Virtual Sex Toy Thefts Result In Real-Life Court Settlement

A legal dispute over the theft of virtual sex toys has resulted in a real-life slap on the wrist.

A federal judge accepted the settlement Thursday of a lawsuit filed last year against a Texas man accused of stealing sex toys developed for the online world, "Second Life."

According to the settlement, Robert Leatherwood agreed not to copy, display or distribute any items sold by Eros LLC, a Tampa Bay-area company that creates virtual sex scripts in the "Second Life" universe.

Leatherwood must also disclose the e-mail addresses of anyone he knows had access to his "Second Life" persona, known as "Volkov Catteneo."

The settlement does not involve money or any admission of wrongdoing, court documents show.

It effectively ends the suit filed last year by Eros' owner, Kevin Alderman, of Lutz. He sued to stop the unauthorized distribution of Eros creations, which allow "Second Life" users to equip their online personas, known as avatars, with realistic genitalia. Products also allow users to engage in various sexual actions in the online world.

Francis Taney, a Pennsylvania attorney representing Eros, said the case remains one of the first real-world legal fights involving two "Second Life" users over their online conduct. The other is a New York case Taney filed on behalf of Eros.

Reached at his grandmother's home in North Richland Hills, Texas, Leatherwood acknowledged he sold Eros products, but said the whole case had been overblown.

"I did it in private," he said. "I wasn't out to do a huge market thing. I was doing it for a little bit of money."

Leatherwood said he agreed to settle the case because he is 19 and didn't have money for an attorney. He said he stopped selling Eros products online a year ago, and he rarely uses "Second Life" anymore.

He said the whole case was "ridiculous," and likely cost Alderman thousands of dollars. He also said he thought it would be hard to hold him liable. "He had no evidence or proof of anything I did," Leatherwood said.

Taney said Alderman is "moving on."

He scoffed at Leatherwood's contention that there wasn't enough evidence to pursue the case, noting that he had previously publicly denied he sold Eros items. "Out of a nation of 300 million people, we tracked the kid down to his living room in North Richland Hills, Texas," Taney said.

While the case doesn't create legal precedent, Taney said it does seem to transfer some real-world principles to the online universe.

"This is a technology that has to be dealt with by lawyers, by business people, by regular citizens," Taney said. "I think it fits quite nicely into existing concepts."