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$5000 to help me with the new GoPets EULA

What is the Best TOS/EULA structure to develop the greatest volume of citizen transactional volume in GoPets?


I am offering a bounty of $5,000 for help in creating a new EULA, TOS, Codes of Conduct, and Privacy Policies for GoPets.

I seeking everyone’s help in drafting a set of instruments (iconic, human bullet points, and legal code). Our mission is to continue to develop the virtual world of GoPets into a platform of living expression and friendship with global reach.

We have long recognized the importance private property in GoPets but so far we have not taken any formal steps to ensure property rights to our citizens and now believe that formal recognition and other tangible forms of human and property rights will accelerate our commercial goals.

The debate in our community of whether or not this or that clause of this or that EULA is of course fascinating to read in the blogs - but we are taking the stance that we will gladly charge ahead of what we are required by commercial law to perform - and instead we would like to reach as high as possible to achieve the natural rights as expressed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We believe that by doing so that we will attract the trust of more customers to invest more of their time, creativity and money into developing the world of GoPets to greater enjoyment of all.

While all that sounds wonderful at the high level – it is now time to drive this to a practical articulation.

First about that $5,000 – I will divvy that money up however I think most fairly recognizes individual contributions. In the end we will place the final product in a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Speaking of which the final format of the GoPets Declaration of Rights and Obligations of Citizens ( I just made that up) should be very similar to that of the Creative Commons folks with icons, human readable bullet points and finally legal code.

I would like to see this wrapped up if at all possible by November 1st, 2007 for something new I am able to release to the GoPets Citizens.

Why am I seeking to create these instruments in a public discussion? Bluntly if we are to succeed in this goal to be a platform with widespread participation then I think the ‘governing rules’ should not be developed in a private conversation with our excellent corporate lawyers but instead with the people who are active in both the research of the legal and economic issues of online worlds, other creators of worlds and most important to are the people who will actually use these governing rules to their own benfit.

Others such as the folks at the recent Ludium 2 conference have been actively working to develop these concepts: http://ludium2.studiocypher.com/index.php?title=Main_Page. There has been considerable criticism that this work is overly academic and lacks ‘buy-in’ from a legitimate commercial virtual world owner. I submit that we will be the first to step up as a commercial virtual world owner that is seeking this work. I would argue that this serves as a dual-use purpose to help GoPets achieve a direct commercial goal but at the same time helps propel the underlying issues to greater clarity for the industry as a whole for all stakeholders.

Another example is Raph Koster’s excellent treatment way back in 2000 on the inalienable rights of avatars: http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/playerrights.shtml.
I was stunned to see that out of ignorance of Raph’s prior work – I traveled the same path through the US Constitution and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in my talk at Seattle last month where I first compared Second Life’s EULA to being worse than the rogue state of North Korea!

Now down to the rights and obligations – I will kick off the discussion:

(1) Due Process & Habeas Corpus – people naturally feel the right to an explanation of what they did wrong and an opportunity to defend themselves. We already perform a private audience with the state to explain your case. The problem with this method is that it is very expensive from our customer support resources and ultimately the result is not transparent and the citizens of GoPets still feel subject to arbitrary rule. We want some form of player-run tribunal that reviews the evidence and then makes a decision. We think we should review decisions and if GoPets disagrees with the tribunal rather than overturn the decision of the tribunal we think we should send it back to the tribunal for a re-trial. We think that these tribunals should be speedy (<30 days) and protect people’s privacy (e.g. scrubbed of real-world identification etc.). We also think that the tribunal should use some sort of rotating term-limited election system. How to actually create this for a commercially reasonable cost that the citizens at the end of the day will collectively pay for we do not have the answer in our hands.

(2) Right to free expression and assembly – people should enjoy this freedom up to the point where it sabotages the services or attempts sedition. This freedom should be restricted from taking the shape of harassment or annoyance of the users at large. Obviously no forms of hate speech. For example you should be able to say and make a great variety of expressions and items in the privacy of your own land and space, however in the public spaces and on other people’s lands you are naturally more restricted. How to codify this in a manner that someone understands up front I do not know. Something like when you are out and about you must use ‘E’ for everyone forms of expression and when in private between consenting players you must use non mature forms of expression. That is the closest I can think of.


(3) Right to your property and the security of that property in possession and in transaction – by the very nature of ‘Gold Shells’ and ‘Inventory’ and ‘Shopping’ we recognize that we are asking our citizens to develop the beliefs and expectations associated with owning these digital items. Once that is accepted then we take the next natural step of logic and feel that we must make every commercially reasonable effort to keep your property safe from service errors (‘bugs’) and to provide mechanisms and user interface for the safe exchange of items, land and shells.

(4) Non discrimination – all the usual suspects here we will not discriminate based on race, gender, age, orientation, religion, political views, and so on. We run into areas here on age where we must comply with a myriad of jurisdictional differences on the age of majority and the more subtle protections of teens and children.


(5) Right to exit and leave the GoPets service at will.

(6) Right to transfer your whole account to another individual.


(7) No bannings or terminations of service on related accounts without due process.

(8) In the case of service errors that result in the loss of property the recourse will be replacement of the lost property and NOT the fair market value in the secondary markets.


(9) In the case of service errors that result in the economic gain for the citizens we will generally allow the citizen to retain that gain within a limit of $50 of fair market value or 10% of the total prior direct purchases from GoPets of gold shells and premium services – whichever is greater of the two.

(10) Service outages – we are scheduled to be down for a total of 12 hours per month. Any outages longer than that will be compensated to premium users in a 200% 24 hours of extended premium service for every 12 hours of down time. Further more any in-game time mechanics will be reset at the beginning of any server restoration (e.g. all ‘cool-downs’ will be reset).


(11) We actively encourage private settlements between citizens that alleviate drain on the tribunal and customer support systems. I do not know how to materially encourage this… how about a non-refundable tribunal fee where if you win your case against another citizen (e.g. fraud) you keep 75% of the total fees and the tribal keeps 25%?

(12) Generally we will turn a blind eye to any form of derivative works known as mashups and fan art. We will leave the work of policing that to the individual copyright holders. However, in the event that we are issued a take-down notice or otherwise determine that we must take down some content we will issue the concerned citizen a warning 15 days in advance of that objects destruction. Replacement of the underlying costs of production of that item will be generally be awarded unless we (or tribunal?) determines the derivative work was created solely to grief the system and cost customer service resources.


(13) Changes to any policy, terms of service, code of conduct or other ‘governing rule’ we will provide 15 days notice summarized in an easy to read human bullet point ‘above the fold’ in the patch window with a click to accept and continue mechanic.

(14) In the case of emergency either of economic or otherwise causing damage to the world as whole we reserve the option to invoke the equivalent of martial law and take whatever action is required to restore order and ‘return to peace time’. Actions taken during times of emergency will be publicly posted sans personal information and made open for review and comment for the citizenry.


(15) We will of course necessarily comply with all laws local and state globally and above all recognize the natural rights of humans everywhere. If a particular jurisdiction compels us to comply with an unconscionable law we will make commercially feasible efforts to resist the compulsion but it is understood that GoPets is not a platform for political advocacy in the real world territories.

(16) We welcome all 3rd parties from the largest corporations to the individual citizens to invent novel ways to exploit the Gopets virtual world platform for their own private gain. We will not take any action against derivative or mashup work unless it directly threatens our essential trademark, patent and existential rights. For example, we do not allow a toy company to go run and make GoPets plush toys without a license from us, nor do we allow another company to setup a ‘rogue’ server that uses the GoPets client and assets to create a competitive service that would threaten our existence. How to define the lines – I do not know exactly.

Comments

( 103 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Anonymous)
Aug. 9th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC)
Tribunal
I really like the idea of a tribunal.

Are you going to charge a filing fee?

