January 11, 2007
Will the Virtual World Yield Real Law Suits?
The BBC recently reported on a case in which a Chinese online gamer killed a friend by stabbing him in the chest with a real knife after learning that the friend had sold for real money a virtual sword that the accused had won in an online game and then loaned to the victim.
In Virtual Worlds, Real Damages, Jason Archinaco speculates on the value of a virtual horse, Amercian Hero, "deactivated" by Virtual Sports, Inc. after setting a virtual world record for the distance of 1 1/4 miles. Apparently, Virtual Sports thought it wasn't fair to the other virtual horses to have one really, really good one. Virtual Sports also noted that "the owner is being compensated."
This suggests that the virtual world is already governed by real law and that disputes arising in the virtual world will be a source of employment for real lawyers, including contracts lawyers. Woohoo! Indeed, the Chinese stabbing could have been prevented if Chinese law recognized rights in virtual property.
Props to my good friend, Rebecca Spang (Indiana University, Department of History). Rebecca passed Jason Archinaco's article on to me after discovering it while working on the syllabus for her new course on the history of money.
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