The Voyeur—Hot Courtroom Action

by wendell on 11/12/07 at 9:45 pm

Answers to your questions about love and sex in the metaverse

by Wendell Holmer, virtual advice columnist

Voyeur_6Q: I’ve had many lovers in Second Life—men, women, and otherwise. I have gotten very turned on doing things that would shock most people. Now I’ve been served with divorce papers. My husband says his lawyer is going to subpoena my records from Linden Lab. Please tell me those private conversations are not going to turn up in court!

A: I wish I could. But Linden Lab is not going to do anything to protect your chat logs. "It is terrifyingly easy to rip off the cover of anonymity," attorney Daniel Leipold told the Los Angeles Times. “Increasingly, Internet firms are being subpoenaed for electronic records in divorce proceedings,” the Times reported. USA Today advised spouses facing a divorce, “Avoid chat rooms and Internet forums. Many people mistakenly believe they’re anonymous in forums and chat rooms. However, when you post messages online, your computer address is recorded. Anything you write is traceable to you.”

You’re probably wondering why no one mentioned this before. Actually, they did. According to the Terms of Service, “You acknowledge and agree that Linden Lab, in its sole discretion, may track, record, observe or follow any and all of your interactions within the Service…. Linden Lab can (and you authorize Linden Lab to) disclose any information about you to private entities, law enforcement agencies or government officials, as Linden Lab, in its sole discretion, believes necessary or appropriate to investigate or resolve possible problems or inquiries, or as otherwise required by law.”

Peter Gray, an account executive at Lewis Global Public Relations – the PR firm which represents Linden Lab, said the company does not provide identifying information about users but cooperates with the legal process "consistent with policies and applicable law."

And what are those “policies”? During office hours last August, Robin Linden said that, when LL gets a subpoena, they’ll “look at each request for information and evaluate it very carefully.” In other words, it’s totally discretionary. There are no standards. Bottom line: LL is not going to pay lawyers to run into court and defend your right to talk dirty.

Eros, LLC sued an avatar named Volkov Catteneo (or John Doe, as the Court documents have it) for violating the copyright to their SexGen bed. Eros sent a subpoena to Linden Labs, seeking Catteno’s identifying information and his chat history as well. LL promptly complied. PayPal and AT&T rolled over too. Now the world knows that the defendant is a Texan named Robert Leatherwood. The great irony is that Leatherwood would have been a great name for a sex bed manufacturer, or a porn star, come to think of it.

Even though LL won’t protect your erotic exchanges, you do have some rights. You’ll get notice when the subpoena is served. Then your lawyer can go into court and oppose it. The only reason your husband wants those chat logs in the record is that they make you look bad. So a judge may find the request to be too broad, irrelevant, or prejudicial. He may quash the subpoena entirely, limit its scope, or seal the records and examine them privately.

I’d like to examine them privately myself. Don’t forget to send me copies. And next time you have cybersex, do it in voice – voice recordings tied to your avatar and internet address are a real crowd pleaser in the courtroom.

For the rest of you, please keep sending your questions on sex and romance, your chat logs, and your dirty stories to

17 Responses to “The Voyeur—Hot Courtroom Action”

  1. California Condor

    Dec 11th, 2007

    Is accountability a surprise? Our lives are being recorded.

    Like I have said elsewhere, this is Second Life in a fishbowl.

    As the Bible says, “be sure your sin will find you out.” – Numbers 32:23b

  2. Tenshi Vielle

    Dec 11th, 2007

    Gee… what a good read!

  3. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Dec 12th, 2007

    “The great irony is that Leatherwood would have been a great name for a sex bed manufacturer, or a porn star, come to think of it.”

    This is officially my favourite article on the front page right now.

  4. Penny Sautereau

    Dec 12th, 2007

    *shudders* Frightening.

  5. Hilary

    Dec 12th, 2007

    Well done! You’ve taken a rather dull bit of small print, and made it into an interesting article (and one that may be important to some SL residents ;-( ).

    Here’s another story of internet romance gone wrong…

  6. Overcast

    Dec 12th, 2007

    I’m curious – why they feel they need to *keep* chat logs?

  7. Blinders Off

    Dec 12th, 2007

    Great article. And like the Bible quoter above stated, in my experience people tend to experience consequences for their actions.

    I mean, this woman has cyber-sex and is upset her husband is divorcing her?

    There is a pevailing attitude on SL that things that happen there “aren’t real”. SURE THEY ARE. Second Life may be virtual, but I would guess that over the next few years we are going to see some RL laws springing up that prove just how real the courts consider the virtual community to be. We’re already seeing repercussions of such on SL itself… the banning of ageplay, the removal of gambling.