Who will be responsible for providing evidence?
I realize the parties to the complaint will have some (but likely will just be he said, she said) evidence. I guess my question is: will GoPets provide pertinent evidence of the transactions to the tribunal or is it solely on the parties?
erikbethke
Aug. 10th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC)
Re: Tribunal
No, I would like to provide the evidence - but scrub things like IP addresses and real ID information. And I do think a filing fee or deposit would be good to cut down on frivolous actions...
Re: Tribunal - (Anonymous) - Aug. 10th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC) - Expand
pootlecat
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
Since the image inductry is my baby I just wanted to mention that I have never really agreed with GoPets closed eye policy towards copyright enfringement.

Take this point for example:

"(12) Generally we will turn a blind eye to any form of derivative works known as mashups and fan art. We will leave the work of policing that to the individual copyright holders. However, in the event that we are issued a take-down notice or otherwise determine that we must take down some content we will issue the concerned citizen a warning 15 days in advance of that objects destruction. Replacement of the underlying costs of production of that item will be generally be awarded unless we (or tribunal?) determines the derivative work was created solely to grief the system and cost customer service resources."

I know it would take lots of resources (including money) not to mention be an impossible job to completely prevent people from using images on the forum and in their custom items that are not their own. I do feel however that you should be encouraging them to be mindful of people's intellectual properly instead of ignoring the problem completely. Would you not expect places like cafepress.com to warn their 'users' to be sure they own the copyright to the images they use in their products?
erikbethke
Aug. 10th, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)
Where is the positive vs. negative line drawn
yes but where do you draw the line?

What is okay and what is not okay?

I think each copyright owner has their own standards of what they want.

For example machinima is almost always welcome now: lego, star wars, WoW, so is most fan art that is derivative...

The real question is where to draw the line - I do not know how to do that for all IP holders in the world.

Most of the time IP holders benefit from the increased awareness and very rarely are they damaged at all...

-Erik
prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
It's Not a Bill of Rights...Yet
The first thing to do is to get rid of the phrase "And Obligations" from this rights manifesto. It's not a manifesto of rights if it contains that. You should be mindful of the long real-world struggle within the United Nations in the last 50 years or so around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are some countries -- mainly those with heavy security states and reduced rights for their citizens, who often face a significant resistance within their countries from a range of peaceful democratic movements to armed guerilla movements, who want to get the rest of the world to sign a "Duties and Obligations of the Citizen" sort of treaty in order to have more ways to bang their citizens over the head with accusations that they've failed in their duties to the state.

There's a reason why Western liberal thought -- which in fact was always supported by Eastern liberal thought in the framing of UDHR -- chose *not* to make up lists of "obligations and duties". That's because once people have the freedom to assemble and express views, and due process to deal with criminals, they make up the restraints necessary to deter and punish crime. They allow the society to make up the space of the moral code, whether it is "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not engage in prostitution" -- and then the criminal code created by free parliaments (or not so free) makes the punishment for the crime of killing, rather than prescribing a duty to the citizen not to kill. Hope that distinction is clear; it's an important one, or otherwise oppressive states and game-god companies tend to lard up these documents with awful stuff like "you must be positive in your comments on the forums" blah blah which is horribly discretionary and easily abused.

1) Due Process & Habeas Corpus –
All discliplinary actions that lead to company action must contain the name of the perpetrator, the name of the petitioner or abuse reporter, and the name of the prosecuting company representative -- just like real life. This helps contain abusiveness and false reporting; it helps deter crime; it helps the company be accountable as to its individual staff members, and prevents bias as they are transparent. If the rationale for NOT publishing *all three names* is "but then the abuse-reporter will face reprisals" -- then you have to ask yourself: what kind of game is it that you're running, that a person who reports lawfully and a violation of the TOS and another person is justly punished, that he must quake in fear as if living in a mafia-controlled neighbourhood and hope his name is never published? Either run the game so that can't happen, or don't, but don't hide behind that excuse. Publish all names, as in a real-life court case.

The idea of player-run tribunals sounds interesting, but justice, as in real life, is horribly expensive in time and money, especially appeals systems. It can't scale.

The idea that you prevent bias or you prevent retaliation by "scrubbing identifying data" is fundamentally flawed. It's one that SL tried, and it really rots, and significant numbers of us simply refuse to serve on these kangaroo courts when summoned because they are horridly biased.

When you strip away identifying information, you a) remove responsibility of the state (game company) to make its case rationally b) you remove responsibility of the abuse-reporter to justify and document and back up his claims -- it's a serious matter to take away another player's game/freedom; c) you remove the deterrent power for people making frivolous reports to harass others and game-gods to just attack their enemies; d) you often make the cases senseless and unintelligible; e) you remove the possibility of adversarial defense -- vital to a free and just society -- which comes with showing the reputation, inworld deeds, etc.

I've had to continue the rest on my blog for space reasons:
http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2007/08/raph-koster-tip.html

Prokofy Neva
erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 07:35 am (UTC)
Re: It's Not a Bill of Rights...Yet
PootleCat - I do not disagree with you on some sort of messaging that reminds people to respect other people's IP. These are very confusing times now with things like YouTube getting sued by the major media companies and the RIAA suing children. Would you mind taking a crack at the sort of language that you think would work well? I do not want people to rip you off for sure, but nor will I run around and tear down every instance of Spiderman fan art that I see... Do you think you could find language that expresses that mechanic well?

Prokofy Neva - you raise several different points in your posts.

Identify - to be clear I was always intending on making tghe identify of the *avatars* public. Like PootleCat charges that Prokofy ripped off her clip art to make custom item t-shirts. But I do not see any good coming out of going deeper into the underlying real-world identify - which most of the time is simply unavailable let alone desirable or legal to publish. I assume we are in agreement here? I could see how you might have thought I saying anonymous... Which I am NOT.

You are absolutely right that these systems would be very expensive and difficult to scale, and they should only provide as much fidelity and depth of experience as the citizens want to pay for. For example again, maybe Pootlecat would need to put up a court deposit of 50 Gold Shells to have her case brought before the tribunal? Who gets the shells on a win? on a lose? on throwing out the case?

Obligations - I added that word with care. While I agree with you philosophically. What I am trying to get to is a sense of agreeing to a covenant when you enter the world that you agree to certain codes of behavior. While I am trying to lead the way with GoPets you misunderstand my position if you think I want to swallow the whole enchilda and allow the citizens to have the absolutely free reign to define the rules from murder, to prostition, copying of IP, and so on. There are some codes of conduct that we will use a baseline and that the prospective new citizens can use (with easy to read collective commons like icons) if this space is appropriate for them.

Socialism - I freely admitted that I am not 100% pure libertarian, there are a wide range of issues that I feel strongly that I already know the best answer. What I am trying to do here in the EULA is at least acknowledge that presumptive attitude (that is iron-clad in any other site/VW/MMO) and try to find a path to having more stakeholders weigh in in defining the world.

McDs - you do not know me personally enough to make that comment - I understand how and why it is patronized. Single mom has nothing to do with it - we had McDs for the kids last night. It is interesting to me that McD's word for the patrons is user. Light user, moderate user, heavy user. User.

The Bobbs-Merril vs. Straus case that you raise is about whether or not a copyright holder has the right to set contractual terms in the 2nd, 3rd, or any other sale after the first sale of the book. While that is an interesting case of secondary commercial behavior, the Dodge vs. Ford case is thunderous in its definition of modern society. I think it stands as high as due process as a defining law of the land.

Why? Again Dodge vs. Ford says that *I* as the CEO would be breaking the law, committing grounds for a civil complaint and judgment if I operate the company of GoPets in any manner that is inconsistent with deriving the highest profits for the company.

As a practical manner, management has a large degree of freedom, for management has the most data and practical experience - is it better to go long term or short term in this business? Should we even be in this business? Who is going to destroy my industry, etc.

