« Worldstruck and other In-world terms | Main | Beast of an idea »

Apr 02, 2007



Wow, this sounds like a truly amazing project! I haven’t had a chance to look at the blog yet but I’m definitely curious to hear both the results of their legal explorations as well as your thoughts about this kind of experiment as a teaching tool.


Nice try :=).As far as i know, one does not needs to play a game in order to understand its mechanics and dynamics.It's about the legal relationships between LL and its customers.Yes i am awared of what the Law means.We already have the EULA, the TOS and the Bragg's case. A lot of exhaustive workfield.Is it solved yet ?


You could have conducted this exercise more relevantly, and for free in MySpace or YouTube. The legal issues are the same. There is no property here except intellectual property. The game company claims all IP save a narrow exemption. No legal parallel to real estate at all. Real property rights flow directly from the US Constitution as any first year student knows.

Sorry but this sounds like an excuse to play a game. The challenge would be to instead debate the validity of game companies' license terms.



A few thoughts:

1) Intellectual property law and license concepts are generally included in the topics studied in first-year Property these days.

2) Regarding the notion that virtual worlds are all IP and "the same" as YouTube (but somehow YouTube is more relevant?): you're entitled to that point of view, but you should concede it isn't universal. Virtual worlds are primarily covered by IP laws, but you might take a look at some of the papers at right with regard to how chattel property concepts are appropriately applied to them. For instance, see Josh Fairfield's paper at right:

3) Personally, this doesn't sound at all to me like an excuse to play a game. It sounds more like an interesting and inventive way to encourage students to try to think about traditional property issues in an online context that attempts to blur the line between real property and intellectual property.


Blog comments from a student at Michigan.


I think this is one of the smartest approaches I have seen in terms of using virtual worlds in a course. I am curious why you have avatar maintenance and the social activities as part of the "work"?


Thanks so much for the comments!

About the legal relationship between Linden Lab and its customers -- yes, we take that into consideration, but we are really trying to get a sense of the culture within SEcond Life-- how avatars interact, but also how people view their virtual property. It isn't the acutal contract law that we are looking at, but the cultural assumptions. Do we see modern concepts of property being brought into this new space? If so, how, and if not, why not? We have found that some do (like gifts), but others don't (like adverse possession). When they don't it is usually because the technology has taken care of the issue or problem, like in the case of finders, where one does not need a set of rules of when someting is lost or found or who owns it, b/c an item left behind is merely put back into one's inventory. The technology takes care of the problem.

A second comment to the comments, I chose Second LIfe because there had been so much in the news about the business/economic aspects--that big corporations were going in, that people were making their livings in SEcond Life, that people were taking serious their time and money investment. We wanted to see if this brought with it a traditional sense of "that's mine" that we see in property.

Avatar maintenance and social activities -- are part of the weekly, because I wanted hte students to put in the time and take seriously their tasks. And they have!


Well. Sure you have a good point doing that.Nothing wrong to have a lil fun while studying,exploring and so on.The interacting avatars are constricted/restricted real players interacting.There also is a paralellism between SL and Jails, in the matter of many aspects of the relationships.But it's a nice worthy initiative, indeed.


I think you should wave away people who rant about how the relationship of landowners and LL is only based on a EULA and is only about intellectual property, and wave away those who tell you to

I think you also need to have a serious look at the pride and prejudice you're putting into this concept of "British feudal past". You write about this as if it is some sort of evil, exploitative, dark horror. But it isn't. Getting property rights is progress against the all-powerful king and tyrant. Respect of property by the state is the basis for a civil society and a liberal democratic body politic. Private property is vital to civilization, and pouring some lukewarm Marxist treacle over these concepts and trying to "deconstruct" them obliterates just how important private property is to keeping freedom for the individual and the group.

I saw "wave away," because Second Life offers you an emulation of property relations between a state and citizens and simulation of land and a land market that is *good enough* for your experiment. You need not go too far astray, however. Things like "avatar maintenance" or "sex and gambling" just stray way too far off into other topics.

There's some basic concepts that need examination in SL that you could use both to study property law in real life and speculate about how it will develop in virtual life:

o auctions and the devaulation of labour, and the devaluation of land by the constant printing of land and Linden dollars by Linden Lab

o private island versus mainland

o signs -- extortionist, nuisance, griefing, etc. signs and how they might be regulated and how residents have responded to the problem they pose (the Bush Guy signs; the Coldwell Banker managers' signs; the destruction of sims with signs by extortionists, etc.)

o zoning -- clubs stealing resourcse from sims and preventing even other property owners from returning

o the telehub buyback, eminent domain, takings, compensation, etc.

o open sourcing and the devaluation of land value through enabling anyone to roll out land

o land bots that automatically buy low-priced land

o pricing of rentals

o covenants and how they develop and how different communities establish a mix of different values -- for some, building freely is at stake; for others, conformity and slavish rules about what and how to build is at stake

Anyway, those are the issues I see as real, and as playing out in an accelerated and interesting fashion in SL. And I wouldn't bog down in having students necessarily try to go and buy or rent land and struggle with it in the market. It might make more sense to ask to become an intern to a rentals or land baron office and just follow what they do.


*who tell you to go to Myspace.


Javier Muñoz comments: ¿Quién dijo que el Derecho es aburrido?


I'm troubled by the reduction I see between Virtual Worlds like Second Life, and Web 2.0 networking sites like MySpace. Either I am missing something critical or others are because I see major differences between the two types of virtual communities.

While I see a number of major differences, within the context of this discussion, the big difference is the existence of an economy.

In Second Life, items of 'value' can be created, brought into the world, and taken out of the world (i.e. buying and selling Lindens for real world money). In addition, they can be exchanged under a concrete (although limited, there is no private contract law) 'legal' system within the world.

Unless you stretch things into incomprehension, an economy does not seem exist in sites like MySpace.

So while it makes sense to study how the rules of exchange (i.e. law) work where there is an economy, I don't see how you can study it where there is none.


One question you might consider asking of your students. What is the nature of work and value in Second Life when compared to virtual worlds like World of Warcraft. Is there a difference, and why does that difference exist (what I'm thinking here is that in WOW, manual labor generates value, but in SL creativity generates value).

Mark Baldwin
University of Advancing Technology


Property rights dispute. Pleadings and numerous articles on various property issues. Link to Harvard's mock trial in second life as well.


Interesting project. Curious about the outcome.

@"IPAtty": studying is all about playing and going out there. Better experience and reflect on your experiences with fellow students then read a book.....


Interesting project. Curious about the outcome.

@"IPAtty": studying is all about playing and going out there. Better experience and reflect on your experiences with fellow students then read a book.....

The comments to this entry are closed.