So as promised, here's the book: http://bit.ly/virtualjustice
That link points to a 2.5 MB PDF that is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial. I'm hoping to get a cleaner copy at some point soon--if I do, it will be posted at the same location. I got a MUCH better copy as of noon on 11/3/10 and it is now posted at the above link.
If you prefer wood pulp, this is the Amazon link: http://amzn.to/virtual-justice
Oct 4, 2010:
So, apologies for the self-promotion, but my new book, Virtual Justice, is now on sale in the bookstores. It was also recently featured in a short segment of NPR's On The Media, which you can find here.
The book is subtitled "The New Laws of Online Worlds," and that's pretty much the topic. I start out with a pretty in-depth overview of the past and present of virtual worlds. I cover history, business models, the various genres, demographics, and technology. Then, around Chapter 4, I jump into the law, covering the law & legal theory surrounding issues like jurisdiction, gaming, property, computer hacking, and copyright.
It has always been the stories that have fascinated me about law and virtual worlds, so I tried to fit as many of the best ones as I could into the book. There's the Vendroid Scam, the Cally Eve Scam, the EQ dog dupe, Bragg, Qiu Chegwei, Mr. Bungle, Twixt, etc. But I use them all in support of the book's overarching theme: that virtual worlds offer private alternatives to standard legal ordering. I restate that theme in the conclusion as follows:
All of this suggests that virtual worlds are becoming, in essence, separate jurisdictions governed by separate rules. As a matter of legal doctrine, these rules may not qualify as “laws,” given that no territorial government has recognized the formal sovereignty of virtual worlds. But as a matter of effective legal practice, the doctrines of contract, property, hacking, and intellectual property all serve to greatly empower those who own and administer virtual worlds, effectively insulating their actions from legal review.
The metaphor I use for this point is the castle, which, although in essence a technology, effectively became a new jurisdiction and source of law during the Middle Ages.
I'm also happy to say that Yale University Press has agreed to let me release the text of the book under a Creative Commons BY-NC license. That means that (hopefully very soon) I will be able to post a link to the final PDF here so that anyone interested in saving a tree can (legally) download and share the book for free.
Finally, as I stated in the acknowledgement, I owe a profound debt of gratitude to the TN community for educating me over the past seven years about all aspects of virtual worlds. And with virtual worlds getting bigger every year, I think these issues will only be getting more interesting, so I'm looking forward to more conversations.