However, what that law says is Thou Shall Not Make Pit stops for Charity or any other Non-Profit Goal.

That is why it is so fundamental.

-Erik








Re: It's Not a Bill of Rights...Yet - erikbethke - Aug. 13th, 2007 07:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: It's Not a Bill of Rights...Yet - erikbethke - Aug. 13th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC) - Expand
prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:17 am (UTC)
Ford v. Dodge Doesn't Prohibit Corporate Responsibility
Erik,

My point about Bobbs Merrill is that it also established that you can resell a good at a price less than what you bought it for in bulk, to make the volume make the profit, and the original seller cannot complain. That's all.

Your reading of Ford v. Dodge really seems overblown and tendentious, and frankly, it seems like one of those Internet memes lifted right off of Wikipedia -- which it appears it is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_v._Ford_Motor_Company

I'd really like to get a good legal opinion on the ramifications of Dodge v. Ford for corporate responsibility today -- since that should be the tethered, concrete purpose of revisiting it, rather than spouting about what it says about America.

I've worked a lot on corporate responsibility over the years, and I've never found either a corporation or a human rights group feeling the slightest bit hobbled or mandated to hold back by this relatively obscure court case.

The case is not about capitalism and markets; it's about one company's duty to its shareholders. It's not about vulnerability to civil complain forever and anon by everyone; it's about sticking to your bylaws. Want to give away profits? Make a different organization and bylaws.

Courts in the United States aren't in the business of forcing the capitalist profit motive down the throats of socially-responsible corporations. That's absurd. If it were, you'd never have things like Ben & Jerry's and Fair Trade coffee. Please.

Furthermore, even Wikipedia tells you that this court case isn't about forcing rapacious capitalism and slash-and-burn market practices by fiat, as you seem to imply; it's about the rights of shareholders. It's not a grand project of the entire society, which courts don't control anyway, as there are many autonomous companies. It's about the right of even a minority of shareholders to dictate to a majority by invoking the mission or purpose of the company in the first place.

The minority shareholders were right; they were investing to get a return and there were responsibilities to them or there wouldn't even BE a company. And frankly, given that Ford went on to fund among the largest of the post-war philanthropic foundations, it seems preposterous to go on fussing about Ford v. Dodge as some sort of indictment of capitalism, when it's the Ford Foundation that brings you programs to alleviate poverty at home and abroad.

It's not fiscally sound to conduct a company's business such as to lose money for the shareholders when that isn't the mission. Shareholders have rights, too. They don't spend their own venture capital on you so that you can play philanthropist to the world; they can do that by donating to a charity and getting a tax write-off. No, they pay you money in order to get a return. If you don't get that for them and go off wandering on do-gooding expeditions that in fact lose the company money, it could run into the ground and then not be any good for anybody. There's such a thing as doing good by keeping stable jobs for people and communities, not just helping starving children in Africa in an abstract way with charity.

Ultimately, if someone wants to run a break-even company that merely makes philanthrophy pay for itself, who could stop them?!

erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)
Re: Ford v. Dodge Doesn't Prohibit Corporate Responsibility
Who can stop them? The shareholders...

The best reading on Dodge vs. Ford is:

http://www.amazon.com/Corporation-Pathological-Pursuit-Profit-Power/dp/0743247442

Really Ben & Jerry's and Fair Trade Coffee are legally required to be marketing and PR schemes that deliver higher profits. *IF* as a side effect those programs do good, well than that is great happy side news.

All of the corporate responsibility, "e.g. BP's Beyond Petroleum" is about making more money. The ACTUAL people such as yourself may have believed in their individual jobs, but the CEO would have been civilally negligent if he allowed you to *give* away the company's time, money or other resources if it could not be ultimately traced back to the bottum line.

Yep, it really is that stark out there. Companies - and especially Public Companies must run themselves to profit the shareholders. Privately held companies with like-minded (and better a single shareholder) may deviate from profit if they agree.

-Erik
prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
Make a Covenant, Then, Don't Call it Bill of Rights
If you are now talking more about "covenant" then what you have isn't so much a constitution or law but a social contract -- indeed, a covenant, in the religious sense or the real estate sense. Then call it a contract, not a bill of rights.

The Lindens decided to go the route of not getting involved in players' claims of fraud or theft of IP. And many people get furious at them for that, because they wish they'd do more, and do some basic things like get a watermark datestamp on textures uploaded.

They imply they will do more by even creating a permissions system, whereby a creator can decide whether a thing can even be copied -- or not. With the bugs and exploits in the software, stuff gets hacked, and LL doesn't feel responsible and absolves itself in the TOS. This makes people mad, but in the end, only deep-pocketed Kevin Alderman with a top selling produce and a lawyer really vested in working the case to make precedent could start the ball rolling. And as I've commented on my blog, I'm not certain that this realifism isn't a grave disservice to SL, in that it puts a chill on creativity and anybody lesser than Kevin Alderman who might now stand accused of copying his design or even merely reselling his item at a yardsale. I'm concerned about the impact.

If you have the resources to fool around with people claiming clipart theft, it will be appreciated by the customers, but since many of them downloaded stuff from right-clicking other non-game people's stuff anyway, it truly does get bizarre.

Art. 29 doesn't bother me as long as you take the UN project itself to be one made in good faith. That's hard to believe when you get things like Libya chairing the Commission on Human Rights or now the World Conference on Racism follow-up conference, ye it's as good as it gets.

I don't know why you call this a "loophole". It's actually a measure to restrain griefers and those acting in bad faith, terrorists, say, who think the right to freedom of religion should give them the right to blow up buildings of infidels.

erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:31 am (UTC)
Re: Make a Covenant, Then, Don't Call it Bill of Rights
Covenant of Rights and Obligations? I might go with that.

Although I am personally uncomfortable with religious-seeming terminology...

How about switching the words: Bill of Obligations and Rights of the Citizens?

Maybe it is a bit of a meme fraud to have the sub-phrase "Bill of Rights" in the title? I could possibly agree with that.

All of the EULA/ToS/etc out there are grave acts of meme-fraud.

On the other hand, what I am proposing I would like to think is a pretty darn big step forward over the others... so why not get a little wind in our sails for it?

Other suggested titles?

-Erik




prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
If a company has a clause like banning for no reason or any reason, I think they need to cash out the customer at a some kind of formulaic value, i.e. not fair market but perhaps opening bid on the auction for a simulator. As you may know, a judge found the SL TOS "unconscionable" on some grounds, you might want to look at that.

You're right, that if like AOL, a service simply won't let you go, and you can't get them to undo the subscription easily, simply by non-payment or pressing "I quit," that's wrong, and some are like that and you have a hard time getting rid of them.

I'm not sure what you're saying about politics. You're saying it's ok if people protest causes you like (like opposing Bush wiretaps or opposing Chinese censorship, which all right-thinking Internet geek liberals should oppose, but some don't). But what if the politics is something you don't like? For example, look at how Le Pen opened up a sim in Second Life, and was immediately firebombed by radicals and protested by socialists. His party is legal, though many could demonstrate it is racist and therefore while allowed in RL, may be bannable in SL with its TOS about hate speech. But firebombing is also wrong.

Re: "f it is senseless repeated taunting of the GoPets staff that has no informational value but is instead hurtful and meant to distract the team from working - I consider that an electronic scream of fire. So how do I express what we agree to better?"

This is one of those discretionary rulings that game gods always find as a way to protect abusive staff and their sycophantic pets, so I can't possibly endorse it.

What if there is some really awful game mod, who gives favours to friends and screws over other customers? And people keep repetitively protesting it because you're blind to it, because she's been with you since beta? That's the kind of situation that most often crops up. You simply have to ignore screaming protest if you want to be an enlightened game god. If you don't want to ignore it and feel it needs to be published, then don't dine out on calling yourself enlightened; you're not.

