Under the subject heading "Who owns my sword?", the MUD-Dev mailing list has played host these last few weeks to a long, stimulating thread on virtual goods and property rights. The discussion hit pay dirt today with a post from Ren Reynolds that is as sharp and concise a statement of the legal crux of the matter as I have seen. If I may excerpt, typos and all:
"Companies are saying that they own copyright so customers cant sell characters, but where is the breach of the companies rights ? There is no copying going on, no public performance - just an agreement between two individuals about the use of a virtual item - what's that got to do with the game company ?
"So certainly, if the company has the right to tell customers what they can do in this respect, then they are free to reserve it, at the moment I'm genuinely not sure if companies have it."
This is exactly the question that the abortive Black Snow v. Mythic case left unsettled. And it's interesting to note that while Sony Online Entertainment felt very confident invoking its intellectual property rights to get EverQuest trades banned from eBay two years ago, they have yet to make any such move against the growing field of Star Wars: Galaxies eBayers.
Could it be they're not so sure they'd win the case anymore? Or is this just the influence of the enlightened Mr. Koster?