Intellectual property (IP) is a very hard thing to protect, there are tonnes of articles that discuss this matter on the internet and it really comes down to personal opinion on whether or not something is to be deemed ‘intellectual property’ or not, it’s a topic that can get quite messy especially in court.
With Second Life, there are lots of people out there who make a living from creating items (IP) and selling them in the real world for real currency. These people need their creations protected from would-be-thieves and that’s where the permissions system comes in.
The Second Life permissions system stops individuals or groups stealing other people’s created items by offering the creator some permission options when they craft/build the item, these options modify, copy, move and transfer give the original creator choice on who can do things with their design and what they can do with it.
Here’s a quick link to a past blog I wrote that actually covers how the Second Life permissions system functions.
In my opinion, Linden Lab has done a fantastic job in its permission system and I also believe that the protection of people’s intellectual property withing Second Life is well covered.
CopyBot is a debugging tool developed by the Second Life development team used for accessing the virtual world Second Life. It can do various things but its primary function is enabling users to export created items from Second Life for backup reasons. The bad thing about this was that they released the source code to the public through their website and some people modified the code allowing them to export copies of items that they did not create themselves, they essentially found a way to completely bypass the permission system and as you could imagine, residents were outraged. Linden Lab soon started a policy that would see anyone found guilty of modifying the CopyBot code and using it to steal other’s intellectual property would be breaching Second Life’s terms of services and face bans.
Uses of the CopyBot import/export function:
- No reliance on Linden Lab for data backup services.
- Importing content created on other grids such as the preview grid (currently Aditi, previously Siva).
- Importing content created on a locally installed simulator (and thus not having to rely upon the availability of official simulators).
- Exporting one’s own intellectual property to other environments. 
In this day and age where digital content is finding its way into the mainstream at a very fast rate and is accessible to millions all around the world, it is getting harder to police copyright infringement, however, organisations such as Creative Commons (CC) and General Public License (GNU) are putting emphasis on protecting people’s intellectual property through their many licences.
General Public Licence (GNU) offer a licence, General Public Licence (GPL) which is a free, copyleft licence for software and other such types of work. This licence protects your rights with two steps: “(1) assert copyright on the software, and (2) offer you this License giving you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify it.” 
GNU applies mainly to software whereas Creative Commons (CC) on the other hand caters to a much broader range of works. Creative Commons offer a total of six different licences broken down into 4 elements:
This means that the original creator must be credited for their work. All Creative Commons licences require users to provide attribution
This means that others may not share, adapt or reuse the original creator’s work if their intended purpose is to use it for commercial benefit or financial profit.
This means that others may share the original creator’s work but under no circumstances change it.
This means that people who adapt or remix the original creator’s work must use the same Creative Commons licence on any derivative works.
In such environments like Second Life, user’s should make full use of the permissions system when creating creations to protect themselves and their intellectual property.