This idea that the team is involved in this sacred work from which they must never be distracted from protest sounds elitist and indefensible. Working on what? For whom? Whose game is it, anyway?!

There are times when the communities in these games just rise as one and protest the hell out of something that really makes people furious, like the prim tax or the pulling of telehubs in Second Life, and the company then has to revise its policies and relent. If customers pay your revenue, they have a right to be involved and protest. Indeed, I advocate having tier-payer seats on the Linden board as a way to provide democratic participation, as collectively, our fees are greater than most venture capitalists. You could consider having resident representation on your board or at least some kind of panel.

Rather than invoking these corporate notions like "our company's interest" and "our beloved hard-working staff" as the higher aspirations to which you wish to make players adhere (these always get you in trouble as people get out of sync in their valuation of those things the way you do), it's better to create codes for forums and the world -- if you must (I'm not for doing it) that are simple and speak to generic values, like "Do not use obscenity": "do not spam" or "do not make direct, hateful personal attacks designed to incite flame wars" or "do not start a thread just about one person to incite hatred".

"Refrain from inciting hatred in speech and conduct" is a good way to describe what you are trying to achieve.

However, don't ask me to help you with this one, it's not my area : )


erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 09:01 am (UTC)
Good Comments
The problem with cashing out a banned user is that if you do that people are *economically rewarded* to break the social contract. If I get pissed off at all the stupid sh*t I bought in my life, I go murder someone and then somehow the courts give me back all of the property and services I have consumed in cash value?

Then you might as well have people be able to demand full-market value for all of their items when they exit from the company.

*Possibly* all of your in-game stuff is put up for auction for 24 hours, and perhaps you could get the proceeds of that less some reasonable transaction fees??? This might work.

On the issue of distracting developers, you may not believe it but some people use other people's time inappropriately. That might be too elliptical, sometimes people make complaints about a game or a world in an attention grabbing manner, because they deeply desire the attention - and instead of going to their friends, family, co-workers (online or offline) they go to the developers.

It reminds me of a guy I know who was drunk and wanted a place to sleep so he went to the police station. They refused to give him a place to be so he went outside and rammed his car into other cars and then smashed a police desk. He got his room.

It turns out that not everyone is reasonable and rational and giving them an inalienable right to the the infinite consumption of the development time is a no-starter.

So again the devil is in the details - I am looking for the details of how to write this social contract. I am not just wimping out by saying it is hard so screw all the citizens with the heavy EULA.

Have you simply not kept up with the crap that companies are being forced to do by governments??? That is what I am talking about. Not in-game T-Shirts. I am talking about the real heavy stuff like Yahoo helping put political prisoners in real jail.





prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:49 am (UTC)
As I told you, "obligations" and "citizens' duties" has a whole sordid and bad-faith history at the UN where countries with restrictive and even oppressive systems tried to globalize such things. Don't do that. Don't call it Bill of Rights and Obligations! That's wrong!
Switching it around makes it worse!

Covenant is something that people use for real estate, and it is used now on all Second Life islands for residents to place their rules for their land and those who will live on it -- it's not just Biblical connotations. When I first heard it, I thought "Bible" too, because "covenant" seems like more of a California type word where there are suburban communities where people buy large tracts of land, I guess, and agree not to paint their houses purple or something. In any event, it's a word that suits the purpose -- a contract with obligations on each side.

The "social contract" a la Locke and Rousseau might not be the worst thing.

Or "social compact"?


erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)
Social Contract and Compact
I could live with Social Compact or Contract.

See? Even if SL is using Covenant it is still just too Biblical in its taint.

prokofy
Aug. 13th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)
No Confiscation of All Property
I didn't say full-market value, just some formula for value. If I get a traffic ticket, my house isn't confiscated. If I get in a hit and run while DWI and get a year in jail, my house isn't confiscated. I don't see that the crime rising to the test of being expelled from the world should lead to absolute nullification of value. Because too much of that, and creative people who often tend to grief sometimes won't come.

I don't see if you give them 25 percent of the value, say, that they will grief out to capture that value. After all, they'd get more value by staying inworld and behaving in a civilized manner.

I don't understand why this micromanaging of players' attitude towards devs has to be in the *avatar rights document*. Go make a developers' rights like Richard Bartles wants, I guess.

This seems more like an issue to manage rather than prescribe by law. Lindens solved this drastically by closing the resident forums and retreating behind a corporate blog that allows only 100 comments, or no comments on some of the most controversial posts. Bad example for the Metaverse! Forums moderation and inworld moderation are different things. I suppose a forums with a rule about persistent trolling could have mods lock a threat harrying staff. Staff could also just not respond?

In world, this is a management issue where sometimes, the staff has to essentially put a persistent complainer on ignore, I guess. I wouldn't advise it, but the Lindens have perfected the art of just not answering when someone annoys them or asks them those imponderables they hate to answer.

As I know from heavy customer contact in my own inworld business, there is always a percentage of malcontents that can't understand, and for them you push premade cards and offer refunds.

Um, I have kept up with the "crap". I'm not for Yahoo or Google helping to put Chinese political prisoners in torture chambers. You have no idea who I am or why that's meaningless to say that. I just want you to be clear what you mean by allowing political speech, but not allowing other things you view as "political". I want you to avoid prescribing political correctness in code, if you are holding yourself out to be a model-maker for the Metaverse, not just your own game.

(Anonymous)
Aug. 13th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
Ashcroft Burnham
This is a fascinating initiative, and interesting to watch somebody try to put a Kosteresque set of rights into a legally binding contract for the use of an online service.

One part that particularly interests me is the "due process" section. I am interested largely because I am working on something broadly similar for SecondLife (although with the difference that the system on which I am working is independent of the people who make and run SecondLife, and is rather a ground-up approach): see here (http//www.metaverserepublic.org) for details.

As to the substantive points, firstly, a clarification: what do you mean by "habeas corpus" here? Habeas corups is the name of a court order commanding a person to be freed from imprisonment or other confinement. How would that apply in virtual world focussed on virtual pets?

Secondly, the tribunals: that is an extremely difficult thing to get right. It does not mean that it is not worth trying, but one should know what one is up against. First of all, law is hard to get right. The only way of having "due process" is to have law determining precisely what process is due, and the process itself enforcing substantive law. Creating an entire system of law from scratch requires a tremendous amount of intellectual effort. There are, broadly, two ways of doing it: write everything down in advance (civil law), or let it be worked out in individual cases, with each tribunal bound by the precedents created by previous tribunal hearings (common law). Either way, the people involved have to have a serious and thorough understanding of legal theory to make it work: making a cohesive system of law is far harder than it looks, and it looks hard.

The composition of the tribunals is also a difficult issue. You suggest some sort of election, but there are two problems with that: (1) there is no way of knowing whether the people elected will have the requisite skills; and (2) popular election dangerously undermines judicial independence. The principle of judicial independence is that judges (tribunal members, etc.) decide the case based only on what they genuinely believe to be the correct outcome, since they are the ones who, having heard all the evidence and arguments, are in the best position to make that decision. What should never be allowed to happen is that judges/tribunal members are influenced in their decisions by either the people who put them into office in the first place, or those who have the power to remove them from office, either by dismissing them or not re-electing them. Judicial independence of that sort is the only thing capable of delivering the right (rather than just merely the most popular) result, and avoiding what is often called the "tyranny of the majority", which can have disastrous results for a community. For example, if a person or group becomes undeservedly unpopular with a sizable majority of GoPets users, those people would strongly tend to elect tribunal members who would be biased against that person or group. People might even stand for election on a "ban person X" platform. That would be mob rule, not justice. The only sustainable system is one in which legally-skilled, appointed judges preside over proceedings. There may well be, as there are in real life, randomly selected juries (and not necessarily as many as twelve: perhaps eight or six or even four), but untrained and unskilled juries cannot work without a skilled and trained judge.

