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As in the real world, all online Utopias must come to an end. Linden Lab’s Second Life has been infected by journalists, advertisers, book signings, and now, outside software. A new program, CopyBot, does pretty much what the name promises: It lets characters in the virtual world copy objects they encounter as they wander around. Since so much of Second Life’s popularity appears to be due to the real economy in items that has emerged from the virtual economy inside the world, you might expect the Linden Lab people to be tearing out their hair over the imminent collapse of their business model. They maintain that CopyBot, unlike at least one other third-part program, violates their terms of service and — most interesting — suggest that real people worried that their virtual wares are being infringed upon by virtual copies sue the copiers via the all-too-real Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You know Utopia is over when they start importing lawyers into Orientation Island.
Update: InformationWeek: Turns out 600 or so SL merchants went on strike Wednesday to protest the CopyBot. “The revolt has the potential of causing serious problems for Linden Lab, which operates what has grown into a multimillion-dollar online economy. In the last 24 hours, for example, the 3D world’s more than 1.3 million registered users did more than $690,000 worth of business, according to Linden Lab. In September, they did $7.4 million.”