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Many pet rabbits will die in Second Life on Saturday

Virtual rabbits across Second Life [official site] will fall asleep on Saturday then never wake up, now that the their digital food supply has been shut down by a legal battle. The player-made and player-sold Ozimals brand of digirabbits are virtual pets that players breed and care for in the sandbox MMO, and even need to feed by buying DRM-protected virtual food. But they rely on servers. Waypoint reported earlier today that the seller of Ozimals and the Pufflings virtuabirds has received a legal threat he says he cannot afford to fight, so they’ve shut down. By Saturday, rabbits will run out of food and enter hibernation.

The rabbits aren’t dead, they’re sleeping. They simply can never wake up.

The ‘breedables‘ craze, which Ozimals played a big role in, may have peaked a while back but a lot of virtual animals still exist. Well, for now. If digirabbits can’t eat, they enter ‘hibernation’ after 72 hours and will only wake up when fed again. Ozimals need to check in with servers but these shut down on Wednesday, so no rabbits can be fed. Even players who’ve bought a big supply of food will find their rabbits, er, very still forever. I’ve read that some are already gone.

At least the Ozimals’ birdy cousins, the Pufflings, had a swift death. They shut down instantly on Wednesday when the servers went down, while rabbits hold on with the food in their cyberbellies.

Ozimals did give rabbit owners a brief chance to save their rabbits. Before shutting down, they gave away items which make rabbits not need food – and leaves them sterile. Some rabbits will live on forever, the last of their kind. If you wish that fate upon your rabbit, apparently some kindly players have a stash you’re welcome to.

That’s a fun/tragic and quirky story about Second Life, isn’t it? That ol’ wild frontier of cyberspace. For a while, Second Life and EVE were shoulder-to-shoulder at one exciting experimental edge of digital societies. EVE Online had the intrigue and the murder, and Second Life had the creativity and the sex. But as much as people like to place dollar values on EVE battles, Second Life has always been the one with serious money riding on it. And the death big sleep of these rabbit is a business story.

Ozimals and Pufflings overlord ‘Malkavyn Eldritch’ said in Tuesday’s blog post:

“At 8:00 am on Monday, May 15, 2017, I received a Cease and Desist letter from legal counsel representing Edward Distelhurst and Akimeta Ltd. This letter demands that I cease all use of Ozimals intellectual property.

“I don’t personally agree with this claim, but I do not have the means to fight this in court, therefore I have no choice but to comply.”

And that’s it. The Ozimals business is gone, its site is deleted, Pufflings are inert, rabbits will soon follow unless cursed with immortality, and all money spent is gone.

What kind of monster would use lawyers to murder virtual rabbits? Well!

“We feel that because they have named us by our real life entities, and identities, they have willfully made us a target of their communities’ understandably upset feelings,” Distelhurst and Akimeta say in a public letter, going on to tell their sides of the story.

Akimeta’s side is fairly simple. In 2009 and 2010, Akhmeta made models and textures for rabbits, accessories, and other bits and pieces they licensed to the company Ozimals LLC. Akhmeta say that Ozimals the company was dissolved last year but the person currently running Ozimals the game has kept using their work and that’s not covered by the old license. Simple!

Edward Distelhurst’s story is messier. A programmer who worked on the game, he has been in a legal battle for six years over alleged unpaid royalties. It’s a tale including multiple settlements, a court order for Ozimals to sell their second house to cover debts, Ozimals’ legal battle with the makers of virtual horses, Distelhurst receiving a majority share after Ozimals don’t sell the house, and… it’s quite the read.

Eldritch, Akimeta, and Distelhurst are obviously telling their own stories. I’m not saying who’s right and who’s wrong. But mate, if you think Internet spaceships are serious business – they’ve got nothing on Internet rabbits.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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