Governance

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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SCT #11: Legal News Round up with Jas Purewal

SCT #11: Legal News Round up with Jas Purewal

This episode of Social Change Technology is a games and tech legal news roundup with solicitor Jas Purewal from law firm Osborne Clark. Jas is better known on the internet as @GamerLaw on twitter and editor of the Gamer Law web site.

In the show we look at three items of recent news: the Infinity Ward case, the state of free to play gaming and the UK courts ordering a number of ISPs to blocking the Pirate Bay website.

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US FTC Report to Congress “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”

In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provided a report to the US congress titled “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”. The origin of the report was H.R. 1105 Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which became Public Law No: 111-8 on 11 th March 2009 which directed the FTC to create a report and a consumer alert.

The focus of the report was the content that those logged into a virtual world might see in particular so called ‘explicit content’ which included both ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘violently explicit’ – defined as both visual imagery and textual content (which could include in-world chat). The report covered virtual worlds them selves and related content such as forums.

The report looked at 27 online services (some such as IMUV would not typically fall within the definition of virtual world), including virtual worlds targeted specifically at adults e.g. Second Life and Red Light Centre.

The report “found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds surveyed” (p i), but noted that “Significantly, almost all of the explicit content observed in the child-oriented worlds occurred when the Commission’s researchers were registered as teens or adults, not when registered as children. In addition, most of the explicit content observed was text-based and found in chat rooms, message boards, and discussion forums” (p i).

The summary of the report reads as follows (p iii):

“As a result of its study, the Commission suggests that virtual world operators make certain enhancements aimed at reducing the risk of youth exposure to “explicit content, including:

    • Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration;
    • Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material;
    • Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds’ conduct standards;
    • Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world’s terms of behavior; and,
    • Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in- world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.

Given important First Amendment considerations, the Commission supports virtual world operators’ self-regulatory efforts to implement these recommendations.

In addition, the Commission recommends that parents and children alike become better educated about the benefits and risks of youth participation in online virtual worlds. The Com- mission is committed to ensuring that parents have the information they need to decide which online virtual worlds may be appropriate for their children.”

tVPN Links
External Links

Policy bites: Net Neutrality

Network Neutrality

What is it?

Net Neutrality (NN) is the debate over whether the internet should operate pretty much as it does at the moment or whether ISPs should be able to block or charge differently based on the application that a user is using, or alternatively give preferential treatment to a company e.g. Media Company X’s content streams just that bit faster than everyone else’s.

Net Neutrality stems from fact that some users consume a lot more bandwidth than others and often this is for services that are damaging the business models of existing companies. For example someone using Skype no long has to pay for their local phone company for long distance calls. The debate tends also to be linked with illegal downloading hence peer to peer services can find themselves being blocked.

Why it matters?

Net Neutrality seems like one of those obscure policy issues that never has an impact in the real world. But already companies have been caught out by non-neutral ISP policies. The kinds off issues that Net Neutrality presents for any game company with an online component (even if it’s just downloading patches), include:

  • Online games can be inadvertently blocked
  • Games that use peer-to-peer (p2P) networks for downloading can be blocked as bi-product of trying to cut down on illegal downloads
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) services can be blocked, impacting the increasing number of games that have integrated in-game voice
  • Ping time, which is critical to some games, is generally not part of the discussion but could be impacted
  • To avoid these blocks companies may be charged by ISPs

For social media the potential direct impact on big providers is that ISP’s may come asking for more money for preferential treatment. This will be an additional cost of business for big providers and possibly a killer for small providers. What’s more users on different ISPs may start to see the internet very differently impacting the kind of sharing that fuels Social Networks.

See more from tVPN on Net Neutrality: http://www.virtualpolicy.net/tag/netneutrality

The Netherlands 2007: RuneScape extortion

In 2007 in The Netherlands a 13 year-old player of the online game RuneScape (Jagex Games Studio, UK) was kicked and threatened with a knife by a 14 year old and a 15 year old until he transferred virtual items to one of their accounts. In 2008 a Dutch court found the both defendants guilty of robbery under Article 310 of the Dutch Criminal Code, noting that the virtual items qualified as goods under Dutch law. The defendants were sentenced with 180 hours of community service and ‘youth detention’ for four weeks with a probationary period of two years.

External Links

  • http://webwereld.nl/nieuws/53234/virtuele-diefstal-voortaan-strafbaar.html

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)

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.

Overview

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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Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2009

November 2009 in Sharm el Sheikh marked the 5th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – a meeting convened under the auspices of the United Nations with the purpose of bringing together a wide range of groups to discuss matters of internet governance.

Quick Links:

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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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