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Jun 09, 2004



The main problem I have with granting players property rights for virtual goods is that one day these rights are going to clash mightily with the rights of the game companies to alter their game as they see fit.

Even in a harmless case, changing the rate in which money drops as loot, or is given out as mission reward, obviously has a big effect on the real-world value of the virtual currency. Can a player sue Verant, because they doubled the drop rate of platinum from Hill Giants, thus diminishing the dollar value of his virtual treasure?

In the most extreme case, what if a game company decides a game isn't profitable any more and wants to shut it down? That obviously amounts to expropriation of all players. Can they sue?


The game administrators shouldn't be allowed to do stupid things. Even if they are well intentioned. They have a responsibility to their players.

That said, you can't sue a game for going out of business. There needs to be a clause someplace to keep the litigants at bay. Things flucate in value all the time. That doesn't mean you get to sue. And if for some reason a game really goes belly up, then really... the players are going to have to accept that this can happen. Buyer beware and all that.

But players will acquire rights to their virtual property. And the game companies will eventually have to accomodate it or simply not release the game. And for every one that doesn't open because of such rules, there will be another who wants to money.


"And for every one that doesn't open because of such rules, there will be another who wants to money."

All is rosy... As long as the subscription price is not $300 a month due to monstruous insurance, lawyer fees and contingency funds that have to be paid and maintained on the back-end against an onslaught of opportunists.


Perhaps, but SL is allowing ownership, and it doesn't cost $300 a month to play there.


Hmm, seems to me that out of the comments so far, there is a confusion about "owned" property vs intellectual property. In fact, I'm a bit confused by it.

I think that the game company (lets call then the devs, regardless of if this is true) owns the bits. That is - they own the sword of fire you have in your barbarian's hand (as well as the mesh, etc of the barbarian) . They grant you the right to use that sword, and the argument is that with the right of use, comes the right to give it away to whomver you want, for whatever reason (unless the code does not allow it). That means you can trade it for real money - not because you own it, but becaue you can give it to someone else. However, the devs also have the right to tke it - it is thier sword after all, and they can revoke your right to use it. Even in SL this is true - after all, everything there is made up of bits on SL's computers, and Linden Lab owns those bits, and can remove them from the system.

However, intellectual property is not made f bits. It is made of creativity. Most games right now don't let you own your creativity - if you are a role player, and develop your char to have a narrative beyond "kill 20 rats, ding," it doesn't matter how cool the story is, because you don't have the right to tell it.

An example used often in SL is the creation of a chair. You don't own the primitves used to create the chair, or the chair as it exists on LL servers, or the linden dollars you paid for it. But you do own the design of the chair. You can sell it to ikea. ikea isn't interested in your chair stored as bits on a SL server, they are paying to use the shape and color.

In SL, you can develop your character's story, and then option it to hollywood.

At least that is how I understand it, and it is why no one sues LL for deleting a chair, LL can't delete the design of the chair without scooping out your brain.



I think you have a good summary of the two types of ownership there, bbc.

I'm very much in favour of players owning their designs. I still do not understand:

1) Why there is legal liability in players owning their creations. There would, of course, have to be some form of automatic licensing allowing the game to keep a copy of their bits around. (If I write a book in UO, I should not be able to demand that EA can't back up the book, or display it to other clients accessing the world.)

2) Why people don't think it is a unconciensable for game companies to charge me for my time *and* demand my creative work. If I were a professional content creator, I could understand losing creative ownership of my work, as I'd have been renumerated for it. However, in these game worlds, we are expected to *pay* for the privelage of losing creative ownership.

- Brask Mumei


Brask: 1) Why there is legal liability in players owning their creations.

Because with ownership comes rights. And with rights come problems. If I truly "own" (as in the legal, real-world, real property sense "own") my sword of fiery death then, barring rare circumstances, I should have rights of access, transfer and sale to name a few. The game company would not be able to cut me off from my sword - it's mine. The co. could not prevent me from transferring or selling it. And with such prohibitions come the liability. BIG liability, in this case. Say I owned my sword of fiery death in DAOC and Mythic cut off my access because they thought I was cheating. I would have a cause of action against Mythic and could sue them. If I don't own my sword and I'm bound by their current EULA/ToS, I have no cause of action. I may be pissed and I may be due the remaining balance paid on my account but I cannot sue for failing to provide me access to my legally-owned sword.

Brask: 2) Why people don't think it is a unconciensable for game companies to charge me for my time *and* demand my creative work.

I do think it's unconscienable. I think it's outright ridiculous. If you want to write a story about your EQ char, you should be able to, no problems. But at the same time, I know that I'm not going to write a story about my SWG or CoH char so I'm not worried, personally. I don't plan on creating anything protectable in those games. HOWEVER, in SL, who knows. The engine there is so much stronger, so much more versatile that I applaud Linden Labs' decision to disclaim rights to players' intellectual property. I have no problem picturing someone inventing a patentable invention in SL. I only hope someone *does* do so and tries to patent it. (Would make for great press and precedent!)


"Perhaps, but SL is allowing ownership, and it doesn't cost $300 a month to play there."

Not today. "As long as" it stays that way, all is good. All MMORPG players pay, one way or another, for every lawsuit that gets filed against the game company. As long as the lid remains put on that one, all will be rosy.


"SL is allowing ownership"

Actually I would consider ownership an innate characteristic of creation. Since when did originators need permission to retain what inherently belonged to them? If I write a poem with a Bic Pen, Bic doesn't send me a letter telling me they are going to allow me to retain ownership, nor do they have any such verbiage on their packaging.



First of all. Creation is NOT was determines ownership. For example if you create something with somebody elses property, then how can you claim ownership rights to it? Indeed, you might have vandalized it!

Intellectual "property" is only viable as a form of contract law. Just because the state grants coersive monopolies in the form of patents and copyrights does not mean that from a moral perspective intellectual works should qualify as private property.

The Free Market Environmentalist Case Against Intellectual Property.

And other articles linked from there. Also Steven Kinsella's IP page. http://www.stephankinsella.com/ip/index.php

Tracy Saboe


Along Bruce's creation implies ownership line, see some previous comments on copyright in Duck DNA [TN].

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