Where's The Border For Real World Laws In A Virtual World?

from the tough-questions dept

Last month when everyone was making a big deal over the news that the online game Second Life had decided that players own any intellectual property they create in the game, I said it was a bad idea, since it basically took all of the problems of our intellectual property system and moved them into the virtual world - where it was likely to get more confusing. Over at LawMeme, James Grimmelmann, has been thinking a lot about that very idea and has written an insanely long - but absolutely worth reading - discussion about intellectual property issues as it relates to games. It's impossible to summarize his points, but he explores many of the issues in-depth and appears to have thought about these issues in much more detail than the designers of the various games. What it really seems to come down to is the question of whether or not in-game actions are simply covered by the End User License Agreement (which basically becomes the Constitution for that game) or if real laws in the real world should apply.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Doug, Dec 4th, 2003 @ 4:04pm

    Overreaction?

    After a rough start, the article does indeed become more interesting. However, Grimmelmann takes off on his analysis without first fully addressing the basic question: "Does any of this matter?"

    As long as everyone recognizes that "it's just a game", then none of it matters. He does not really address the thesis that if some deluded people think that there is some kind of real-world value in the game, then that is their problem.

    Grimmelmann does address this question, but not in enough depth. At one point he suggests that the fact that people actually can buy and sell virtual artifacts for real-world money "is like a beacon, inviting judges to cut through the fog of claims that 'it's just a game.'" This is not well thought-out, for many reasons.

    Perhaps more telling is the phrase "if your game is so trivial and so boring that no one attaches any significance to what happens there". This suggests that Grimmelmann has dismissed out-of-hand the notion that those involved should understand that "it's just a game". Personally, I find this a bit scary, at least in the given context of EverQuest et al. These is no significance to what happens there, and anyone who attaches significance to it needs to get a grip. 's point of view is that it is actually unreasonable for people to consider any interesting game to be "just a game".

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Doug, Dec 4th, 2003 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Overreaction?

    Erk. I accidentally hit the "Submit" button instead of "Preview", and that last paragraph came out a bit rough. Here's how it should have read:

    Perhaps more telling is the phrase: "if your game is so trivial and so boring that no one attaches any significance to what happens there". This suggests that Grimmelmann has dismissed out-of-hand the notion that those involved should be expected to understand that "it's just a game". Personally, I find this a bit scary, at least in the given context of EverQuest et al. There is no significance to what happens there, and anyone who attaches significance to it needs to get a grip.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    me, Feb 2nd, 2004 @ 1:03am

    Re: Overreaction?

    Doug, as reality moves more and more into the virtual world so will and does the economy. You have "Project Entropia" in which participants have thousands, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars, either on hand, or invested/lost in/to skill points in the game.... Players there are protected by only the flimsiest of EULA's. A joke, really. But still people play. .. That's just one extreme of the gaming/virtual environment story right now, there will be many many more such 'nonstandard holdings' on people's balance sheets in not too long i fear and i'm glad that these people are working on this particular frontier. The junction of where money meets gaming is really fascinating today.

     

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