(Continued in next post due to character limit)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 13th, 2007 02:00 pm (UTC)
(Continued from previous post)
Another serious challenge is judicial procedure. There are innumerable potential issues that the tribunals would have to deal with in relation to procedure. For example: (1) what, if any, duty do parties to litigation have to disclose to the other parties information adverse to their own case; (2) what is the correct way of determining whether a case should be adjourned where one party wants it adjourned, and the other party is accusing the first of just trying to delay matters; (3) what is the means by which a party should set out its case against the other party, and in what, if any, circumstances, should that be allowed to be amended; (4) what are the circumstances in which an appeal should be allowed - should an appeal be as of right, effectively, an automatic further stage in all proceedings, or should there be a requirement of permission of the appeal tribunal, and, if so, what exactly should that requirement be; (5) what should be done about a party who refuses to respond to an accusation; (6) in what order should evidence be called; (7) what are the limits of acceptable cross-examination; (8) to what extent are parties under an obligation to put other parties on notice about the evidence and/or arguments that they intend to call and make; (9) what, if any, time limits should there be for each step of the proceedings; and (10) what sanctions should there be for those failing to comply with procedural rules?

As you can see, you have, perhaps unwittingly, embarked on a truly enormous task. It is not necessarily a task that is not worthwhile, but, it is one that, in order to be done successfully, requires a huge investment of time and skill. If it is done unsuccessfully, then the results could be disastrous (and, if you have a right of "due process" in the contract between user and provider, make yourself vulnerable to litigation if the process applied has not, indeed, been that "due" by whatever law that you choose to govern your world, which you will inevitably have to invent, either by civil codes or common law precedent).

(Apologies, incidentally, for confusing the title in the previous post with a space to put my name).

Ashcroft Burnham
erikbethke
Aug. 13th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
Re: (Continued from previous post)
Wow thank you!

Ashcroft Burnham you have impressed me with how difficult the task ahead is - but I still feel that it is necessary to realize the potential of GoPets.

How can we break it up into smaller tasks?

How about role-playing an alpha test, and then a beta test of the tribunals and the legal code?

-Erik


Re: (Continued from previous post) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 13th, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: (Continued from previous post) - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
System design - (Anonymous) - Aug. 15th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: System design - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 08:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: System design - (Anonymous) - Aug. 19th, 2007 10:34 am (UTC) - Expand
pootlecat
Aug. 13th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
"For example again, maybe Pootlecat would need to put up a court deposit of 50 Gold Shells to have her case brought before the tribunal? Who gets the shells on a win? on a lose? on throwing out the case?"

I really don't think people should have to pay anything in order to get their case heard. 50 Gold Shells is a lot of money for some people and hence you could be creating a 'legal' system that is biassed in favour of richer citizens. Also, as a paying player I feel it is your duty and responsibility to keep the peace and sort out any disputes in a fair manner, whatever that might mean. The tribunal system sounds good in theory but in my experience I think you will have a lot of trouble managing your volunteers. People usually start off well but real life (not to mention lethargy and boredom) gets in the way and you will end up with either a lack of volunteers or such a huge turnover that you will have trouble keeping up with it all. Does GoPets really have to imitate real life in such a fundamental way? I trust in the decisions you guys make and I imagine the same is true for most of your players.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 13th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
Pootlecat,

one way of doing it would be to require the loser to pay costs/fees at the end of the hearing, or, if there is no clear loser, to apportion the amount between the parties in proportion to the degree of success of each in the litigation.
(no subject) - pootlecat - Aug. 13th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 13th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Money - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Money - pootlecat - Aug. 14th, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
perpetual_end
Aug. 14th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)
Beani here ^^ (I never use my LJ lol) I’m just pulling out a couple of extra items besides the tribunal and copyright for discussion. I will definitely jump into the copyright discussion though since it’s a pretty important point for me. Anyway here we go…

(2) Right to free expression and assembly – people should enjoy this freedom up to the point where it sabotages the services or attempts sedition. This freedom should be restricted from taking the shape of harassment or annoyance of the users at large. Obviously no forms of hate speech. For example you should be able to say and make a great variety of expressions and items in the privacy of your own land and space, however in the public spaces and on other people’s lands you are naturally more restricted. How to codify this in a manner that someone understands up front I do not know. Something like when you are out and about you must use ‘E’ for everyone forms of expression and when in private between consenting players you must use non mature forms of expression. That is the closest I can think of.

This will be a difficult one to clearly define however I love the fact that you are acknowledging that one should be able to act freely within the privacy of their own ‘home’. One would have to consider what is outright banned regardless of situation and make this clear (you said hate speech is not allowed which is of course a fantastic thing however is this only within public spaces or in private areas as well? I would hope the latter however that sortof contradicts with the ideal of being completely free, there are those out there that would choose to use hate speech, swearing etc etc as part of their ‘rights’.)

With everything else I guess the idea is kinda like this?

(2) Right to free expression and assembly – members of the community are required to act accordingly when present within a public space. This includes but is not limited to refraining from using curse words, hateful slander or discriminatory remarks aimed towards other players and/or social groups. When within your own private social space these limits may be pushed if in the presence of consenting players.

However in this instance its almost like the use of derogatory and hateful words is being encouraged but that is definitely not the case X.x Perhaps a note somewhere that though this behaviour within a private space will not result in GP staff interjection (unless used against a player within the private space who has not given consent) it is not encouraged?

(15) We will of course necessarily comply with all laws local and state globally and above all recognize the natural rights of humans everywhere. If a particular jurisdiction compels us to comply with an unconscionable law we will make commercially feasible efforts to resist the compulsion but it is understood that GoPets is not a platform for political advocacy in the real world territories.

I understand that there is a legal obligation for GoPets to follow rules and law of other countries however one in particular is truly causing harm to the game and that is Child Lock. All it does is isolate players entirely and considering that age gap is the easiest to tap into when it comes to these sorts of games, having such a major deterrent is dangerous. I assume there is no way to get around this otherwise it would be done but is it possible to state within this document (and implement) that Child Lock only applies to those countries which require this sort of requirement by law? Or at least allow it to be a little more ‘friendly’ to players? I know that if I had joined and been bound to child lock (I was 17 when I joined so I would have been bound) I would have left almost straight away after discovering I had no way to truly interact with other players rather than on the forums.

perpetual_end
Aug. 14th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)
Continuing on >.>

(16) We welcome all 3rd parties from the largest corporations to the individual citizens to invent novel ways to exploit the Gopets virtual world platform for their own private gain. We will not take any action against derivative or mashup work unless it directly threatens our essential trademark, patent and existential rights. For example, we do not allow a toy company to go run and make GoPets plush toys without a license from us, nor do we allow another company to setup a ‘rogue’ server that uses the GoPets client and assets to create a competitive service that would threaten our existence. How to define the lines – I do not know exactly.

.. using the term exploit is not a good idea in this respect :p especially when saying it can be done for personal gain X.X I would assume that this is in reference to fan art and fansites etc being allowed while the commercial use of GoPets related trademarks is not? Just want to be clear on the specifics here before commenting further, it confuses me a little ^^
Yes - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 08:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - perpetual_end - Aug. 14th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - perpetual_end - Aug. 14th, 2007 02:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - pootlecat - Aug. 14th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yes - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 07:33 am (UTC) - Expand
You are right - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 08:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - perpetual_end - Aug. 14th, 2007 09:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - erikbethke - Aug. 14th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - pootlecat - Aug. 14th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - perpetual_end - Aug. 14th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You are right - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 07:51 am (UTC) - Expand
prokofy
Aug. 15th, 2007 06:47 am (UTC)
Get the Title Right
I just want to reiterate again that it's very important to be clear and label correctly what you are doing. If it is a more enlightened EULA that goes the distance further to recognize property rights or intellectual property, that's great, then call it a more enlightened EULA.

