimals, Inc. is a recently filed Copyright Infringement lawsuit filed in Northern California court which pits the creators of two competing virtual animal breeds in Second Life: Amaretto makes breedable horses, while Ozimals makes breedable bunnies. Notably, Ozimals recently became a marketing partner of Second Life creator Linden Lab, which has launched an advertising campaign depicting SL as a place for raising cute 3D animals. Now, however, two of those animals species are engaged in a brutal hoof-against-paw legal battle, which started when Ozimals filed a DMCA takedown notice against Amaretto through Linden Lab, alleging that aspects of the breedable horse were copied from the breedable bunny. This dispute escalated after Amaretto filed a counter DMCA notice and copyright lawsuit.  It's hardly the first lawsuit over Second Life content, but seems noteworthy for a number of reasons:

I believe this could be the first time two registered limited liability corporations which develop Second Life content have gone to court (previous lawsuits are usually individual versus individual or LLC versus individual), which would also be notable. And while virtual animals have been a mass market phenomenon at least since the advent of Tamagotchi in 1996, I believe this is the first lawsuit over the category (at least in recent years.) So if this lawsuit is decided in court, may establish precedent that'll impact virtual animals across all platforms, from social gaming to handheld consoles.

However the matter is decided, I'll surely be watching the case for more developments, but meantime, you can read Amaretto's side of the story here, and Ozimals side of the story here. Tateru Nino has some analysis as well, who also provides a link to the actual lawsuit [PDF].

Image credits: Horsies via amarettobreedables.com, bunnehs via Flickr Hat tip Ms. Ziki Questi.

Update, 12/20: Bumped up.

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Brenek

One is a horse, the other is a bunny. There is no claim that textures or scripts were co-opted. A mere idea cannot be copyrighted. And Ozimals undermines its own claim and reveals itself as reactionary in their response, to wit:

"[Amaretto] presented the notecard that was intended for the beta testers that described the Amaretto product and asked the Ozimals owner to review it. Upon reading the notecard, which only covered very basic information, it was immediately obvious that the current state of the Amaretto horse product was a near complete clone of the Ozimals concept of a breedable."

So based on only "very basic information" Ozimals KNEW their property rights had been violated. How? Because it described an animal which eats, grows, and breeds? Not original, not owned by Ozimals. What was so eerily similar? Perhaps the manner of eating? The rate of growth? The manner in which the animals breed?

And if Ozimals somehow won...what do they get? At best, Amaretto tweaks their product a little bit.

Maybe there is a special twist to this case, but Ozimal's obtuse response undermines that possibility. I would not be surprised if the judge tossed the case out for failure to state a cause of action.

Brenek

*Correction: Judge should issue summary judgment (I confused who had filed the suit)

*Also: From Ozimals' quote, the clearly object that Amaretto is using the same "concept" - a concept not owned by Ozimals.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Sion Zaius, what hath thy fake chikkens wrought?

Well, this will be a field-day for mainstream media: "Fake Fur Flies as Fake Animal-Breeders Go to Court."

I had to do a double-take to be sure this was not the Alphaville Herald :)

Mistletoe

My meaningful and insightful commentary:

http://sllionhearttimes.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bunnywithlawsuit.jpg>

Ann Otoole InSL

Bad customer relations.
Libel.
Tortious Interference.
Perjury.
tsk tsk. It seems like there is a weird pattern that manifests every time a company makes a lot of money in SL and begins thinking they are untouchable.

Note the Lindens are currently promoting dogs on Facebook. Not chickens. Not rabbits. Not horses.

Dogs.

BTW didn't there use to be a provision in respect to patents in the SL TOS that is now absent?

Sasy Scarborough

I hope that this brings to light some more of the evil that seems to run through one of these companies.
Threats of take downs, removal of products people have invested thousands in, calling customers the C word in open group chat, because of not wanting to deal with questions regarding updates.
Fear and bullying tactics that have just astounded me, and disgusted me as people kept paying into thier pockets.
They sure as hell weren't the sweet kind people that they showed themselves as being when they started this project.

Lelani Carver

Mistletoe and bunneh FTW!

Lili

The only thing sillier than pixel sex -- breeding pixel animals and lag farming.
Both sides of this suit should be banned from the internets.

