VWFE: Lord Triesman gives the UK government's views on virtual worlds

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triesman.jpgI’m sitting here with Kat at the Virtual Worlds Forum Europe conference in London, which has just kicked off with a keynote address by Lord Puttnam, and now we’ve our second Lord keynote of the day, in the form of Lord Triesman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills.

He’s the man in charge of government regulation for virtual worlds, in other words. He hasn’t said his Second Life name yet. But he did start by saying virtual worlds are “one of the most exciting technological developments of recent years, and one to which we have to be especially attentive”.

Apparently virtual worlds is “a great example of the United Kingdom leading in innovation”, which is why the government is keen to support projects using them. He’s also in charge of intellectual property – a thorny issue for virtual worlds. “It must be well managed in a virtual world, just as it’s well managed in the real world”.

His view is that for once, businesses are going to have to learn to think more like governments. Copyright is just as applicable to logos, artwork and buildings within virtual worlds as it is in the real world. And this, at a time when many people expect access to digital assets for free, and unrestricted.

“In virtual worlds, they may choose to make copies of other people’s goods, or use their logos. It’s a problem. As long as such infringing action goes on, IP owners will have to be vigilant and capable of taking appropriate action.”

Triesman praised the way Linden Lab pro-actively deals with this kind of infringement, and then talked about the role that government has in this area, referring to the UK government’s recent Gowers Report.

Apparently the police and trading standards bodies are paying more attention to IP crime now in the UK. I wonder how much of that is focused on pirated music and DVDs though, rather than people’s content being ripped off within Second Life. The government’s been spreading the ‘hey kids, don’t pirate’ message, but again, I think it’s more focused on other kinds of digital media.

“I am utterly convinced that in government, we have to embrace these exciting technologies, and be as much part of the flow of the current, because if we don’t, this country will be the lesser for it. And I’m determined that’s not the case.”

Stuart Dredge