Don't just wave around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, aspire to it, get its luster, and then not do the things in it, like Art. 19 on free speech, which isn't as robust as the U.S. First Amendment, but is still far more comprehensive in its jurisprudence than what you're implying by speech that will be restricted by notions like "when the staff is tired of being criticized too often" or "what's in the company's interest.

It's also important to be clear on the title so that you can avoid comments like Benjamin Duranske's -- he's claiming that you aren't saying that you are making a Bill of Avatar's Rights -- and yet you said you were -- and even wished to add the term "And Responsibilities" (http://virtuallyblind.com/2007/08/13/gopets-eula-bounty/)

I think getting the title right for what you are doing is extremely important so that it is not misleading. And it's important for the overall discussion, so that people like Duranske can't say, "Oh, he never really claimed to be making an Avatar Bill of Rights so what are you on about." You are claiming it; so understand its awesome responsibility.
erikbethke
Aug. 15th, 2007 08:04 am (UTC)
Re: Get the Title Right
$5000 to help me with the new GoPets EULA

That was the title of my post...

And Duranske seems to be posting it accurately...

I am basically taking the standpoint of using the UN Universal Declaration and lets find out what is truly incompatible.

The project seems to be shaping up pretty well...

The property rights seem to be the easiest to endorse.

You are fairly biased in your assumptions of the sorts of critique that we have at GoPets and lump me in with the rest of your online experiences. We do support a wide-range of free speech. We do not have hate speech, or profanity in the public spaces - that is a taste issue and is set by the community. In fact once I posted with the word damn in my post and the forum moderators edited my post and gave me a warning.

You seem to be stubbornly black or white - either it is just a corporate EULA or its the UN Universal Declaration.

While agree it will still be a corporate EULA, I would argue that the US Constitution AND the UN Universal are too just corporate EULAs. Very large corporations - government bodies.

I need something more special than EULA... take the Creative Commons for instance... we need something with just a little PR and Marketing snazzy-ness to it...

I have not been coy about the marketing angle from my long post with Dodge vs. Ford. I am hoping that by recognizing property rights formally ahead of the competition that we do make some good traction...

The problem with the avatar bill of rights projects so far is that people assumed that one group of idealists wanted to force THEIR design on everyone else world... that I am not doing.

I want to get the best EULA for GoPets.

-Erik









prokofy
Aug. 15th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too
Erik,

Yes, it was your original post title, but you yourself invoked not only Raph Koster and the UDHR, later you floated the title of "Avatar Rights and Obligations". So I think it's important not to call it something it isn't. You said, "we would like to reach as high as possible to achieve the natural rights as expressed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Re "lets find out what is truly incompatible" -- it's already been pointed out that there are a number of things -- like a fair trial, freedom of speech, etc. that you are not going to be reaching high on, so it should not be misleading.

The property rights seem to be the easiest to endorse.

You are fairly biased in your assumptions of the sorts of critique that we have at GoPets and lump me in with the rest of your online experiences.

No, I took what you wrote and responded to it. You're the one who called Second Life's TOS "like North Korea's Constitution." But it's not. It has nowhere near the level of restraint on free speech that your draft is suggesting.

We do support a wide-range of free speech. We do not have hate speech, or profanity in the public spaces - that is a taste issue and is set by the community.

That's not very wide-ranging, and it's important to state that. The idea that the "community sets it" seems rather vague and unsupportable, because obviously, if you suddenly got a community that supported racist or anti-gay speech, you as a company would intervene, and correctly so for a world of this nature.

>You seem to be stubbornly black or white - either it is just a corporate EULA or its the UN Universal Declaration.

No, because I'm not the one who said I was reaching for the UDHR -- you were. You said reach for it, and see how far you get. I'm merely urging you not to misportray it by waving around the term, getting the blogosphere to meme it up, and say, wow, this guy's going to have the UDHR as his standard. You aren't. And you aren't required to, to be an enlightened game. But I don't wish to diminish what the UDHR is in fact, by having it invoked, but then not really pursued.

>While agree it will still be a corporate EULA...

That's really stretching. The UDHR is a consensus document that is the basis for treaties, which are binding by the signatories. The countries out of the 190 or so in the UN which have signed those treaties make them multilateral agreements -- international law -- and law is something quite higher than a EULA. The UN isn't "a corporation."

I need something more special than EULA... take the Creative Commons for instance... we need something with just a little PR and Marketing snazzy-ness to it...

I don't wish to have the UDHR subverted for a PR and Marketing snazz campaign.

>I have not been coy about the marketing angle...

I'm not sure what you mean by "recognizing property rights" because Second Life does this, and likely Entropia, I'd have to check.

>The problem with the avatar bill of rights projects so far is that people assumed that one group of idealists wanted to force THEIR design on everyone else world... that I am not doing.

I don't see how a long-term and wide-ranging democratic and liberal exercise to draft an Avatar's Bill of Rights would be a "group of idealists" who would be "forcing THEIR design". Your effort is part of an overall long-term effort. Just as there is a US Constitution, a UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and the rights treaties based on it), so it's reasonable to expect that some day, there'd be an Avatar Bill of Rights.

>I want to get the best EULA for GoPets.

I don't see why that's markedly different than this putative group of idealists that you say are imposing their view on worlds. You're the CEO of a company that has invoked UDHR, and enlisted public commentary by offering a bounty (you could have gotten it without the bounty), but at the end of the day, you yourself say it's a PR and Marketing campaign.

There's nothing wrong with that; just call it what it is: an enlightened EULA.

There's nothing wrong with small groups of idealists trying to come up with something better for worlds; you're in such a small group of idealists yourself.
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too
But you are very wrong. While the Second Life EULA is probably the best in the industry - it provides absolutely ZERO property rights.

None.

Their marketing hype has worked on you to let you think that you have rights. Go read it right now.

They can ban yu, take your lindens, cancel any transactions, undo an exchange trade for dollars, and ban any other accounts that they think is associated with your account. All for ANY reason what so ever. There is NO due process.

You are truly mistaken if you think that there are any form of protection.

Even the recognition of your creations as your property is extremely limited if you read it carefully. They can take the copyright away from you if THEY determine it helps them with 'debugging' the system. Again without due process it is entirely up to Linden to decide what happens and they do not have to open their process.

Again there is a huge misconception that Linden respects your rights. I think that they actually do in a day to day practice, but it is written down as any other EULA.

And I believe that you are drawing a line between government and international law, and corporate law where you hold that the former is somehow holy and the second is somehow dingy.

Governments ARE corporations. They provide a set of services that they collect taxes and fines to pay. The better governments are co-ops others are not. All land, estate, and corporations on the planet are using a license from some state to exist.

These licenses get destroyed when states fall apart - war, invasion, civil war, coups...

In the end, let me say that I believe that I understand that you are hungry for a true and deep UN Universal. I am invoking Raph's and the UN as the basis to find out what I can make for GoPets - but only for GoPets - where the others have gone bad is that they caused resentment from the greater VW/MMO industry by making others feel like they were getting this fostered on them.

I just want the most fair to the citizens EULA I can create, and the best start that I can think of is the Magna Carta, US Constitution and its amendments, and the UN Universal...
-Erik
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too - (Anonymous) - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too - (Anonymous) - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too - (Anonymous) - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're a Small Group of Idealists, Too - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 10:02 am (UTC) - Expand
prokofy
Aug. 15th, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)
Ashcroft is invoking the difficulty of this project to make it seem like only experts can get to draft it, and only experts can get to judge. But it's a kids' game, and a jury of one's peers is a basic concept. It will obviously have to be simplified.