    Second Life may be a virtual community, but it exists in a REAL WORLD. It’s not some “avatar” you’re having “sex” with… it’s a real live person on the other end of the phone, and SL “cybering” is the equivalent of phone sex. If you called a phone sex pay-line, you can bet a good attorney would try to sieze records of that in a divorce case. Second Life is no different.

    Now I do empathize with the above user in one area: people get sucked into this stuff without realizing even what’s going on. They consider it a “fantasy” and “not real” and they don’t realize the potential problems. Just like newbies are often shocked by griefing and drama on SL because such things in RL are considered illegal, so they are shocked to find out that “fantasy” sex can have very RL consequences. When those things happen, they are shocked to find out that the fantasy wasn’t so much fantasy after all.

    Many people would (and have) argued that having an “affair” on SL is conceptually equivalent to cheating on your mate in RL. It may not have the physcial dangers… but physical isn’t the only thing involved in such things. There are emotional and mental issues involved as well.

    Do people doubt this? Have we ever seen someone on SL emotionally ravaged because their “lover” broke up with them? Sure we have. I personally know of at least one person whose divorce was founded on the SL conduct of a mate. When RL partners learn of the “virtual infidelity” of their mate, they can very often consider that a betrayal of their marriage… and such can have VERY real-life response.

    So, this is a simple statement folks: wake up to reality. Blinders Off. NOTHING is fantasy. Everything that we do in our lives, everything that we observe, view, read or dealve into, forms the path into which our minds think. Just as our bodies suffer if we eat poison, if we feed our brains poison, our mentality suffers.

    I found it actually humorous one day when someone told me, “I have watched any movie I wanted for years. I’ve had cybersex with so many girls I lost track. I view porn and it hasn’t affected me at all. I’m a thinking adult and I can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.”

    But that person was one of the most arrogant, disrespectful, twisted people I’d not want to know… and he was so messed up he didn’t even realize he was messed up.

    “As a man thinketh, so is he.”– Kalihl Gibran.

  8. DaveOner

    Dec 12th, 2007

    Just a correction on the implication that all voice chat is recorded…it’s not. I got to be buddies with one of the guys that worked on the implementation of voice chat (I think he worked for Vivox. There were 2 companies involved besides LL) when it was on the beta grid and found out that it would be all but impossible to be able to store all those audio files at even a very low frequency or sound quality.

    With that said…you probably would have had an alltogether different “sexual” experience if you had gotten to hear the real voice of who you were pretending to get it on with. ;)

    I find the concept of fidelity and SL to be pretty intriguing. Anyone who gets RL emotions wrapped up in an SL relationship are just asking for trouble…but when they have a RL marriage and are going and messing around on SL it’s a whole different mess.

    My guess is that the divorce isn’t because of SL activity but because of damage in the relationship that resulted in this person deciding to get their kicks on SL rather than with their hubby…and thinking they should be able to get away with it.

    The act of typing and clicking in poseballs isn’t the issue here. It’s the simulation of intimacy in place of the actual intimace you should be having with someone you’re married to if you have any desire to actually be married to that person.

    Essentially it would mean EXACTLY the same if you were talking dirty to people you knew over the phone or via snail mail. Would you be mad if someone you loved was receiving mail with naughty letters accompanied by racy pictures of that individual even if they lived on the other side of the world? There’s no difference between that and getting freaky on SL.

    I know a lot of people abhor verification and the collection of their information when using SL because they want to go somewhere where there aren’t any consequences for your actions beyond getting orbited or tped to your home point. These same people also try to make money and make a valid business platform out of SL. You gotta pick one.

  9. Lao-Tzu

    Dec 12th, 2007

    Affairs on SL ARE real and destroying families. Check out the following article on SL addiction and scroll down to see numerous examples of ignored spouses and kids, divorces, fights, lies..etc.. Truly sad.

  10. foxcutter

    Dec 12th, 2007

    If you are worried about anonymity on the web try downloading a proxy server. Tor is a good one. this will randomize your IP address and give you some measure of protection from tracking. granted people can still find you if they are determined enough, but you wont be generally screwed.

  11. DT

    Dec 13th, 2007

    >> As the Bible says, “be sure your sin will find you out.” – Numbers 32:23b

    I agree with the statement above just as I agree with the statement: ” if you can’t do the time, do not do the crime”.

    Everyone who is engaging in sexual or dating activity in SL and IS married, should be prepared to deal with consequences of their indiscretion.

