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Is HBO trying to stiff VDay?

Liberty's picture

Hi. Here I am again, blogging under the influence. But here goes. You may or may not have heard of Second Life. Second life is a virtual reality that has several thousand people on line at one time. Unlike games like World of Warcraft, it is not about finding computer driven monsters and throwing bits at them until they byte it, but about building things and meeting people. It uses real money, and people make over a million dollars of transactions a day in Second Life.

Recently a group of people got together to do a performance of The Vagina Monologues in Second Life. The report is, and I will call on Monday to find out whether this is true, that HBO claimed that Second Life is a "broadcast" not a "performance" and that they can stop the production.

I understand that people may thing this should be filed under the "Department of Teapot-sized Tempests," but it really is more important than that. There is no case law that says that VR performances are broadcasts.

More over since the people who are doing VDay in Second Life aren't working for VDay.org, but had a separate contract, HBO can't just tell VDay, but must, in fact, formally inform the people doing the Vagina Monologues in SL that HBO is enforcing its rights.

It also brings up the question of what the original contract with HBO looks like. It is very foolish to sign away rights that have not been created in a contract. Normally when a new medium is created, the rights default to the creator, and can be sold again.

If this report is true, why is HBO trying to shut down a small volunteer performance for charity of the Vagina Monologues, over a right that they may or may not actually have? Can VDay be persuaded to stand up and say that VR is a performance, and they were well within their rights to allow a performance in Second Life? Are groups of people who do things in a VR "broadcasting," even though there is no source? None of these questions have answers yet.

Here is the statement from the Vagina Monologues in SL organizer in full:

ToryLynn was contacted by the contact at VDay.org on 1/18 and informed that HBO holds all cross country broadcast rights for the Vagina Monlogues, while VDay.org holds only production rights for live theatre performance. Our production was granted rights through VDay.org, but our contact says that HBO considers our production a broadcast.

We have suspended production of SL Vagina Monologues at the request of VDay.org, but have a week until they actually revoke our production rights completely and pull our registration off the VDay.org website. We have stopped taking donations, but will not be refunding donations for at least a week (Ada and ToryLynn must handle this).

Please stop all publicity and fundraising efforts. All rehearsals and technical production meetings are cancelled.

We are NOT shut down, denied, revoked...we are only currently SUSPENDED until the producers can get more clear info from the out-world organizations and work with them to convince them to allow us to continue our production.

The SL VDay producers (ToryLynn Writer, Ada Radius, Lauren Weyland, Calliope Delgado) are currently working on the following:
-- Contacting Shael, our contact at VDay.org, to clarify details re: live production versus broadcast, and the unique situation that SL presents
-- Contacting HBO to clarify details re: live production versus broadcast, and the unique situation that SL presents
-- Contacting Dramatists Play Service re: live production versus broadcast, and the unique situation that SL presents
-- Develop a clear plan of action in terms of contacting in-world and out-world media if the above organizations will not cooperate with us

Options discussed at the meeting, but NOT to be carried into action until the producers have made the contacts previously listed :
-- Approaching HBO to develop a possible partnership for an SL production of The Vagina Monologues, and possibly aiming for a 2009 production
-- VDay will allow us to use the Spotlight Monologue, so we could create our own original production, use the Spotlight Monologue, and donate the funds to VDay.org as originally planned

What we should NOT do right now:
-- consider litigation or drag this into a legal battle
-- be aggressive or confrontational...we need to build relationships, not burn bridges because this issue goes FAR beyond the scope of just our production -- it ultimately affects live theatrical production in SL and gaining rights to materials, definition of broadcast, etc.
-- allow VDay group members to contact media or others on behalf of the production

ALL OFFICIAL CONTACTS, PRESS RELEASES, INFORMATION RELEASES, INTERVIEWS, MUST BE CLEARED THROUGH THE PRODUCERS AT THIS TIME -- if you have contacts, please introduce them to ToryLynn, Ada, Lauren, or Calliope or let one of the four of us know how to contact them.

We are not finished...we are not giving up...but we (the producers) must take specific steps if we want to continue with THIS project that so many have contributed time and talent to. Please trust us and let us take these first steps.

Please pass any information or ideas for action on NOTECARDS to the producers as IMs can get lost in the shuffle.

SL VDay will meet again on Tuesday, 1/22 at the VLS Theater to discuss the status of the production and next steps to take.

--Calliope Delgado

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I wonder how long it will take for HBO to realize they have an audience development goldmine in their hands. Were I at HBO, I'd be angling for rights to a top of the line machanima. Then I'd promote the hell out of this.

Liberty's picture
Submitted by Liberty on

How either HBO or VDay comes out looking good stopping a group of dedicated people doing a performance of what is a contemporary classic.