The idea that election of judges by the public undermines the judicial branch is a curious one, as the legislative branch of government, and elections, are an important check against the power of experts who believe they know better.

Experts invoke the "tyranny of the majority" or "mob rule" in order to ensure that only experts are in power and don't have to answer to real questions about their decisions. Protection of minorities is vital in any democratic society to avoid the "tyranny of the majority," but democratic elections are essential to prevent powerful experts from taking too much power in the name of "complexity".
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
Judicial independence
"Simplifying" law or a legal system is easier said than done: trying to make things simpler usually makes them more complicated, as ambiguities create more disputes that need resolving, and make it harder for interested parties to predict the outcome of litigation (which creates complexity all of itself). Prokofy, if you believe that legal procedure can be simplified, can you perhaps demonstrate how it can by addressing each of the ten example procedural issues that I outlined above in a way that is both just and simple? As it stands, your simple assertion that it can be "simplified" without explaining how seems rather like the ignorant car owner at the garage protesting that a very serious and complicated malfunction "can't be that hard to fix", and refusing to believe that it will take longer than an hour or two no matter how many times it is explained. I don't think that you have any particular legal background, do you?

As to the point about judicial independence, I explained the mechanism of how an elected judiciary is dangerous: what specific part of my explanation did you not understand? I thought that it was quite clear. Just to clarify, if any clarification is necessary, the legislature does indeed need to be elected: it is the balance between an elected legislature that can promulgate written laws, of general application, without retrospective effect, and an impartial, professional judiciary with the exclusive power to determine the outcomes of individual cases, which is bound to follow those laws, but which is wholly independent from any external influences other than legislation itself (and the ability to be removed from office if found to be truly corrupt) that creates the necessary combination of democratic legitimacy and the rule of law that minimises the potential for any abuse of power.

Finally, you don't analyse what "too much power" is: what is the reasoned basis upon which you quantify how much power is "too much" for a professional judiciary? Precisely how much power do you think that a judiciary should have, and what is the reason for choosing that level? Do you think, for example, that the (wholly appointed) judiciary in England and Wales have "too much" power? If so, how does that manifest itself? Is the UK's judiciary demonstrably worse in the quality of its decision-making than the judiciary of, for example, those US states that elect their judges? You write about judges "answering questions" about their decisions - to whom would those answers be given? Anybody who has the power to say which judicial decisions are right and wrong has the power to influence decisions in individual cases. Do you believe in judicial independence (it is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)? If so, what do you believe that judicial independence entails, exactly?

The best way of ensuring that judicial power is properly limited is: (1) ensure that there is an effective appeals process to a higher level of judiciary, preferably to a court with multiple judges who decide by majority (in the UK, the Court of Appeal sits with three judges, and the House of Lords five); and (2) ensure that the judiciary does not have the power to strike down legislation (there are other ways of ensuring legislative conformity to constitutional law).

Ashcroft Burnham
Re: Judicial independence - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 07:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Not An Expert and Proud of It - (Anonymous) - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not An Expert and Proud of It - erikbethke - Aug. 16th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC) - Expand
zhai
Aug. 15th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
Hi Erik. I've been following this spottily, which is all I can manage at the moment, but I am keeping notes, and still working through many questions in my head. Ethics is not my specialization, but I may contact someone whose specialization it is, and I'll let you know what I hear back.

In the meantime, here are some questions from my notes, garnered from the various discussions and just tossed out for the sake of potential discussion fodder:

---

Bartle says: "What would the corresponding list of operator rights look like, I wonder?"

This is a good point. If we're talking about the rights of the user, how and why are they given those rights? Taxpayers have rights when they belong to a government because they pay for it -- right? At least in theory. So users in this case are actually taxpayers, and "taxpayer" money is being used to maintain the servers. But what about when the servers break down? Is this akin to the actual breakdown of a government? Civil servants in modern governments reap an array of benefits from the fruit of those governments; would the 'operators' have similar ones?

What are the ethical implications of this kind of discussion? Many of the human rights can be distilled down into maximum freedom with the "your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose" 'golden rule' analog. But what is the actual ethical approach? The posters on Erik's and Raph's blog discuss "the greater common good" which is picked out as a red herring, but ultimately that is a utilitarian approach to the ethical system, which indeed is found flawed through history and mental models of its implementation. What ethical system can we apply that has the greatest resonance with the online worlds? What is the predominant ethical philosophy applied in the US? (Would be Kant, mostly.) Is it effective? Should we follow that model or should we do better?

What is the value of avatars? The other thing that comes up from Mihaly is the argument of player rights versus avatar rights. Is the avatar purely the property of the player, or is it something more?

What about user generated content, and copyright infringement? This also came up in a thread. Do players have the right to break the law? Should the EULA first establish adherence to the local rights? In this respect is this "bill of rights" really more of a Code of Ethics to which the player is agreeing? Are rights removed from the player when they violate the Code of Ethics, the same way membership in an organization would be revoked, or rights ("life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") are removed from criminals?

If this is about user retention, how much should we adhere to historical or present day ethical and legal systems, and how much should we be inventing something entirely new for the idiosyncrasies of digital space?

If the systems by which tribunals were selected were democratic, would we see a progression as we have in the United States toward a capitalist interpretation of ethics that leads to the "one dollar equals one vote"? If "taxpayers" invest more in the system (higher income, higher taxes = premium membership) have they purchased extended rights? Would we progress slowly but inexorably toward a lobby system, which in the US itself is steadily approaching critical mass in terms of its failure to serve the people? What level of modern political analysis should be considered before choosing an avenue of further pursuit?
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
A lot of good questions...

Soon this will need to be broken off into a Wiki...

I am thinking that we put the EULA/TOS of major sites such as:

SL
WoW
Google
eBay
Amazon

Also put the UN UDHR
& put in the US Const

Also put a bunch of sample disputes & 'crimes' that are found typical in online games. With these sample start issues we could start the Common Law effort.

-Erik
(no subject) - zhai - Aug. 16th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
zhai
Aug. 15th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
Addendum!
The more I think about this, the more I think that it might be interesting to approach this from the perspective of a Code of Ethics that users voluntarily agree to (this is basically a EULA in its purest form, but with ideological investment rather than just "do this or we won't let you in"), and then grant them specific rights on the basis of adherence to that Code of Ethics, perhaps even a shared Core Values which the players themselves could develop, amend, ratify, and use as a core vision for the community as a kind of Constitution.
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 07:48 am (UTC)
Re: Addendum!
Maybe we can have a lighter experience for people to sample while they consider the code of ethics...

But to own land and become a citizen you have to agree to the code of ethics?

That way it does not happen upfront when you are just registering and you do not know what you are yet agreeing to?

-Erik
Re: Addendum! - zhai - Aug. 16th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Addendum! - erikbethke - Aug. 17th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Addendum! - zhai - Aug. 17th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC)
Property Rights Defined by What/When the State Confiscates for Violations
I'm not really interested in debating Ashcroft from Second Life here, as it's not beneficial. Judicial independence isn't a cloak for installing magisterial dominion. Ashcroft's party in SL didn't win a majority of seats; his arduously-drafted judicial system didn't win supporters. There are good reasons for this.

The job of making something simpler is already happening in spite of anybody's plan merely because GoPets is a game, it is run by one man/game-god Erik (perhaps he has a board of directors, but then, that means it's a game-god Poliburo) and he's trying to make it more fair and just.

Of course, ultimately, only separation of powers and real authentic property rights with players being on the board precisely because they add value to the game and help the company's revenue would be something to consider. But no company, even one willing to wax philosophical about Ford, will likely give away the store to their customers.

