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3:34pm on Thursday, 3rd May, 2007:



Yesterday, the law lords overturned an appeals court ruling that in turn had overturned a high court ruling awarding damages to OK! magazine after Hello! magazine published photos of the wedding of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. From what I can gather, OK! paid for exclusive rights to the wedding pictures, but a rogue photographer took some unofficial ones sneakily that Hello! published as a spoiler. It worked, to the extent that OK! claims to have lost sales as a result.

Now I can see why MD & CZJ might be able to sue over breach of privacy, but how come OK! can sue? Their contract was with the couple, not with Hello!. Hello!'s actions meant that the couple couldn't deliver what they had promised OK!, but surely it would have been they who should have sued, not OK!? Apparently, no.

This leads to some interesting issues for virtual worlds. If I, as a virtual world developer, contract with a company that I will allow them exclusive rights to broker the sales of virtual objects, say, then should some other company do it too, it seems to me that the first company could sue the second under whatever law allowed OK! to sue Hello!.

I wonder if it would still apply if the company only brokered sales within the virtual world, eg. they ran the auction house? If so, would it still apply if the company were a part-owned by or a subsidiary of the development company? If so, how about if the company were actually the development company itself?

I wish the law would let people take out patents on legal arguments...

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).