Silverfox Rainbow

with all the other breedable animals now in sl - cats - dragons... clams they all use the same idea
another silly law-suit.

when did NWN become the Alphaville Hearld o-o

Phase

I think the concept of genetics is public domain isn't it?

Laetizia Coronet

The big question on my mind is: will they cross-breed? Maybe with the help of one Stroker Serpentine they will?

Saxon

Only a fool fights in a burning house.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

"Note the Lindens are currently promoting dogs on Facebook. Not chickens. Not rabbits. Not horses.

Dogs."

@Ann, LL has learned, after alienating so many of us, that if you want a friend, get a dog.

whispers magic

@ Sasy
I don't remember you being a Ozimal user. Could you provide logs for when Candy and Malk called someone the C word because I have never ever heard them remotely do anyhing like that nor have I heard telling of them doing something like that and I have been there since the inception of the idea.

Asenath

Whispers, I'm willing to bet that the people involved with the cursing-out of customers are the Amaretto admins. One hears hair-curling things about the way they speak to their loyal following in public, in group chat. I sort of feel sorry for their clients.

Sasy Scarborough

Whispers, what I do or don't do in Second Life is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. I did not name names, so do not point fingers at me, and maybe freshen up on your TOS, because if I did have logs, I would be in violation showing them to you.

whispers magic

@ Sasy, Umm only if you showed me in game. And I am so not interested in what you do in game at ALL. I just don't like unsubstantiated rumors being spread by people that weren't/aren't involved with Ozimals at all. That was the point I was trying to make. No need to get all in a dither. :)

Mistletoe

"The only thing sillier than pixel sex -- breeding pixel animals and lag farming.
Both sides of this suit should be banned from the internets."

Judge all you like; you can't argue with numbers. All of the above make some very big, very REAL money.

Asenath

And much like cat fancy & dog shows in real life, one of the draws of breedables is community. The sale and trade and chit-chat about the critters is its own perk.

Mel Vanbeeck

@whispers: Since when do you need to be a direct customer to be able to have an opinion about Ozimals? Having close friends who are "breeders" is more than enough to catch wind of the stink even if you don't bother to search the web for accounts of the Ozimals approach to business ethics. Sasy is plenty informed to have an opinion on this matter, so go ahead and give up on that line of attack.

Hamlet Au

Preemptive headzup: Hey everyone, this is an extremely touchy story with lawsuits flying, so please be sure to keep things civil and avoid anything patently libelous.

Ashia

I find it interesting that without naming names, the company Sasy was referring to was presumed to be Ozimals (by Whisper). Is this because Ozimals has a stellar business and personal reputation? That would be a resounding NO. Mention Ozimals to someone in the non breeding community and they will regail tails of how their friend/partner/family member got royaly shafted by the ozimals machine. Dirty, bullyboy tactics, disgusting treatment of paying customers,swearing at them in group chat is the very start of a long list, threats, slander, removal of players without recourse. And of course EVERYONE is trying to get something out of them, the whole world wants a piece of the Ozimals pie...according to the creators. A company run on arrogant egos who need a refresher course in human decency. Of COURSE theyre filing a DMCA against Amaretto, the only thing I'm surprised about is that it didnt come sooner. They dont want fair competion, they want the monopoly, and will tread on whoever is needed to get it. What Ozimals needs to realise is, Amaretto is not the cause of their cashcow drying up....Ozimals did that all by themselves.

Arcadia Codesmith

DMCA protection extends to computer code as a "literary work", but if the function of the code is replicated without lifting the actual code, that's not infringement (as I understand it).

Had Ozimals patented their technology, that might be another matter. But I don't think that they're entitled to any form of copyright protection unless they can show that somebody lifted their original code.

This smells like an intimidation tactic -- DMCA somebody, even though you've got no grounds, because you believe they don't have the means to fight back... and then squeal in rage when they have the temerity to call your bluff.

But Hamlet's right... the media hook to this story is almost irresistable.

Rob

So was this about cuddlies or are we trying to get a spot on the Jerry Springer Show, ladies?

Cathy

So a bunny is not copyrightable yeah, which means I could if I wanted to, create a bunch of scripted breedable bunnies or horses for that matter, provided I use my own original scripting, textures, sculpts etc…….. not a lot Ozimals could do about it.

So the argument here is the horse scripting etc is almost identical to the bunnies, essentially all they changed was the animal type and came up with little or no innovation with the scripting. This will be very interesting

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