Under New Rules, Obama Avatars (and lots of other stuff) Will Disappear from Second Life

Recently, GamePolitics reported on the availability of Barack and Michelle Obama avatars for use in Second Life.

But it seems that those virtual depictions of the President and the First Lady are destined to have short careers.

New World Notes reports that, beginning next month, SL publisher Linden Lab will implement strict new rules on the sale of real-world products and brands – including depictions of actual celebrities. Barack Obama and Angelina Jolie avatars are specifically referenced as examples of prohibited content in the new Linden Lab guidelines.

Readers may recall that stun gun manufacturer TASER, Inc. brought a trademark lawsuit against Linden earlier this year over virtual copies of its weapon which were being sold by third-party content creators for use in Second Life. The suit was later dropped, but the new SL guidelines are almost certainly a response to such legal concerns.

As New World Notes mentions, enforcing the new policy may be problematic for Linden Lab:

While I’m not a lawyer, I would think avatar imitations of celebrities, especially political figures, would fall under the parody safe harbor of fair use. In the real world, you can still buy an unauthorized Barack Obama mask for Halloween. Not so in Second Life very soon…


The biggest challenge to this policy, in any case, is likely to be the SL content creation community itself, who often do reference the real world in their works, but are still proprietary about their products.

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  1. 0
    BrandonL337 says:

    I think this has more to do with the fact that second life has a lot of creepy pervs that would love to have a virtual Obama screwing some furry

    and considering the mass effect fiasco I could easily see FOX news running a story on Obama’s "Secret beastiality" or something especially considering the political leanings of the network

    I think this could be for preventing stuff like that

    There have always been motherf*ckers, there will always be motherf*ckers, but what we can’t do is let them control our motherf*cking lives. -John Oliver, December 1st, 2008

  2. 0
    JDKJ says:

    If it isn’t falling under the fair use doctrine, then I assume there’s some calculation that a sitting politician, particularly one with as high a profile as the POTUSA, isn’t going to spend their time tracking down and suing unauthorized users of their image and likeness. Best that I know, the mere fact of holding elected office doesn’t negate one’s rights to the use of their image and likeness.

  3. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    I know he tried to sue Midway because someone made him in a Mortal Kombat game, and he tried to sue a buddy icon website because there was a character in a suit gettign injured that vaguely resembled him.

  4. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Everyone has the sole right to exploit their image and likeness unless they’ve licensed that right to another or others. Political cartoons are an excluded "fair use," usually as either satire or parody or both. 

  5. 0
    DeeJay says:

    I believe celebrities can copyright their image but politician’s visages are fair game as, to my knowledge, they can’t be copyrighted or protected by their owners. If this were not the case you’d have politicians doing it to ‘protect’ their image from political cartoons that display them in a less-than-favourible light.

    I don’t think the rules will be as strict as LL are suggesting due to the fact that a pretty significant portion of their user base would be against it.

  6. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    I think the big issue here is people are making the av’s and such and selling them, if they were tradeing them for free there would be more room for fair use and parody claims.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/

  7. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    I can conceive of nothing wrong with offering copyrighted, trademarked, or otherwise branded items as long as an unathorized source is getting paid. Receiving payment for the trademark or work of others without license seems a bit shady though.

    So NO pre-existing copyright or trademark may be used regardless of licensed monetary commission?

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