by Pixeleen Mistral on 25/11/13 at 1:19 am
Ban hammer rebounds, hits Linden Lab's wallet
One ex-player hopes for $60,000 USD refund as class action settlement mandates payments to exiles
Over the last several days, players banned from the Second Life virtual world have begun receiving notification of a proposed class action settlement (full text here) which will pay the involuntary exiles for their virtual land and both the USD and L$ spacebux currency in their accounts. The former players also have the option of either accepting a $15 USD payment for their inventory of virtual goods, or selling the goods on Linden Lab's Marketplace web site.
For those who dabbled in virtual land on a large scale, Linden Lab's $1000 USD sim setup fee will be refunded. With refunds for virtual land holdings set at L$ 2/square meter, and the exchange rate set L$ 252 per USD, payouts for virtual land barons could be significant. Those who formerly owned entire sims are looking at refunds of about $1500 for a sim -- each sim is 65,536 square meters in area.
I contacted former land baron Intlibber Brautigan - who was suddenly banned in 2009 while in possession of ~40 sims. Mr. Brautigan did some back of the envelope calculations and said, "Excellent. So that's 42 sims, times 1000 bucks plus 130k L$. So that's almost 60K US I'll get just for the sims".
Brautigan went on to say that the money will be shared with shareholders in his former Second Life ventures:
If I am able to recover money from this settlement, it will be divided among BNT shareholders, BNT Financial shareholders and ACE shareholders, according to their last recorded portfolio holding at the time our assets and accounts were stolen by LL. I thank all our shareholders for their patience in the past few years as this legal process has run its course, and their faith that I have always acted in their best interest to the best of my abilities.
As for his personal share of the refund, and his attitude toward Linden Lab, Brautigan told me,
My share of the settlement money, minus shareholders portion, will be invested in my new virtual world project designed to put SL out of business. Any other persons interested in investing in this goal are encouraged to contact me on Facebook.
Mr. Brautigan's Ancapistan Capital Exchange group on Facebook is here.
I was first alerted to the class action settlement Friday afternoon by Masakasu Kojima who said she had around $500 USD in her account after being threatened and then struck by Linden Lab's ban hammer.
Ms. Kojima also told me at least one of the infamous Voted5 group had also been contacted via e-mail about the settlement. Given the freewheeling approach to banning accounts practiced by Linden Lab, we can only speculate on how many others players are yet to be contacted.
There are also questions about how players' virtual goods inventory will be sold. Who sets the price - the owner of the goods, or Linden Lab? Or will there be an auction? Perhaps a special section in the Marketplace for sales of rare and collectable virtual goods from banned players? This might help maximize the potential revenue from the sales, and benefit the Lab by increasing demand for L$ spacebux.
Ms. Kojima also wondered how the SL digital rights management system would affect inventory sales and asked, "What about notrans (no-transfer) stuff? What about copyable stuff? Do they sell stuff you made full permissions?".
But the biggest question is whether Linden Lab will provide refunds to those banned after the class action enrollment period ends.
As a matter of basic fairness, we can hope the game gods have learned a lesson in fair play. If not, should players continue to expect to fight multi-year legal battles to force the Lab to respect basic property rights?