    Just as in RL…

  12. Archie Lukas

    Dec 14th, 2007

    We have a saying over her in Europe, I’ll say it first…..

    “Only in America…….”

    (referring to the weirdest shit can only ever happen there)

    Its no insulting your flag -its just the state of play and the nastiest of rich lawyers who prey on ordinary people to get bigger cars to compensate for their exceptionally small penises.

  13. Blinders Off

    Dec 14th, 2007

    Archie, I have no argument with you there. Any kind of depravity one wants to find is available in America. Oh, but… and in France, and England, and Germany, and…

    Yup, the U.S. is warped for sure. But we have no corner on the market. :D

    England to this very day contains arrogant prejudice like no country I’ve ever seen.
    Germany tried to murder an entire religion, or two, or three.
    France thinks they’re better than everyone else.
    Israel and Palestine can’t stop shooting at one another.

    You’re right, no argument, “Only in America”. But I also think other countries are doing their very best to try to keep up. :D

    Mankind as a whole is borked.

  14. Maria Leveaux

    Dec 15th, 2007

    It’s like i’ve always said, Before one considers getting into a “Fantasy affair” on line, it needs to be Openly, and honestly discussed with their RL Partner, and their RL partners wishes Need to be respected.

    Lie, Cheat, Sneak around, sure, you will get away with it in the short term, But it WILL eventually come back on you, and all the Rationalizations in the world won’t make your RL Losses any less real. If your willing to Risk your RL relationship, with someone you Claimed to love enough to share the rest of your life, All for a Few Vicarious thrills with soemone who “Doesn’t mean anything” to you, then honestly You Deserve to Lose them.

    I have been Completely Honest with my Wife, about my On line Love Affairs, And she approves (And even supports me in them) As long as i Stick to the Limits we Discussed and agreed to at the Start.

    One of the Oldest quotes I know, and i have no Idea of it’s oragins But;
    “Cheaters never prosper”


  15. Blinders Off

    Dec 15th, 2007

    @Maria: “It’s like i’ve always said, Before one considers getting into a “Fantasy affair” on line, it needs to be Openly, and honestly discussed with their RL Partner, and their RL partners wishes Need to be respected. I have been Completely Honest with my Wife, about my On line Love Affairs, And she approves (And even supports me in them) As long as i Stick to the Limits we Discussed and agreed to at the Start.”

    Translated: your activities haven’t turned on you and bitten you in the butt… YET.

    Any person who gets married then thinks they can have affairs outside that marriage (with the consent of their mate or not) without eventual repercussions and consequenses is living in a bigger fantasy world than Second Life itself. Your world may not have crumbled down around you yet because of such. It will. Such activities are nothing more than loaded timebombs. The divorce rate in our country is rapidly approaching the 60% mark… undoubtedly due to a whole bunch of people who believe the statement you made above is actually valid. No offense intended. You’re entitled to your opinion. Just saying that the only thing going on is that the “rude awakening” hasn’t happened yet. It will.

  16. angel

    Dec 16th, 2007

    listen… i speak from first hand expirence. although what you see maybe virtual the emotions and soul are passed on to that charicter. if you choose to cheat on your rl partner that is your choice and by making that choice you choose to accept the responcibilities of that action. though the world maybe virtual, the emotions are very much real. since that time i have lived by the wiccan rede… “and it harm none, do as you will.” it makes you think about what you do and how it affects others… something that now of days seems to be a lost trait amongs people. and people wonder why so meny marriages fail (both rl and sl)?

  17. Tasia

    Dec 19th, 2007

    I just hope that this woman plans to play as dirty in court as she apparently did in SL. Anyone low enough to subpoena chat logs really should have his own butt kicked in court. If this woman felt like she needed to go to the net to fulfill a portion of her life that her husband was not taking care of seems to me the problems are much larger than just the internet activities.

    Would this not be better to turn it back on the husband and sue him for not giving her his husbandly duties? Let me clarify… My little sister was in a car accident prior to turning 18. My mother was the owner of the car. At first sight no one was injured until the couple saw dollar signs. My mother was sued by the woman that was in the car and than sued by her husband because she could not perform her wifely duties as she was injured. Strange? yes! Stupid? Absolutely! Did they win the case? YES!

    So where was dear ole hubby when her needs were not being met? Playing dirty? Subpoena his Viagra prescription and the bottle to see how many he actually took. If nothing else ask for a record on the number of times he showed her any affection at all.

    My bet is on the wife…not that I think it is good what she did..she was wrong. But two wrongs never end up being right.

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