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How to Handcraft an Achingly Self-Referential Virtual Commodity Fetish Object (For Fun and Profit!)

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Step 6: ??? (the miracle of the EULA)

Picture of ??? (the miracle of the EULA)
All right now: if you're still wondering when we get to the hard part, you can stop. We're there. This is it. This is the step upon which the entire project balances, the step that gives all steps before and after it their reason for being. The mother of steps: step 6.

Step 6 is where you must finally gather all the conceptual loose ends generated by your various book-making efforts thus far and tie them together in a single, ornate bow. You must connect the peculiarities of both the commercial and the virtual versions of your book (the queer bargain you entered into to get it published in the first place; the ambiguities, both ontological and economic, that cloud its existence in Second Life) to those of the hand-crafted version -- and you must do it in such a way that these final books, the books you have just spent so many hours folding, stitching, and gluing into being, now literally vanish in an instant.

A tall order, for sure, but fortunately there's a tool that can cut it down to size -- a powerful piece of legal technology that nowadays makes all manner of dematerializations, transubstantiations, and related modern miracles a snap for average citizens and corporate "persons" alike. It's called a shrink-wrap end-user license, or EULA, and what you're actually going to do in this step, finally, is write one for your hand-made books and wrap them it.

Properly crafted and applied, this EULA will immediately cause the books to cease to exist as books. Instead, by the EULA's magical decree, they will now be tokens of exchange and nothing more, redeemable only for Second Life copies of your book and thus, in a sense, more virtual than the virtual objects they now represent. Not being books, of course, they are also now exempt from the terms of your book contract, a twist that you can think of as either a trenchant comment on contemporary intellectual-property relations or a way to cut your publisher out of any potential unbook revenues or both. But perhaps most important, your shrink-wrapped object, reduced by the EULA to standing as proxy for a book that is in essence the "same" book it would be if it were still, in fact, a book, will now acquire one final layer of self-referentiality that if it isn't aching, well, it's definitely gotta hurt.

How the EULA does all this, exactly, is up to you. But if you want a model to work from, here's the one I wrote for my own project, cobbled together from scraps of existing product licenses (Microsoft Office, Second Life, etc.) and a few creative but perhaps not entirely ungrounded legal gambits of my own. Take what you like, but by all means get a real attorney's opinion before you try this at home:



END-USER LICENSE AGREEMENT
FOR "PLAY MONEY," HAND-BOUND EDITION

The following agreement describes the terms on which Julian Dibbell ("the Author") licenses you to use copy number ........ ("the Book") of the limited-run hand-bound edition of his book "Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot" ("Play Money"). By using the Book in any way (including, but not limited to, touching it, looking at it, displaying it, lending it, and keeping it in your home, office, safe-deposit box, gym locker, or any other place to which you have exclusive access), you indicate your acceptance of this agreement in its entirety. If you do not accept the agreement or any of its terms, do not use the Book. Instead, return it to the person or organization from which you acquired it for a refund or credit. If you cannot obtain a refund there, contact the Author (julian@juliandibbell.com) for information about his refund policies.

1. Description of the Book.

The Book is one of no more than 5 (five) special-edition copies of "Play Money."It contains the full text of "Play Money" as originally published in the 2006 hardcover edition. The text is inkjet-printed on 84 sheets of text-weight paper, hand-folded into 21 signatures, stitched together with linen thread, reinforced with decorative endpages, and cased in a cover constructed of cardboard, bookcloth, linen thread, text-weight paper hand-printed with a rubber stamp, and one U.S. dollar bill. Except for the ink-jet printer, no machinery was used in the making of the Book, and all work was done by the Author, with no physical assistance from any person.

2. The Book is not a book.

The Book is a financial instrument. Specifically, it is a bearer note granting title to one of 5 (five) special-edition virtual copies of "Play Money" located in the online environment Second Life. You may redeem the Book by delivering it in person to the Author. Upon redemption, and subject to the Author's confirmation of the Book's authenticity, the Author will cause his Second Life avatar to deliver the virtual book to whichever Second Life avatar you designate as recipient. The Author warrants the Book's fitness for this purpose and for no other, whether aesthetic, intellectual, or practical. All details of the Book's construction, including its printed contents, are intended solely as mechanisms of authentication, for the purpose of confirming its validity as proof of title.

3. The Book does not belong to you.

The Book is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the Book. The Author reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the Book only as expressly permitted in this agreement.

4. You may not read the Book.

The exclusive right to publish, reproduce and distribute "Play Money" is held by Basic Books publishers, a member of Perseus Books LLC. Basic Books has granted the Author permission to copy and distribute "Play Money" in Second Life but nowhere else. You acknowledge and agree, therefore, that the paper copy printed out for inclusion in the Book was made by the Author as a personal copy, for his use only, as permitted under the fair-use doctrine of United States copyright law. You may not read it.

 
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