Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc., No. CIV.A.06 4925.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtEduardo C. Robreno
Citation487 F.Supp.2d 593
PartiesMarc BRAGG, Plaintiff, v. LINDEN RESEARCH, INC. and Philip Rosedale, Defendants.
Decision Date30 May 2007
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.06 4925.

Page 593

487 F.Supp.2d 593
Marc BRAGG, Plaintiff,
v.
LINDEN RESEARCH, INC. and Philip Rosedale, Defendants.
No. CIV.A.06 4925.
United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.
May 30, 2007.

Page 594

Jason A. Archinaco, Christopher Eric Ballod, White & Williams LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff.

Andrew J. Soven, Reed Smith, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Scott D. Baker, Reed Smith LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Defendants.

Page 595

MEMORANDUM

EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.


This case is about virtual property maintained on a virtual world on the Internet. Plaintiff, March Bragg, Esq., claims an ownership interest in such virtual property. Bragg contends that Defendants, the operators of the virtual world, unlawfully confiscated his virtual property and denied him access to their virtual world. Ultimately at issue in this case are the novel questions of what rights and obligations grow out of the relationship between the owner and creator of a virtual world and its resident-customers. While the property and the world where it is found are "virtual," the dispute is real.

Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (doc. no. 2) and Motion to Compel Arbitration (doc. no. 3). For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Second Life

The defendants in this case, Linden Research Inc. ("Linden") and its Chief Executive Officer, Philip Rosedale, operate a multiplayer role-playing game set in the virtual world1 known as "Second Life."2 Participants create avatars3 to represent themselves, and Second Life is populated by hundreds of thousands of avatars, whose interactions with one another are limited only by the human imagination.4 According to Plaintiff, many people "are now living large portions of their lives, forming friendships with others, building and acquiring virtual property, forming contracts, substantial business relationships and forming social organizations" in virtual worlds such as Second Life. Compl. ¶ 13. Owning property in and having access to this virtual world is, moreover, apparently important to the plaintiff in this case.

B. Recognition of Property Rights

In November 2003, Linden announced that it would recognize participants' full intellectual property protection for the digital content they created or otherwise owned in Second Life. As a result, Second Life avatars may now buy, own, and sell virtual goods ranging "from cars to homes to slot machines." Compl. ¶ 7.5 Most significantly

Page 596

for this case, avatars may purchase "virtual land," make improvements to that land, exclude other avatars from entering onto the land, rent the land, or sell the land to other avatars for a profit. Assertedly, by recognizing virtual property rights, Linden would distinguish itself from other virtual worlds available on the Internet and thus increase participation in Second Life.

Defendant Rosedale personally joined in efforts to publicize Linden's recognition of rights to virtual property. For example, in 2003, Rosedale stated in a press release made available on Second Life's website that:

Until now, any content created by users for persistent state worlds, such as Everquest® or Star Wars Galaxies™, has essentially become the property of the company developing and hosting the world.... We believe our new policy recognizes the fact that persistent world users are making significant contributions to building these worlds and should be able to both own the content they create and share in the value that is created. The preservation of users' property rights is a necessary step toward the emergence of genuinely real online worlds.

Press Release, Linden Lab, Linden Lab Preserves Real World Intellectual Property Rights of Users of its Second Life Online Services (Nov. 14, 2003). After this initial announcement, Rosedale continued to personally hype the ownership of virtual property on Second Life. In an interview in 2004, for example, Rosedale stated: "The idea of land ownership and the ease with which you can own land and do something with it ... is intoxicating.... Land ownership feels important and tangible. It's a real piece of the future." Michael Learmonth, Virtual Real Estate Boom Draws Real Dollars, USA Today, June 3, 2004. Rosedale recently gave an extended interview for Inc. magazine, where he appeared on the cover stating, "What you have in Second Life is real and it is yours. It doesn't belong to us. You can make money." Michael Fitzgerald, How Philip Rosedale Created Second Life, Inc., Feb. 2007.6

Rosedale even created his own avatar and held virtual town hall meetings on Second Life where he made representations about the purchase of virtual land. Bragg Decl. ¶ 68. Bragg "attended" such meetings and relied on the representations that Rosedale made therein. Id.

