This Article proposes measures that attempt to strike the balance between creation and access. The virtual-world community is not likely to persevere with the little copyright protection it currently enjoys. Creativity will dwindle and the rich, energetic settings that make virtual worlds so attractive to businesses and entertainers will follow suit. At the same time, because much of the creativity in virtual worlds is derivative in nature, virtual creators are also unlikely to benefit from strong copyright protections. Therefore, current interpretation of copyright law must be revisited and revised before applying it to virtual worlds. Part I details virtual worlds and, in particular, the features that set Second Life apart. Part II asks whether virtual works are copyrightable at all and answers in the affirmative, and then discusses authorship and ownership issues in virtual worlds. Part III discusses what copyright means for virtual worlds, including just how important creativity and continued incentives to create are for the survival of virtual worlds. Finally, Part IV argues that, while copyright will be imposed on virtual worlds, broadening the scope of fair use in virtual worlds and imposing a compulsory license for virtual derivatives will encourage creativity and more effectively serve the purpose of copyright law.

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Publication Date

Fall 2010