Lara Croft, Virtual Worlds and Copyright


This week I read a moving and eloquently written article by Ashelia, the founder of Hellmode,  in which she reviewed a new release of  Tomb Raider A Survivor is Born. Ashelia caused me to think of something, which we had discussed in a philosophy tutorial over summer about ethical and moral issues that have occurred within virtual worlds. I had wondered at the time whether games such as Second Life could be adapted to create environments for the victims of violent crimes, such as rape, which would help them to overcome their trauma. Operating within a relatively safe computer environment, the user could work through situations which would normally trigger a disabling response as a result of their attack.

In her article Ashelia appears to confirm that it is possible to experience emotional healing by acting out a traumatic past experience in a virtual world. She says

 ‘It healed me in a way that no one’s physical comfort, words, and condolences could ever do. It made me realize that, much like              Lara Croft, I survived as well—and that I had my own path to walk. That my experiences were real and tangible and yes, they defined me, but that I’d have it no other way. I am a survivor and I am alive.’

These words had such a spine-tingling impact on me that all the hairs on my arms stood on end. Obviously this had triggered something in me. I have never had the desire to play games prior to reading  Ashelia’s post but now I feel a little differently.

Perhaps sex offenders could even be treated in a controlled virtual situation where they were taught how to respond appropriately to situations which would normally trigger their sexual deviancy. Many of these sex offenders have previously been victims themselves of sex crimes and are often ‘rehabilitated’ in government facilities  where some are incarcerated for the remainder of their lives.

Where does copyright fit in all of this?  If content is not readily available so that it can be  adapted and  used for purposes other than the original intention, how will new ideas come into existence? Is the natural evolutionary process of the industry being stifled by limiting access of content to the original creators or the purchaser’s of the copyright? Isn’t the whole convergent media idea based on the mash-up of ideas and of  existing media? If a game such as Tomb Raider could be adapted  as a tool for treating the victims of sex crimes, would this be considered Fair Use? Say for example, someone created a new virtual treatment program, specifically for those with mental illness which was highly successful, using the Second Life platform. Would this be considered a copyright infringement? Current copyright laws use a method of blanket control over an industry, which is evolving at a pace way faster than the regulations to control it, can be put in to place.

More recently, there have been some light bulbs going on in the UK with the Government relaxing copyright regulations as the realisation is setting in that controls on creativity stifle innovation. I can hear Stephan Kinsella applauding!

Against Intellectual Property by Stephan Kinsella

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