The Legal Status Of Online Worlds

from the that-time-of-the-year... dept

We had this discussion last year when the State of Play conference first happened, so it’s no surprise that the same issues are cropping up again. The question is, basically, what laws apply in online worlds? Many people within those worlds simply assume that the local laws of their land apply — but that’s problematic when you have people from all over the world with different laws. It’s especially troublesome when it comes to things like libel and slander, where the rules are quite different around the world. Some people assume that the laws of the land where the company producing the game reside apply — but that’s not necessarily true. Many people assume that no laws apply. However, it may be more accurate to say that the company producing the game is realistically, the government of that game — and you’ll note they’re not democratically elected. In other words, the “terms of service” of the game, basically defines the Constitution of that world. With that in mind, some are suggesting that online game makers adopt terms of service from a commonly agreed upon template, to make it easier to understand — and that any changes need to be agreed to by the “populace.” It’s a nice idea, in theory, but governments certainly don’t choose their constitutions from a set of ready made templates, so it’s unclear why it’s necessary here. The only real issue is that the gamemakers themselves need to realize the role they play (many don’t necessarily realize that they’ve taken on a quasi-governmental role) and the players need to understand what they’re getting themselves into.

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