Twitter Joke Trial

On 27 June 2012, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales ruled on the case that has come to be know as the Twitter joke trial.

Paul Chambers had been convicted for sending a tweet that jokingly threatened to blow up an airport. In overturning the decision the High Court concluded that a tweet that is clearly a joke and is intended and perceived as such is not ‘menacing’ and thus is not a criminal offence.

This is an important case for basic rights of free speech and the operation of the internet as we know it.

For the details of the legal reasoning behind the judgment see below [note that this summary is not written by a lawyer and should not be taken as legal advice].

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UK Consumer Rights in Digital Content

On the 13th July 2012 the UK Government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched a consultation titled “Consultation on enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying consumer law” *. The consultation proposes a range of options that seek to harmonise UK consumer law. What marks this out for digital industries such as social media, cloud computing, computer games and others is that as part of the consultation the UK Government is proposing options for a set of consumer rights designed specifically for ‘Digital Content’. What’s more the consultation document includes a number of examples from computer games. The deadline for the consultation is 5 October 2012.

This is not of mere intellectual interest. Some of the options proposed in the consultation will have an impact on any and all providers of digital content and / or related services available to consumers in the UK. Indeed, the consultation is quite specific that the proposed consumer rights will also apply to non-UK based services and that the consumer rights cannot be contracted out of.

The full consultation document is over 250 pages long and there are two related documents. The questions asked in the consultation are wide-ranging and detailed. They span from whether digital content should even be considered as a separate category to specific questions about remedies. The summary below points out the key elements of the digital section of the consultation. However because of its length and depth, if you are a business considering responding you are advised to read the full work and see professional advice and your relevant trade association(s), the full set of links for the consultation and response options are as follows:

tVPN will be putting together a response to the consultation from a civil society / academic point of view (as we believe that industry responses are being created by trade associations).

The tVPN response can be found in this Google Document which is open to public comment. If you want edit access to the document email us: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

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SCT #10: TL Taylor and the rise of eSports

SCT #10: TL Taylor and the rise of eSports

In Episode 10 of Social Change Technology TL Taylor talks about her new book Raising The Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming. This work, like TL’s previous book Play Between Worlds, focuses on the interplay between people, technology and institutions.

In the podcast, TL charts the rise of e-sport / professional computer gaming from early arcade competitions through the LAN-party scene to the rise of e-sports leagues in South Korea, the US, and Europe. The evolution of professionalisation fo computer games has brought with it a reconsideration of what computer games and sports are, what it is to be a competitor and spectator. The growth of professionalisation has not been without its conflicts such as the relatively recent debacle between Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft, StarCraft etc) and the South Korean e-sports body KeSPA. TL explains how ownership of the electronic ’field of play’ has become contested as have player performances - a legal issue also recently seen in traditional sports.

To make sure you catch it, you can subscribe to Social Change Technology on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

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White Paper: Virtual Items and Public Policy

7 February 2011. Today the Virtual Policy Network has released a White Paper on Virtual Items and Public Policy. The Paper provides an overview of virtual items and virtual currency are – covering the spectrum from Xbox points to MMO characters. The paper defines what the key public policy interests are in virtual items, and provides a survey of the legal responses to issues involving virtual ‘goods’ from jurisdictions as diverse as China, Korea, Finland the US, citing a number of cases of virtual ‘theft’.

Released today as a .pdf under Creative Commons, the white paper will also be a living document held as part of the Virtual Policy Network’s database of resources. See the new Global Policy section of the site for details.

the Virtual Policy Network is looking for people to support this work, extend the number of countries covered and keep our database up to date with legislative changes impacting convergent media – if you would like to become an associate of tVPN or support our work in other ways please contact us at: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

Download Virtual Items and Public Policy (.pdf)

UK Consumer Protection & games

In July 2009 the UK’s department of Business Innovations and Skills (BIS) issued a White Paper titled: A Better Deal for Consumers – Delivering Real Help and and Change for the Future. While this paper was introduced by the previous UK administration the current coalition administration has not indicated any willingness to halt the modernisation of consumer protection .