C. Plaintiffs' Participation in Second Life

In 2005, Plaintiff Marc Bragg, Esq., signed up and paid Linden to participate in Second Life. Bragg claims that he was induced into "investing" in virtual land by representations made by Linden and Rosedale in press releases, interviews, and through the Second Life website. Bragg Decl. ¶¶ 4-10, 65-68. Bragg also paid Linden

Page 597

real money as `tax" on his land.7 By April 2006, Bragg had not only purchased numerous parcels of land in his Second Life, he had also digitally crafted "fireworks" that he was able to sell to other avatars for a profit. Bragg also acquired other virtual items from other avatars.

The dispute ultimately at issue in this case arose on April 30, 2006, when Bragg acquired a parcel of virtual land named "Taessot" for $300. Linden sent Bragg an email advising him that Taessot had been improperly purchased through an "exploit." Linden took Taesot away. It then froze Bragg's account, effectively confiscating all of the virtual property and currency that he maintained on his account with Second Life.

Bragg brought suit against Linden and Rosedale in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, on October 3, 2006.8 Linden and Rosedale removed the case to this Court (doc, no. 1) and then, within a week, moved to compel arbitration (doe. no. 3).

II. MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

Defendant Philip Rosedale moves to dismiss all claims asserted against him for lack of personal jurisdiction.

A. Legal Standards

A federal district court may exercise jurisdiction to the same extent as the state in which it sits; a state, in turn, may exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant pursuant to its so-called "long-arm statute." Because the reach of Pennsylvania's long-arm statute "is coextensive with the limits placed on the states by the federal Constitution," the Court looks to federal constitutional doctrine to determine whether personal jurisdiction exists over Rosedale. Vetrotex Certainteed Corp. v. Consol. Fiber Glass Products Co., 75 F.3d 147, 150 (3d Cir.1996); 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5322(b).

Personal jurisdiction can be established in two different ways: specific jurisdiction and general jurisdiction. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-16, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984). Specific jurisdiction is established when the basis of the "plaintiff's claim is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum." Pennzoil Products Co. v. Colelli & Assoc., Inc., 149 F.3d 197, 201 (3d Cir.1998) (citations omitted). General jurisdiction, on the other hand, does not require the defendant's contacts with the forum state to be related to the underlying cause of action, Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414, 104 S.Ct. 1868, but the contacts must have been "continuous and systematic." Id. at 416, 104 S.Ct. 1868.

Bragg does not contend that general jurisdiction exists over Rosedale. Rather, he maintains that Rosedale's representations support specific personal jurisdiction

Page 598

in this case.9 The Court therefore need only address whether specific jurisdiction exists.

In deciding whether specific personal jurisdiction is appropriate, a court must first determine whether the defendant has the minimum contacts with the forum necessary to have reasonably anticipated being haled into court there. Pennzoil, 149 F.3d at 201 (citing World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980)). Second, once minimum contacts have been established, a court may inquire whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with traditional conceptions of fair play and substantial justice. Id. at 201 (citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985) and Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)). The first step is mandatory, but the second step is discretionary. Id.

After a defendant has raised a jurisdictional defense, as Rosedale has in this case, the plaintiff bears the burden of coming forward with enough evidence to establish, with reasonable particularity, sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum. Provident Nat'l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Savings & Loan Assoc., 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir.1987). "The plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence.... [A]t no point may a plaintiff rely on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction." Patterson by Patterson v. F.B.I., 893 F.2d 595, 604 (3d Cir.1990). "Once the motion is made, plaintiff must respond with actual proofs not mere allegations." Id.

B. Application

In support of the Court's exercising personal jurisdiction over Rosedale, Bragg relies on various representations that Rosedale personally made in the media "to a national audience" regarding ownership of virtual property in Second Life. Bragg maintains that Rosedale made these representations to induce...

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  • Berkson v. Gogo LLC, No. 14–CV–1199.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • April 8, 2015
    ...requirement that leaves parties unequal in their ability to pursue their respective claims); Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc., 487 F.Supp.2d 593, 611 (E.D.Pa.2007) (finding that “ ‘because the unilateral modification clause renders the arbitration provision severely one-sided in the substanti......
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    • September 28, 2011
    ...the advertisements “bait the hook for potential customers to make more interactive contact.” Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc., 487 F.Supp.2d 593 (E.D.Pa.2007). 14. One Maine state court has interpreted Maine's long-arm statute to create jurisdiction over internet-based transactions. The Maine......
  • Murphy v. Twitter, Inc., A158214
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    ...suspending accounts.Murphy also relies on a Pennsylvania case applying California law, Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc. (E.D.Pa. 2007) 487 F.Supp.2d 593, 595–596, which is also distinguishable. In Bragg , a Pennsylvania federal court applying California law concluded that an arbitration agree......
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