If there is going to be a claim of greater property rights, the pedal hits the metal precisely on the issue of how criminals are treated. As with any society, it's how you treat criminals, disabled, elderly, etc. that you define your liberal values. If the state can confiscated all property created by a player merely because he finally breaks the law at some point, it's not honouring property rights. It should remove it by due process, if it can't call all the way, and the idea of some percentage of face value seems fair. If you strip away property just because the TOS is violated, than property can and will be taken away from players on a whim. That's not property rights. It's only a partial acknowledgement of property rights.

I also think that due process has to involve facing one's accusers, and having prosecutors be transparent. The readiness with which the OP and commentators have jumped to the idea of screening out all identities to "protect privacy" is truly odd. Justice can be blind in fact when everyone is equallly transparent, and it is not just the game company that holds all the cards of who is who, and keeps the players in the dark as to reputation and motivations of players that could be evident by identifying information. The tribunals must have identities shows of the inworld sort. If the fear is that the prosecuted will become vengeful and the abuse reporter's identity has to be protected, ponder what an extreme that is in first life, where such a thing would only occur if a really entrenched and severe mafia crime was involved where someone had to be put in the witness protection program. It's not the norm to hide a prosecutor's or a witness from an accused -- anywhere. That this could take hold in games and worlds and grow and become the norm in the Metaverse is pretty scary.

again, if it's the kind of world where retribution could be possible from these identifications, what kind of world are you running then, that you can't keep people safe and mafias can throw you?

Prokofy Neva
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 07:51 am (UTC)
Re: Property Rights Defined by What/When the State Confiscates for Violations
Why do you want the first-life identity?

I just do not understand the desire...? Can you explain?

-Erik
(Anonymous)
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:16 am (UTC)
Code of Ethics sounds better than calling it "human rights" or "Bill of Rights" -- which it isn't.

Richard Bartle, re: "The posters on Erik's and Raph's blog discuss "the greater common good" which is picked out as a red herring, but ultimately that is a utilitarian approach to the ethical system, which indeed is found flawed through history and mental models of its implementation."

It wouldn't be a red herring if it weren't hugely manipulable with many bad RL historical events to point to. Sure, it's utilitarian when a People's Democracy, Soviet or GDR-style, identifies what is the common good for you. They'd be the first to use the word utilitarian.

You're counting on nice men in tights who are your peers and likeminded to do this thing reasonable, but there aren't going to be the nice men in tights.

If the common good really were a principled higher aspiration that all aspired to and none subverted, one could feel better about it, but it's like a blanket being pulled on each person and their interests in these worlds.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:17 am (UTC)
Whyville
Whyville developed a very good set of forms and practices for educating children about online safety and ensuring it, it's worth checking out.
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC)
Re: Whyville
Oh excellent - thank you! -Erik
(Anonymous)
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:23 am (UTC)
It does not at all have to be first-life identity. I'm all for protecting first-life identity. It's hard to protect in a world of adults where a common sport is trying to out people's real lives as a way of undermining them if they are disliked. I can tell you a LOT about this problem.

No, I'm talking about the game or inworld or Second Life identity. That's just the problem. If you go to the Police blotter in SL, you'll see a list of anonymous avatars who have been punished by 3 days or 14 days or permanent banning for offenses that are generic and never described in much detail, put away by anonymous Lindens -- with not even the name of the simulator accurately reported.

And on the community round table there is a call by the zealous to publish the names of perpetrator avatars, but never the names of the abuse reports or Lindens. And that's just wrong in so many ways. Unlike RL, for starters; and also then removes both the deterrent capacity of publicizing crime and punishment, and also removes the pallatiative affect of having to force your accusers to face you and come up with the proof to back their claims. They often can't hold up under cross-examination.

So I believe that tribunals must be held face to face, with the names of all the parties on the record -- their game/world names, not first life names.
erikbethke
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)
Oh well that I agreed with you from the very beginning!

How can you have proper due process with a bunch of people with white sheets over their head and both sides of the dispute anonymous too!

We agree.

-Erik
(Anonymous)
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Sorry last 3 posts from Prokofy Neva
zhai
Aug. 17th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
Another question, and I apologize again if this has already come up, but given the digital space it is also necessary to define what constitutes an 'individual', since one person can have multiple accounts.

What is the avatar-to-owner ratio? How would the system deal with voting considering the anonymity (and do players have a right to anonymity?) and "multiple life"/multi-account issue? Does one account = one vote? One individual = one vote? And how would this be determined and enforced, if at all?

Thinking back through the MUD history through which Raph accesses, it seems, the basic need for these digital rights, what I can recall in several instances is a basic sense that users feel that they have rights not just because they are paying for a service but specifically because they are engaging in a creative activity, an act of creation, even if it is through the use of tools provided by another entity. I specifically remember this coming up repeatedly in DragonRealms, and it was one of the things that bothered me the most both as a staff member and as, as best as I could be, an advocate for players. Particularly in a roleplaying situation, players are the ones spending the most amount of time in the world, so what they seem to desire most is to be acknowledged and instrumental in the growth of that world -- to have actual decisive power in changing the world rather than just experiencing the linear narrative as dictated by a designer. To this extent, when you're talking about world creation I'm not sure you can apply historical real-world standards in terms of rights -- I suspect that they might not address the core issues, which are of narrative ownership, destiny ownership. On a basic level they seem to correlate to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", but I wonder if through participation in the creation of an ongoing narrative in a world, the player is in fact racking up "shares" in that world dependent upon the caliber and length of their login time. So this introduces a concept of progression of ownership through seniority, which the best online games do acknowledge, and I think would be good to reflect in an ethics or rights statement. But the dynamics would be tricky.

Just food for thought, maybe...
zhai
Aug. 17th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
Sorry again for the comment spam. ;)

But it would be worthwhile as well, just while we're making notes here, to check out CCP and Eve Online. There is a group of players from Eve that actually travel to Reychavik and have a degree of oversight over the development process -- and there is certainly no mistaking that Eve has one of the healthiest contiguous online communities around. So they are acknowledging and enabling this concept of player ownership and right to the world in which they participate.
deathy
Sep. 3rd, 2007 09:11 am (UTC)
Code of Conduct.
Hi Erik. I just now had the opportunity to read your thread on the Gopets forum, so I decided to help you out a bit. I work for a fairly large online art community as their Director of Guest Services, so I know a bit about how a TOS works. I'll try to make this short and sweet.

(1) I believe this would be a waste of time and company money. It's easier and cost effective to rely on user proof(screenshots) and if needed customer service proof(account possession or whatever tools you use) than have a trial. Be aware that you're dealing with mostly children. Disregard anything that doesn't come with proof.

(2) It would be easier to say that, "You are free to express yourselves as long as it's in good taste. Gopets does not tolerate anything that would make a user uncomfortable. Any action made to annoy, disgust, insult, or provoke could have consequences."

(4) In all the Terms of Service layouts I've seen I've never seen this included. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it's strange to include that in a TOS outline. Have you honestly had a problem with it thus far? It's something you would typically see in a job handbook.

(11) I disagree with the whole "Tribunal" thing greatly. See my comments above.

(12) Turning a blind eye to copyright infringement is never a good policy. If you're talking about original items that users create with their custom creation tool then I agree with that statement, but if you're speaking about major art theft(such as stealing company logos, characters, etc) then down the road you might be in for a world of hurt. People can and will sue for anything. What would help you with this problem is providing a statement within the TOS which would help prevent you from legal harm.

(15) I don't think this is needed. Too much thought is going in to this.

(16) You should remove "exploit" and "private gain" from here. Try instead, "We welcome all 3rd parties to invest in novel ways to utilize the Gopets virtual world for their own personal benefit."

For everything I didn't comment on I thought should be included in some way. If you're unfamiliar with how everything should be set up, or you need other ideas feel free to comment/reply back. I use livejournal every day.
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