In light of this tVPNs wishes to draw attention to Chapter 4 of the White Paper: Modernising Consumer Law, which deals with ‘new “digital” products’ and explicitly mentions computer games. the Virtual Policy Network suggests that the online games industry and other online industries consider their positions in respect products and services as a whole and elements such as digital download, episodic updates, digital artifacts and digitally currency in the light of the principles outlined in the paper.

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DISE:10 Games, Media Law

DISE:10 Games, Media Law

Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh

27 August 2010 (10:00 – 16:00)

John McIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls, the University of Edinburgh.


The Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh (DIS:E) is an annual event organized by the Virtual Policy Network in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.

The Digital Interactive Symposium: Edinburgh 2010 focuses on the legal issues of computer games, virtual worlds and the issues that arise from the convergence of new and traditional media. Speakers include both academics and practicing lawyers.

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DotGovLabs: Games & Government Workshops

DotGovLabs is an R&D project co-funded by Directgov, NHS Choices and Business Link have commissioned tVPN to run a series of workshops. The aims of the workshop are to gather feedback on how the UK Government should (and should not) use games to interact with citizens, businesses and other stakeholder groups.

The feedback from the workshop will feed into a government report that will support future funding decisions. Workshop attendees include: games developers, academics and officials from the three sites, and the Technology Strategy Board.

The spirit of the workshops is to share ideas and steer government thinking in ways that will benefit the UK and use tax money wisely.

Topics covered are likely to include:
• Opportunities for presence in platform menus/dashboards
• How can we get government in the space where gamers are?
• Partnerships and placement with 3rd parties
• Online communities
• Being involved in storyline
• Likely costs

London evening workshop

2nd March 18:30 – 20:30
Event supported by London South Bank University’s BA in Game Cultures, and held at London South Bank University and facilitated by Feeding Edge.

London South Bank UniversityFaculty of Arts & Human Sciences

London day workshop

3rd March 14:00 – 16:00
Event supported by and held at London Knowledge Lab (just off Theobald’s Road) and facilitated by Feeding Edge.

LKL Logo. Click to return to homepage.

Brighton workshop

Details TBD

Scotland workshop

Details TBD

For more information and to request a place email info [at] virtualpolicy [dot] net.

tVPN supports UK’s DotGovLabs R&D project


tVPN is supporting the UK’s DotGovLabs with it’s engagement with academics and the games industry as part of the ‘Games’ R&D project.

DotGovLabs is “is a shared R&D programme backed by Directgov, (including the RDA face-to-face arm of Businesslink) and NHS Choices. DotGovLabs looks to identify, explore and test areas of innovation to determine what benefits they could offer to provide better services to businesses, patients and citizens.”

The Games project is summaries as ” This DotGovLabs project is exploring whether there are any opportunities, in the games medium, that the government could be exploiting. The remit is wider than just building games in that the project is looking to gain input from industry experts into all elements of this medium. For example can the technologies of games (in terms of how it visualises context through computer graphics or virtual worlds) be exploited outside of a games scenario to allow us to communicate particular concepts better? Are there opportunities around gaming platforms to access different users groups?”

Internet Governance – A Brief Timeline

In this context the term ‘Internet Governance’ or IG as it is often termed denotes the on-going global discussion about how various aspects of the internet should be run and buy whom. There is no agreed scope of Internet Governance. Narrow interpretations suggest that it is confined to matters such as IP addresses, whereas wide interpretations suggest it should be a multi-stakeholder process and encompasses issues such as free speech and other Human Rights.

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UN IGF: Public Diplomacy in the Digital Age

The UK Government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has proposed a workshop on virtual worlds and public diplomacy to be held as part of the 2009 United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum meeting being held between 15 and 18 of November 2009 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Wednesday 18th (Day 4) 15:30 – 17:00 Room 9 – Siwa Room.

tVPN / UK Government 2009 IGF workshop on virtual worlds – Official Workshop Summary (.pdf)(.doc)

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