Advisory Board

Benjamin Duranske, J.D.

The California Lawyer article Real Law in the Virtual World said:

At 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 20, Benjamin Noble was in the bar association’s conference room arranging a tray of doughnuts, muffins, and bagels alongside the cappuccino machine. “I’m not only the president, but I also do setups,” joked Noble, who noted that a reception would follow the bar’s monthly meeting.
 
As the members began to arrive in the sleek, 48-seat auditorium, Noble — a figure of medium height with brown, tousled hair — waited by the floor-to-ceiling windows that revealed a lovely view of the harbor below. He and a few other members wore conservative suits of black or gray. One broad-shouldered man came dressed in a red Che Guevara T-shirt and stonewashed jeans. And a woman with wild black hair really stood out in an orange tutu, a black short-sleeved top, thigh-high black stockings, and high-heeled shoes.
 
There was no elevator in the new Law and Justice Center, so some members had trouble figuring out how to teleport to the sixth-floor auditorium. All it really took was a few mouse clicks. For this was a meeting of the Second Life Bar Association (SLBA), a virtual environment run by San Francisco-based Linden Lab. The online meeting was conducted in text using the chat function.
 
Benjamin Noble is the avatar (graphic character representation) of Benjamin Duranske, a 33-year-old graduate of UC Berkeley’s law school who last year founded Virtually Blind, a virtual-world legal blog. […] He joined Linden Lab’s virtual world of Second Life in June 2006, and, after encountering other attorney avatars, created a bar association. Since its first meeting in December 2006 the SLBA has grown to more than 200 members.

Benjamin Duranske, J.D. is editor and primary contributor of Virtually Blind: Legal Issues in Virtual Worlds and Multiuser Online Games. His interest in virtual law stems from his background as an intellectual property attorney and, before that, an IT manager. He is currently taking a break from the practice of law to work on Virtually Blind, a nonfiction book on virtual law (due for publication April, 2008), and a novel. He currently plans to return to practice in late 2008, specializing in virtual law.
 
In his note welcoming visitors to Virtually Blind, Ben says, “Virtual worlds are fast becoming big business. Brands like IBM, Adidas, Toyota, Dell, and MTV have established virtual world presences. Persistent-world games like World of Warcraft are massive hits too, as much for their ‘virtual world’ role-playing possibilities as for the virtual creature-slaying. Gaming systems are converging with computers, putting devices that can run virtual-world clients and persistent-state gaming and social environments in tens of millions of living rooms.
 
What does this mean? Where people go, laws and government aren’t far behind. Will a real-world lawsuit help clarify the status of digital property? Will criminal charges result from in-world activity? Will someone’s in-world private legal system become the de facto standard? Will attorneys practicing law in-world get in trouble with real-world ethics bodies? Will someone bring a civil suit for emotional distress inflicted by an avatar?”
 
After graduating from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 2003, Ben practiced in the San Francisco area for several years, specializing in IP litigation first at Perkins Coie in Menlo Park, and then at Kirkland & Ellis in San Francisco. Before law school, he was an IT manager for four years, first at Sebaly, Shillito, + Dyer in Dayton, Ohio and then at Morris, Manning, & Martin in Atlanta, Georgia.
 
He’s been involved in virtual worlds his whole computing life, from pre-web text-based dial-up MUDs, to early PvP and RP communities in Ultima Online to, most recently, Second Life, where, as the avatar “Benjamin Noble”, he founded the Second Life Bar Association, occasionally give talks and participates in panels about legal issues, and works with several groups that are trying to establish independent judicial systems. He also participates in other virtual worlds.
 
Ben authored Rampant Trademark Infringment in Second Life Costs Millions, Undermines Future Enforcement, Six Major Second Life Content Creators Sue Alleged Copyright Infringer in NY Federal District Court, Second Life Community and Ginko, Top Five Virtual Law Analysis Fumbles, Accountability and Transparency in Virtual Banking: VB’s Interview with SL Bank’s “Teufel Hauptmann”, and Virtually Blind’s Predictions for Virtual Law in 2008. Read the full list of his publications!