Greg and I are doing a paper for the State of Play conference and our contribution is on Virtual Crime. It picks up on ideas from our thing in Legal Affairs. Anyway, I'm working on it today--the paper is late, as usual--and I thought it would be worthwhile to get your thoughts as I was writing. (Blog hosting: $149.50 per annum. Broadband connection: $49 per month. Having other people write your papers for you: Priceless)
Rather than try to explain all of the paper in one hit, let me divide it up into bits, this being Bit 1. In this Bit want to examine the idea of purely in-world criminal activity. Crimes that cross over into the real world will be the subject of tomorrow's posting.
So, main thrust of this Bit is on the nature of the crimes, and the nature of the regulatory responses that emerge to combat crime. First, what sorts of "crimes" emerge within the virtual world? My initial response was that, well, there's killing, and stealing, and maiming, and... But, as Greg patiently explained, these are perfectly permissible, and so within the limited realm of the world these are not crimes at all. Turns out that the main type of in-world crime (we think) is griefing. Of course this can take many forms, depending on the nature of the world. But in general it seems that crime=griefing within world. Or are we wrong here?
The next section is on what regulatory responses emerge to combat crime. Here, again, we're only talking about the in-world response. I'm interested in people's experience of these responses. As Larry Lessig has famously said, "Code is Law" and nowhere is this more true than in virtual worlds. What examples of coding-to-remove-crime-or-grieving can you think of? The much-used example is the UO reputation flag, but there are others. Perhaps more interesting, are there examples of non-developer (ie community) regulatory responses to the griefer problem? We have a few candidate examples (posses typically) but your mileage may vary.