Once in Second Life, here is a nice copyright question. Section 120(a) of the Copyright Act, added in 1990 when protection was accorded for the first time statutorily to architectural works, reads:
"(a) Pictorial Representations Permitted. — The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place."
The limitation to buildings is important, since the legislation does not provide an exemption for the copying of plans or drawings of architectural works. The limitation to two-dimensional reproductions of course heightens the interest in what is a three-dimensional reproduction. Note too that the exemption is limited to architectural works that have been constructed. This limitation is something of an analog to fair use and unpublished works: where a work has not yet been built, the architectural work owner can sue for unauthorized two-dimensional copies, subject of course to other limitations in the act, like fair use. Finally, the built structure must be located in or ordinarily visible from a public place for Section 120(a) to kick in.
Applying the above to Second Life, let’s say that a 3D model contained in a city mapping program of a proposed, unconstructed architectural work like the Freedom Tower in Manhattan is posted to Second Life as part of a resident’s site. Section 120(a) doesn’t apply because the work is unconstructed, but is there liability? Or, let’s say there is a constructed work in a public place, and it is posted to Second Life where it forms part of a resident’s site. Does 120(a) apply and is there liability is it doesn’t?